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Keep calm and breathe !

Makarasana (crocodile)

Makarasana (crocodile)

Next week is the start of Teaching Assessments for our outgoing group of Dru Yoga Trainee Teachers in Leeds – an exciting and nerve racking time for all ! Nerves and anxiety have also been points for discussion in classes too, so I thought in this blog I would share with you some yoga ideas for keeping calm and focused.


The first thing to do when you are feeling anxious is to move. It burns off any excess adrenaline, whilst releasing soothing endorphins so allows you to naturally calm. It’s one of the reasons that we always start our Inside Out Dru Yoga classes with lively activations. Still feeling a bit wired? Try a few rounds of dynamic sun sequences before doing some relaxation.


Help settle nerves by spending time focusing on your breathing. Try to take deep, long breaths into the abdomen, relaxing the chest and shoulders, to ensure that you are using your diaphragm properly and try to breathe through the nose, rather than the mouth. See if you can equalise the length of the in and the out breath, without forcing it or feeling any discomfort. Just allow the breath to naturally flow.

Our body thinks we are not getting enough oxygen if we breath with the upper chest only, which can cause feelings of anxiety. The same goes for mouth breathing which can alter the oxygen / carbon dioxide balance, again increasing anxiety levels. However if we take the time to breathe correctly we soon feel relaxed and back in control.

The next time you are feeling anxious, just take a moment to notice your breath and see if it is shallow and rapid, or are you breathing with your mouth? Then at a time when you are not stressed or anxious, practise breathing correctly (you can get more information on this from the downloads page).

If you practice this regularly it will become more natural, so that when you next feel anxious you can use the technique to help you feel calm again.

To find out more about breathing properly please do contact me or come along to a class.


Yoga has many different breathing techniques, all offering great benefits, many of which are known to bring calm and clarity to the practitioner (and they are ones that we teach regularly in our weekly classes). You can read about these techniques in books, on line etc., but please be careful…incorrect practice can cause problems…if you feel light headed, nauseous, raised anxiety, any sense of discomfort or headaches then please stop and contact a yoga practitioner. There are also contraindications to all breathing practices so make sure you are aware of those too. Here are a few of my calm inducing favourites (they have many other benefits too though!)

Pigeon breath : Encourages correct breathing habits; clears the mind: brings space and clarity.

Windmill breath : Encourages correct breathing habits; helps the practitioner to feel in control.

Deep yogic breathing : Brings deep peace and aids relaxation.

Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodanam) : Balances the nervous system, bringing calm and focus; good for beating insomnia.

Kappalbhati : Clears the mind; brings clarity and focus.

There are also some fantastic movements in our energy block release sequences, which co-ordinate breath and movement. This activity is great for calming the central nervous system and I know students have found particularly effective for managing panic attacks.


Balance practices are great for bringing us into the present. Anxiety is generally about projecting into the future, worrying what might or might not happen. Try any of the balancing poses – tree, fig tree, dancer, eagle are all great examples – to bring you back into the moment. You have to focus on the now, if you don’t, you fall over! Not able to get into a yoga pose, just try standing on 1 leg.


One of the most popular poses we do in classes in the crocodile (makarasana), because most people feel a beautiful sense of peace and security when they lie in this position.

Lay on your tummy, fold your arms so that you can rest your head on your hands, separate your legs as far as is comfortable, turning the heels in and the toes out. Rest here for as long as you wish, focusing on breathing into your tummy, so that you can feel your abdomen expand and connect with the earth as you inhale and relax as exhale. To come out walk your legs / feet back together, then push back into child pose before coming into sitting.

This is a brilliant posture for easing anxiety and help you to feel grounded and centred. Use it also for griping tummies and any IBS symptoms, it helps to relax the abdominal organs.

Of course there are many more yogic techniques to help you relax, but I hope the above information is a good start – let me know how you get on, and also what are your favourite yoga poses to help you feel relaxed and in control?

Good luck to all our trainee teachers – you’ll be fantastic ! Ix

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