Stress can seem inescapable and can take a toll on the body. Our busy lives are more likely to make us more stressed than less, but a short, simple yoga practice can help relieve both stress and the physical tightness and headaches that can accompany it. Yoga can be intimidating if you’ve never practiced before, but all bodies and levels of practice can benefit from yoga--and the simple, relaxing poses below. These poses are easy enough for beginners and we’ve included modifications to make them even simpler. A rolled up towel, pillow and yoga block can make these poses attainable and relaxing, even if you’ve never practiced yoga before.
To get the most relaxation and stress relief out of these poses, focus on breathing deeply, steadily and slowly.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
The most important pose in your stress-busting arsenal, child’s pose, is a great way to calm the mind and central nervous system. This pose is deeply relaxing and restorative and a great pose for beginners.
Begin on your hands and knees. Inhale and exhale. On the exhale, lower your buttocks toward your heels and your forehead to the floor. Extend your arms out in front of you with your palms down or rest alongside your body, palms facing up. You may spread your knees apart if it is more comfortable to do so, but try to keep your big toes touching.
You may support your torso with a rolled up towel or block to make the pose more gentle--so you can focus on relaxation, not on maintaining the stretch. You can also put a pillow or rolled up towel between your feet and buttocks to lessen the stretch through the knees. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
This pose can help alleviate stress, anxiety and depressed mood while providing a nice stretch for the neck, shoulders, spine and hips. It improves circulation while calming the mind and central nervous system for a deeply relaxing pose.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Exhale and press your hips upward, keeping your arms flat on the mat. Roll your shoulders back to lift your torso off the floor and lace fingers behind the back if not supporting your pelvis with a block. If you find this position difficult to maintain, support your pelvis with a block. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana to Bitilasana)
This simple pose duo is unbeatable when it comes to relieving tension in the back and shoulders. The gentle flow is relaxing and also warms up the spine, making it an equally effective way to relax after a tough day or to warm up before exercising. Though the pose is easy on the body, talk to your physician or physical therapist before trying this pose if you have or have experienced a neck injury.
Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands positioned directly below your shoulders and your knees hip-width apart. Inhale and drop your belly toward the mat. Lift your chin and draw shoulders back away from your ears. Then, as you exhale, round your back upward, drawing your belly toward your spine.
Allow the head to sink toward the floor. Repeat this flow, focusing on slow breathing, for 10-20 repetitions.
Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Another simple but powerful poses, extended puppy pose can help relieve tightness in your shoulders and neck, making it a great remedy for stress-related aches and pains if you hold tension in your shoulders.
As with the Cat-Cow flow, begin on your hands and knees, hands positioned below your shoulders and knees beneath the hips, hip-width apart. Exhale and walk your hands forward. Keeping your hips above your knees, slowly lower your torso toward your mat. If you are able, rest your forehead on the floor. Lift your elbows and press your palms to the floor while extending your hips toward the ceiling. To modify this pose, you may rest your forehead on a yoga block instead of the floor or hold your arms loose as you would in child’s pose. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
There are many reasons yoga sessions often end with several minutes of corpse pose. Like many of the other poses above, this pose relaxes the central nervous system and calms your mind--it even decreases brain wave frequency to slower, more relaxed brain waves. This pose can help relieve stress and depression, and can also help improve your sleep!
Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms resting by your sides slightly away from your body, palms facing upward. Open the legs to hip width apart and allow your feel to relax outward. Focus on feelings of relaxation and allow your body to sink into your mat. You may place a rolled up towel or pillow beneath the knees if this poses causes any lower back strain.
If you have or have experienced a lower back injury, consult with a doctor or physical therapist before adding this pose to your rotation. Stay in corpse pose for five minutes or as long as desired.
Practice these poses in a short yoga session or throughout the day as needed to relieve stress and calm the mind. You may even find a new love for yoga!
Sara Vallejo is a self-confessed happiness, health and self-development junkie from Chicago. She writes professionally in a business development and marketing capacity, and as a volunteer for a digital nonprofit. Miss Vallejo is a passionate mental and holistic health advocate who believes that good health is an ongoing journey best undertaken with supportive peers. Sara’s areas of expertise include nutrition, weight loss, women’s health, mental health and disability issues. She is returning to weight loss and fitness following orthopedic surgery and is excited to encourage and inspire fellow Azumio community members and readers to achieve the best health they can.
Main Photo Credit: Undrey/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Artsplav/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: fizkes/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com