Feeling stressed or anxious lately? We know the daily grind can be somewhat exhausting. The responsibilities of everyday life, as well as the unexpected curve balls, can pack on some unwanted tension to your mind and body. From diet, sleeping patterns and mood swings, there’s a lot going on that can do more harm than good when the cortisol kicks in.
It’s well known that yoga is the quintessential art form when it comes to slowing down and relaxing. Here are 8 yoga poses for you to try at home or whenever you feel like you’re in need of time-out.
Child’s pose is as easy as it gets, and is also one of the most effective. Knees wide, sitting back on your heels with your arms stretched out and your forehead on the mat, this relaxed and non-engaging pose lets you focus on your breathing. By using any breathing technique, like slow, deep conscious breaths, you will calm your mind and feel your body start to relax. Ujjayi is most common and effective; Bianca Cheah mentions it here when discussing her own issues with anxiety.
An inversion in its simplest form, Uttanasana, or forward bend, calms the nervous system (as does any inversion) and can even help alleviate mild depression and anxiety. As in all forward bends, the aim is to lengthen the torso and not to round it, so bend your knees as much as you need if you have any lower back injuries.
Tree pose is a great balancing and grounding pose, and is fairly easy to achieve. Grounding down through your right left leg (or whichever leg you feel more comfortable in) you can bring your foot to your ankle, shin, or above the knee into your thigh, but never on the knee as it can damage your joints. Hands can be in prayer position, but the focus should be on breathing and grounding through the standing foot. Switch sides when needed.
Twists are great to relieve muscles along the spine and provide a deep relaxation. Cleansing the internal organs, it’s a gentle pose to aid digestion and calm the nervous system. Lay flat with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your arms out in a “T” shape. Bring your knees over to one side, keeping your shoulders level on the ground and gazing the opposite way. Breathe 5-10 breaths before switching over to the other side.
This inversion reverses the pressure systems in your body, renewing the blood flow and eases any fatigue in the legs and lower back. With your sitting bones against the wall, extends your legs so the back of your thighs are resting against it and fully relax into the pose. You can use a block under your lower back to really release tension in the hips. For a more intense variation, try shoulder stand, using a block or your hands to support your lower back.
A stretching and strengthening pose, downward dog provides balance for the mind and body. It strengthens the arms and shoulders while stretching the hamstrings and lower back. The inversion encourages blood flow to the brain and extremities, which is simultaneously energising and calming for the body. From a table top position on all fours, send your hips back and up towards the sky, pushing away with your hands and grounding them into the mat, try and send your biceps behind your ears. Your hamstrings may be tight in this pose, so be sure to bend your knees, this will help flatten your lower back.
Stretching the muscles, back and hips, bridge pose extends the spine, stimulating the movement of spinal fluids, which in turn energises the blood flow. Laying on your back with knees bent and hip width apart, feet flat on the floor and arms extended by your side, drive the hips up towards the ceiling, pressing firmly into the ground with your heels and arms. Stay for 3-5 breathes then slowly lower to the ground, repeat as necessary.