4 Yoga Poses That Help Ease Anxiety

yoga f anxietyTo say that dealing with anxiety is a challenge is quite an understatement. It can create feelings of fear, panic, decreased self-esteem, worry and defeat. I personally was diagnosed with anxiety a few years ago – I know that it’s painful, difficult and downright frustrating to not “be in control” of your thoughts and your actions. Instead, you fell consumed by your endless thoughts and worries.

As a certified yoga instructor and a dedicated student of the practice, I have witnessed how yoga can help ease anxiety, depression, panic attacks and even PTSD.

The beauty of yoga is that it is for everyone. You don’t need a studio or fancy yoga gear to practice these poses – all you need is space and the willingness to allow yoga into your heart and mind. Along with guidance from a medical professional, you can also find a release from that grip that anxiety has over you through these four asanas that I find to be the most effective in managing anxiety.

1.  Uttana Shishosana/Extended Puppy Pose: This invigorating inversion is one of those poses that requires minimal effort but still gives you a great, relaxing stretch that offers endless benefits to both the body and the mind. Whether you utilize this pose in the beginning of your practice or as a closer, the deep stretch in your shoulders and your spine triggers the mind to slow down and enjoy the gentle movement you are giving your body.

The method: Begin on all fours (tabletop pose) with a straight, neutral spine – hands are shoulders-width distance apart, shoulders are over the wrists, hips are over the knees, knees are in line with the wrists and the tops of your feet are on the floor. As you inhale, walk your hands forward as your chest drops to the floor and your hips reach back toward your heels. This pose has a mini backbend in it, so you should feel your shoulder blades widening and releasing any tension that tends to build up in that area. If it’s available to you, drop your forehead to the floor and allow your neck to relax. With every exhale, press deeper into your hands. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Since extended puppy pose reverses the blood flow, slowly exit this pose to prevent dizziness/lightheadedness.

Tip: If bringing the forehead to the floor is creating more pain than pleasure, try putting a bolster or a folded blanket under your forehead to ease any unwanted pressure.

2. Salamba Sirsasana/Supported Headstand: Headstand is another pose that relieves anxiety by reversing the blood flow and by requiring you to stay present through focusing on your breath and muscle engagement in that moment. Don’t let this pose scare you; it may look hard, but it is actually attainable for all yogi levels.

The method: If your mat is on the thin side, use a blanket for additional head support. Kneel on the floor while crossing your arms over chest, allowing the right hand to rest on your left shoulder, and your left hand on your right shoulder. Keeping that connection, allow your body to hinge forward, propping your torso up on your elbows. Doing this step will force your elbows to remain shoulder-width distance and will place your elbows exactly where they need to be on your mat. Now, release your hands from the shoulders and allow them to lay parallel to one another on the mat and lace your fingers together, but keep your palms open. While pressing down on your forearms and your wrists, roll your upper arms slightly outward and come up on to the tips of your toes. As you tip-toe forward, bring the crown of your head to the floor, allowing the back of your head to nestle into your palms.

Keep walking your toes up with your heels elevated until you feel your hips are stacked over your shoulders. Remember to keep your quads active in this pose and to keep your torso long and firm in this set-up. Kick both knees up at the same; this may cause you to bend your knees while you kick up – and that is okay! Find your balance while your thighs are perpendicular to the floor by firming the tailbone against the back of the pelvis. Spiral your thighs inward and keep engagement in your toes (think “Barbie Toe”) and press the heels toward the ceiling, straightening into the knees. You should be able to draw one straight line from the crown of your head to the arches of your feet.

You can hold this pose anywhere from five seconds to five minutes. Exit the pose on an exhalation while keeping the shoulders firm and hips active, allowing the feet to lightly hit the floor at the same time.

Tip: If this is your first time trying headstand, or you would like some additional support, try setting up against a wall, allowing your feet to lightly rest against it while you’re inverted.

3. Ardha Padmasana Vrksasana/Half Lotus Tree Pose: The intense concentration required in this pose helps ease anxiety by taking your mind off of your thoughts and forcing you to focus on your physical self.

The method: Stand with your feet hips-width distance, and shift your weight into your left leg. Bend your right knee and allow the outside edge of that foot to rest on your left hip bone. If this feels too intense, or your hips don’t allow half lotus, place the sole of your left foot on the inside of your left thigh, calf or ankle with your toes pointing to the ground – whichever feels more comfortable. Never allow your foot to rest against the knee, doing so will cause more harm than good further down the line. This version is simply called Vrksasana or Tree Pose.

I like to tell my students to focus on an object in front of them that isn’t moving, like a block, the top of their mat or by focusing on the point where the wall meets the floor. This will help keep your balance and force you to stay in the moment. Now, engage your core and bring your hands into prayer pose by your heart, known as Anjali Mudra or the Salutation Seal. Hold this pose for up to one minute. Repeat on the left side.

Tip: If you are having trouble keeping your balance in this pose, try shifting your weight into your big toe on your standing foot.

4. Janu Sirsasana/Head-to-Knee Forward Bend: One of the benefits of forward bending is reducing tension in the body and the mind. This pose is extremely effective in calming the brain which aids in relieving mild depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

The method: Start with both of your legs extended in front of you, keeping the toes engaged (again – think “Barbie Toe”). On an inhale, draw your right knee into your chest, forcing your right foot to come off the ground and cradle it. On an exhale, open the knee to the right, allowing the sole of your foot to rest against the inside of your left thigh, creating 90° angle from your right knee to your left foot. If you can open your angle to wider than 90°, go ahead and do it. Extend your arms overhead, and fold over your straight left leg on an exhale. You can hold this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. Repeat on the other side.

Tip: To keep your hips square as you are bending in this pose, reach towards the outside edge of the foot on your straight leg with the opposite hand, and then fold forward.

Meatless Monday: Veggie Stir-Fry with Quinoa Thai Noodles (GF)(V)



Veggie Stir-Fry with Quinoa Thai Noodles (GF)(V)

the ingredients:
1 bunch of bok choy
1 large bunch of broccoli cut into smaller pieces
1/2 cup snow peas
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 spring onions, sliced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced
Thai rice noodles
1/4 cup tamari
4 tbsp sesame oil, divided
1 package of red quinoa thai noodles

the method:

  1. Cook noodles according to the instructions on the package.
  2. While noodles are soaking, prep veggies and begin sauteing them. Heat wok or pan with sloping edges on med-high heat. Drizzle in sesame oil and saute the broccoli with garlic slivers. Toss in remaining veggies, excluding bok choy.
  3. Add tamari and add another dollop of sesame oil as you cook. 
  4. Add snow peas last so they remain deliciously crisp and sweet.
  5. Remove veggies and drain noodles. Toss in the same pan with a dash of sesame oil and tamari, and saute noodles until they turn a beautiful golden color. Plate noodles.
  6. In the same pan, lightly saute bok choy with a bit of tamari and sesame oil.
  7. Layer bok choy over noodles, then pile veggies on top of bok choy.

Late Night Veggie Scramble (GF)

veggie scramble

Ever since I started teaching yoga, it has become significantly harder to prepare creative meals every night. In fact, it’s rare that I get home before 8:30 each night – which makes quick, wholesome meals a MUST. My dinner of choice: SCRAMBLED EGGS. Extremely versatile, I like pack my scrambles full of produce to bulk it up and to give the nutrition factor a little boost. So I encourage you try out this version  – you’ll get a nice, steaming bowl of scrambled eggs to enjoy, and then a full, warm belly that will help you settle in for the night. Plus there is minimal clean-up afterward. 🙂

Late Night Veggie Scramble (GF)


3 whole large eggs
3 tablespoons water*
2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
1/2 whole onion, diced small
1/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup spinach
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
*You can use milk in place of water, but I find my eggs turn out fluffier if I use water. 

the method

  1. Crack your eggs into a mason jar, add water, salt and pepper. Screw on the lid and give the eggs a little shake. Set aside. 
  2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and melt the coconut oil/ghee. Cook the onions for several minutes, until golden brown. Add the tomatoes and spinach and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir to begin to wilt the spinach, then pour in the eggs.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and stir, cooking slowly, until soft curds form. Add the cheese and continue stirring/folding until the eggs are cooked.
  4. I like to top my eggs with Frank’s Red Hot, but any hot sauce will do!

Garden Vegetable Frittata (GF)

phonto12Garden Vegetable Frittata (GF)

the ingredients:

4-6 tablespoons of coconut oil
1-2 cups of vegetables (I used a combo of zucchini, asparagus and tomatoes)
1/2 onion diced
1-2 garlic cloves minced
fresh herbs and spices of your choice (I just used dried thyme and turmeric)
6 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

the method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile in a cast-iron skillet, saute the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. After about 3 minutes add the remaining oil and your choice of vegetables. Start with the denser vegetables like then add in the other veggies, except the tomatoes. Saute the vegetables over medium heat for about 5 minutes (I like mine still crisp). Season the vegetables with salt and herbs.
  2. Whisk the eggs together then pour the eggs over the vegetables, making sure they spread evenly over the veggies.
  3. Scatter tomatoes over the top of the egg and veggie mixture.
  4. Now place the saute pan in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or you can continue to cook over the stove on medium low for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Top the frittata with anything you want! I like using hot sauce. 😉

Zucchini Noodles (GF)(V)

zuccZucchini Noodles (V)(GF)
2 zucchinis, peeled
1 tablespoon coconut oil/olive oil
1/4 cup water
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Homemade Marinara Sauce or your favorite jarred brand

the method:

  1. To make the noodles, you have multiple options. You can use a vegetable spiralizer, a food processor, a julienne peeler – or if you’re REALLY patient and don’t have any of these tools, you can slice really long strips with a sharp knife. Personally, I do not recommend a knife. I have a julienne peeler and it is, by far, my favorite kitchen tool. It cuts the zucchini into perfect noodle strips. You can use it for stir fries, salads, slaws… everything! I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma and it was only $10 (it is in the picture). I even like it more than my Kitchen-Aid Mixer – I never thought I would love anything as much as my mixer.
  2. When making the noodles, make sure you don’t use any strips that have seeds in them… you will want to throw away “the core” of the zucchini. The reasoning for this is due to the high water content in the middle. Too much water = mushy, squishy noodles. Yuck!
  3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook and stir zucchini in the hot oil for 1 minute. Add water and cook until zucchini is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. I served my noodles with homemade marinara, but these noodles would be great with any sauce. I am going to try a lemon-garlic sauce next! 🙂

Ravioli Lasagna (GF)

ravioli lasagna

Ravioli Lasagna (GF)

the ingredients:
1 bag frozen  gluten-free cheese ravioli (I used Conte’s)
3 cups homemade marinara or 1 jar of store-bought sauce
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
salt & black pepper, to taste

the method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pour some tomato sauce into bottom of 9×13 inch casserole  – just enough to coat the bottom of the dish. 🙂
3. Place a layer of frozen ravioli (no need to thaw or pre-cook) in the sauce. Sprinkle with  Parmesan and mozzarella.
4. Place another layer of ravioli. Pour the rest of sauce over the ravioli.
5. Sprinkle rest of cheeses over the sauce. Season with black pepper to taste.
6. Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes or until cheese and sauce is meted and bubbly.

ravioli lasagna2


Chia Fresca – A Prebiotic Energy Booster!

chia fresca2Here is a yummy and natural prebiotic energy boosting drink! I love downing one of these bad boys before AND after my yoga classes. It’s made with coconut water, chia seeds, lemon and a hint of agave nectar and is extremely effective in hydrating the body and balancing electrolytes after a good sweat. 🙂

I talk A LOT about probiotics on this blog and on mybody skincare’s blog, but on this post, I wanted to shine some light on prebiotics since they aren’t talked about nearly as much as the former.

You may be thinking, “Well, maybe they aren’t as important as probiotics. I have never even heard of them!” And you would be wrong.

In fact, prebiotics are essential to probiotics carrying out their duties. Simply put, prebiotics are food for probiotics and they help increase the absorption of minerals in our body while balancing the acid in our gut. Prebiotics are found naturally in foods we eat on a daily basis such as yogurt, kefir, onions, CHIA SEEDS, bananas, etc. This dynamic duo works hand-in-hand to carry out their immune-boosting and acid-balancing benefits.

Think about it this way: Your tomato plants can’t grow with just fertilizer (prebiotics), and they can’t grow if you’re only using seeds (probiotics) – the two of these items need to work together to allow that beautiful tomato plant to flourish! Here is an easy recipe that will ensure you’re getting your daily dose of prebiotics…

chia fresca1

Chia Fresca

2 cups coconut water
1.5 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice ( and a slice to make it pretty)
1/2 tbsp Agave Nectar, to taste (or any natural sweetener)

the method:

 Add chia and coconut water into a mason jar or a bottle with a lid. This is key because you will want to shake this mixture around for a minute or two.

Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to allow the chia seeds to swell up and soften.

Add lemon juice and agave nectar to taste. Shake well to combine and enjoy!

Sip Sip Hooray!!

‘Feed Your Skin’ Superfood Juice

Superfood juice 2

The best way to start any day is by Juicing it up! This scrumptious juice is loaded with vitamins A, C and K and will make your morning coffee feel like a wimp! Aside from the insane energy surging through your body, your skin will look younger and more radiant. I’ll have another glass, please!

‘Feed Your Skin’ Superfood Juice 

the ingredients:
4 red kale leaves
4 dinosaur kale leaves
2 celery stalks
1 carrot
2 cucumbers
1 orange
1 lemon
1 apple
1 cup raspberries
1 cup strawberries
1 cup red grapes

the method:
Juice each fruit and vegetable separately and pour the juice into one large mason jar. Give the jar a little shimmy… a little shake. Pop in a straw. Sip. Smile. Repeat.

the nutritional facts:

vitamin A: The carrots in this beverage provide ample amounts of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Consider this precursor to vitamin A your passport to youth; it aids in protecting cells, prevents premature aging and gives your skin a rosy glow.

vitamin C: Often associated with immune system and warding off the common cold – but did you know that your skin has its own unique immune system that needs a little TLC every now and then? It’s true. So while vitamin C helps protect the integrity of the skin, it also triggers collagen production. Collagen is responsible for keeping skin looking plump, elastic , wrinkle-free and wards off signs of aging.

vitamin K: This antioxidant does wonders for the skin. With a healthy intake of vitamin K, you can expect a clearer complexion, improved skin elasticity and a super-fast wound healing response.