4 Yoga Poses to Beat Stress
You may think of yoga as an activity only for women or write it off as over glorified stretching, but, as any yogi will tell you, the benefits of yoga aren’t purely physical, they’re mental. In fact, it’s the mental impact of yoga that brings people back for more. Yoga is a moving mediation based on the breath that has a distinct calming effect. The reduction of stress and stress management is one of yoga’s biggest appeals as stress can devastate your body and mind, leading to neck and back pain, sleeping problems, and chronic headaches. The practice of yoga will help you cope with stress, expel anxiety, and provides practitioners with a peaceful, positive state of mind.
Worried about not hitting your budget at work? Concerned about the state of your relationships? Feeling anxious? Use yoga to beat stress and gain control of your mind. These beginner yoga poses will help you ground down, find your center, and release any built-up tension.
1. Standing forward bend (Uttanasana)
Stand straight up with your hands on your hips. With a flat back, bend forward from your hips allowing your upper body to fold toward the floor. Release your arms and head down toward the floor. To rid yourself of any tension in your neck and back sway from side to side slowly. For a slightly different variation, grab opposite elbows with your hands and relax the crown of your head toward the floor while swaying side to side. This standing forward bend pose is therapeutic and revitalizing. With your head below your heart the blood rushes to your head rather than your feet providing your cells with a rejuvenating flow of oxygen. This pose stretches your hips, hamstrings, and calves and strengthens the spine while easing headaches, fatigue, and stress.
2. Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From the standing forward bend, bend your knees and bring your hands to the floor on either side of your feet. Step both feet three to four feet back with your toes pointing toward your hands. Your body will be in a triangle shape. Keep your neck long and draw your shoulders away from your ears while reaching your heels toward the floor. Make sure you lift your hips up and press down firmly through your feet and hands. This pose will draw your shoulder blades together and provide a nice stretch through your hamstrings and calves. Not only does this pose calm the mind but it will increase flexibility in the hips, knees, and ankles.
3. Cat-cow pose (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)
From downward dog bring your knees to the floor. Check and make sure your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. With a deep inhale come into cow pose by bringing your chin up so it is parallel to the floor. Open your chest by squeezing your shoulder blades together and arch your back. With the exhale move into cat pose by releasing your neck and looking toward your belly button as you round your back. Repeat these postures several times ad focus on taking long, deep breaths and matching the movement to your breath. This pose stretches the hips, back, and abdomen and opens the chest and lungs. Use the breath to move slowly and therapeutically as a way to relieve stress.
4. Child’s pose (Balasana)
From cat-cow pose widen the knees so they are slightly wider than your hips and bring your big toes to touch. Then, with your palms on the floor slowly push yourself back until your hips are resting between your heels. Release your forehead to the floor and bring your arms backward, resting them on either side of your body with the palms facing up. This pose is restorative and relaxing while stretching your lower back, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles. In addition to relieving stress and tension, it increases blood circulation to reduce headaches.