Yoga Poses To Relieve Stress That Actually Work
No matter how much you may try to avoid it, it's natural to feel frazzled from a busy day-to-day work schedule and a packed planner.
As a yoga instructor, I often find myself gravitating toward my mat when I feel like my mind is clouded or anxiety is creeping up on me.
But when I tell my friends that yoga could provide relief from their own workday woes, they roll their eyes and say they'll never be able to get into the poses I do on Instagram.
If there's one thing I could set straight about yoga, it's that it's not about the difficult poses. It's about moving your body in a way that feels good and juicy, letting any anxiety float far away from the sanctuary that is your mat.
For anyone in need of some prime relaxation before bed, here's an easy yoga routine you can literally do right next to your bed to let go of all of the day's stress.
1. Child's Pose
Start in child's pose.
Child's pose is a calming position often used in any yoga flow for rest and restoration.
It stretches the lower back, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles while simultaneously relaxing your spine, shoulders, and neck.
Stay in child's pose anywhere from one to three minutes, and let your breathing be even and relaxed as you fill your belly with air on your inhales, and slowly release it through your nose on the exhales.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
Slowly come up from child's pose and into downward-facing dog.
Downward-facing dog strengthens your arms and shoulders while stretching your hamstrings, calves, and the arches of your feet.
It's a great reliever for back pain (where many of us tend to hold tension from stress), and it can even be a natural remedy for headaches.
Make sure that your fingers are spread wide like starfish, and be sure to distribute your weight evenly throughout your palms so you're not putting too much pressure on your wrists.
3. Pigeon Pose
Raise your right leg while in downward dog, and bring your knee to your nose. Then set your right leg onto the ground, with your left leg extended straight back behind you, transitioning into pigeon pose.
Pigeon pose is a deep hip stretch that releases tension and lengthens the hip flexors. This forward fold variation can be very intense for some at first, so if you feel any pain here, try a modified figure four stretch on your back for the same effect.
Stay in pigeon pose anywhere from three to five minutes, breathing deeply and letting go of any negative thought. When you finish your right side, repeat the pose on your left.
4. Tree Pose
Now that your hips are open from pigeon, you can slowly come to stand and try balancing in tree pose.
Tree pose doesn't just help improve balance and posture, it also strengthens your core, ankles, calves, thighs, and spine.
Make sure the raised foot is resting on either your calf or your thigh, not your knee. Hold for about a minute with a steady breath. Repeat on the other side.
5. Seated Spinal Twist
Whenever I introduce this pose in class, I tend to get weird looks. But it's not as scary as it sounds, I promise.
Slowly come down from tree pose to sit on your mat, and come into seated spinal twist.
This pose stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck while also energizing the spine. As you inhale, lengthen your spine, making yourself taller. As you exhale, twist a little deeper, looking over your shoulder.
Stay with your breath and repeat on the other side.
6. Seated Forward Fold
Come out of your twist and place your legs straight out in front of you, coming into seated forward fold.
This pose calms the brain, making it a great stress reliever. It stretches the spine, shoulders, and especially the hamstrings.
Make sure to keep your back flat as you come forward, and only go as far as what feels comfortable to you. The coveted toe grab will come with time and practice.
After you come out of your forward fold, find a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Stay here, and focus on even breathing with full, deep breaths. I like to set a timer for five to six minutes and really let myself go here.
Be a witness to your thoughts without judging them. You can transition into a short savasana (corpse pose) after this, or simply go to bed.
Another pro tip: I like to rub a little lavender essential oil on my temples, too, for ultimate relaxation.
The beauty of yoga is that it really is for everyone and every body.
Incorporating these seven poses into your routine will ease mental and physical tension, and give you the stress-free slumber of your dreams.