April 5, 2017
One thing that we all agree on is the role yoga can play in stress reduction. The simple act of holding a pose and being conscious of your breathing can help you de-stress. Slowing things down and releasing tension in your muscles will help you get a better night’s sleep too. Here are five of our favorite yoga poses for stress relief:
- Child’s Pose: Kneel and sit back on your heels with your big toes touching. You can keep your knees together or separate them about hip width, keeping your big toes touching. Lower your torso down on or between your thighs with your forehead on or close to the floor. Palms facing down, extend your arms forward along the ground while keeping your shoulders relaxed. Breathe and keep reaching your bottom towards your heels. Hold for 20 seconds, mindfully breathing throughout the stretch.
- Cat-Cow Pose: This flow sequence stretches the back and neck and is one of our favorites for instant stress relief. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees aligned under hips. With a full exhale, round your back towards the ceiling, drawing your belly button towards your spine. Release your head, curling your chin towards the chest to stretch the back of the neck and curling your tailbone under. Transition from the cat pose into the cow pose by inhaling and arching the back as you drop your belly towards the floor. Draw the shoulders away from the ears, lift your chin and tailbone, gently arching the back. With an exhale, flow smoothly back in the cat pose. Let your movement follow your slow, deep breaths and repeat for 10-20 breath.
- Standing Forward Bend: Stand straight and tall with feet together or separated two fists width apart (this variation is better for those with a tight low back or any low back pain/issues). Slowly fold forward at the hips, bringing your head towards the ground. You can put a bend in your knees to lengthen the torso and avoid rounding in the spine. Allow your head to hang freely, releasing any tension in the neck or shoulders. You can release your arms to the ground, hold behind your calves, or grab opposite elbows and sway slightly from side to side in “ragdoll” position. Breathe fully and evenly, allowing the low back and backs of legs to stretch and release. Hold pose for 20 seconds then stand slowly as you inhale.
- Reclining Bound Angle Pose: Lay face up on the ground with your knees bent and your feet on the floor as close to your bottom as possible. Bring the soles of your feet together, letting your knees fall open to each side. Breathe in and out through your nose, allowing your hips to open and your knees to fall closer to the ground. You can lay with your arms comfortably at your sides, palms facing up or place one hand on your low belly and one hand on your heart to feel the gentle movement of breath throughout the body. Stay and breathe for up to two minutes.
- Legs up the wall: Sit sideways next to a clear wall space. Raise your legs up with the backs of your thighs, calves and/or heels up against the wall as you lower your torso, shoulders and head to the ground, laying face up. Your bottom should be right next to the wall where it meets the floor. Like the last pose, you can lay with your arms comfortably at your sides, palms facing up or place one hand on your low belly and one hand on your heart to feel the gentle movement of breath throughout the body. You can also change your leg position leaving the legs straight, letting the legs fall open into a “V”, or bringing the soles of the feet together in bound angle pose (see above). Stay and breathe for up to two minutes.