4 Yoga Poses to Settle Race-Day Jitters

You've put in months of hard work and mental preparation for your big race. Yet, as you arrive to the pre-race area, your nerves kick in. Excitement, anticipation, anxiety and stress set in.

You don't want these jitters to ruin your performance. After all, you've spent months training.

Yoga can help. Yoga is a mind-body practice that can settle race-day jitters. Yoga poses are paired with breath, making it different than stretching. Yoga strengthens and stretches the body, calms the nerves, brings focus to the mind, and balances the emotions.

More: How Yoga Reduces Stress

Focus on your breath, which will move oxygen through the body and expand lung capacity. This lowers blood pressure and slows down the heart rate.

Yoga also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, increasing blood flow to other bodily systems. The increased blood circulation enhances the body's ability to absorb nutrients and eliminate toxins. When the mind and body are functioning at a higher level, you have more energy and feel more connected and confident, which will help you perform better in your race.

Before you walk up to the start line, relieve anxiety, stress and mental distractions with the following four yoga poses.

Abdominal Breathing: "Belly Breath" or "Diaphragmatic Breath"

Abdominal breathing

Sit upright or lie down on your back with your knees slightly bent or fully extended. Inhale steadily through the nose; feel the breath move down the throat, through the chest, and fill the belly. As you breathe in, allow the abdominal muscles to move outward as the diaphragm expands. Then exhale fully through the nose. Allow the breath to move back up from the belly, through the chest and throat and out the mouth. The abdominal muscles move inward as you breathe out and the diaphragm contracts. Take 10 breaths.

Benefits: This pose moves air into the lungs, decreases heart rate, and improves blood and lymph flow. It also increases stamina, stimulates relaxation, and releases tension.  

Note: For the following poses, switch to ujjayi breathing, inhaling fully through the nose, feel the breath move through the back of the throat, and fill the lungs. Exhale the breath fully out of the lungs, through the back of the throat and out the nose. Breath should be even, smooth and relaxed.

More: Yoga for Newbies

Marjaryasana/Bitilasana: Cat Pose/Cow Pose

Cat Pose

Cow Pose

Begin on all fours with your knees aligned directly under your hips. Move your wrists slightly in front of your shoulders. Start with your head in a neutral position, gazing at the floor. Inhale, round your spine toward the sky without moving your shoulders and knees (cat pose). Allow the head to release down, tucking the chin slightly.

Exhale and come back to a neutral position. Inhale, lift your sitting bones towards the sky and allow your belly to drop down (cow pose). Lift your head and gaze forward. Exhale and come back to a neutral position. Continue to alternate poses. Repeat 10 times each.

Benefits: Cat pose stretches the back torso and neck. Cow pose stretches the front torso and neck. Both poses lower stress and anxiety, and massage the spine and digestive organs.

More: 12 Poses for Non-Flexible People

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