Stress and anxiety are a part of life, especially if you are busy with a career and family. We all have ways to relieve stress but some may not be possible at all hours of the day (yes, I see you with that glass of wine in your hand!).
A great way to combat stress and anxiety is the practice of yoga. Yoga is most beneficial when you are not just conscious of the motions you are doing, but moving slowly and with a focus on your breathing and mind. There are many poses that not only help your body release tension but your mind to settle down as well. You can do these practically anywhere and for as little or long as you like. Your body and mind will thank you!
1. Legs Up The Wall
This is a wonderful pose to start out your de-stress routine. Lay with your feet against the wall, bottom touching as well, with your arms down to your sides. Take deep breaths to both center your mind and calm down. This pose helps you physically by refreshing your circulation and relaxes your nervous system.
2. Downward Dog
Downward Dog is a great stress reliever, providing you ample time to rest your mind and stretch out tense muscles caused by anxiety. Begin in a standing position and exhale as you bend down, placing your hands with fingers outstretched, on the mat shoulder-width apart. Reach your legs back, stretching them so your knees are not bent but so they are aligned with your hands, also shoulder- width apart. Breathe slowly for 60 seconds and repeat for ultimate relief.
If you are stressed, you are probably holding on to it physically in your pelvis, neck, and back. Using the combo of cat and cow poses helps to relieve stress build up in these areas. Begin with your hands and knees on your mat in a tabletop position, both in alignment with each other. Round your back up towards the ceiling (resembling a cat), but dropping your tailbone and head to the ground. Then do the reverse and arch your back down, with your head and tailbone reaching towards the sky. Repeat.
4. Bridge Pose
This pose both stretches the back and opens the space around your heart, which is believed to force energy away from your anxious thoughts and change the blood flow of your body, releasing emotions. Achieve this pose by laying on your mat with legs bent and arms down to your sides. Slowly lift your bottom and back off the mat and place your hands underneath, either grasping each other or your ankles, for a full stretch. Release and repeat.
5. Child's Pose
Child's Pose is one of the most relaxing poses that also encourages better blood flow towards your brain. Sit on your knees that are spaced shoulder-width apart. Take a deep breath and lower your torso down towards your thighs, extending your arms forward. Rest your forehead on the mat and breathe deeply. You can keep your hands forward or move them to your sides.
6. Fish Pose
The fish pose is known for light back and shoulder stretching and ridding your body of anxiety. Begin by lying on your back with arms at your sides. Slide your hands under your buttocks and keep them there. Then inhale and lift your upper back and head off the floor, pressing your forearms and elbows into the floor. You can keep your legs straight out in front of your, bend at the knee or the most complicated- folded like the Lotus pose. While in fish pose, take several breaths and lower torso and head back down.
7. Seated Forward Bend
The Seated Forward Bend will give your back a much-needed stretch in addition to releasing stress from the body. It takes practice to achieve the form in this photo, but you can do it. Begin by sitting on your mat with feet together and outstretched before you. Extend your hands towards the feet and focus on them as you lower your torso down. Try touching your toes and resting your head on your legs for the ultimate stretch.
8. Extended Puppy
Extended puppy is another anxiety buster and provides wonderful stretching and relaxation for both your physical and mental body. Begin on all fours and slowly walk your hands forward a few inches. Then move your rear towards your heels and lower your forehead to the floor. Do not sit on your heels (that's Child's Pose), but focus on your breathing and your anxiety leaving your body.
9. Corpse Pose
I like to end all yoga practices with the corpse pose. While physically probably one of the easiest poses, since you're basically laying down with arms at your side, mentally the corpse pose can be difficult. The goal is to relax your mind as much as your body, so anxiety and stress fully leave. If it's hard to calm your racing mind, try practicing positive affirmations such as “I am at peace,” or a statement that exemplifies how you truly want to feel.
What's your favorite yoga move for de-stressing? Let us know in the comments below.