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With 60 to 80% of all primary care visits in the US related to stress, it’s clear that yoga can be an enormous help to most individuals.
In fact, the ancient sages who invented yoga did so for the purpose of bringing about ultimate mental and physical health, which they saw as a prerequisite for attaining higher spiritual states. As such, in our stress-filled modern world, yogic practices are now more relevant than ever. Here are a few calming yoga poses that you can practice to invite greater relaxation into your life:
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Although many might see it as simply touching your toes, seated forward bend pose can be a deeply relaxing position. As you fold forward, a sense of calmness comes over the mind, helping to relieve stress. Furthermore, as the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings are stretched, deeply held tension is released from the body.
Here’s how you can perform seated forward bend pose:
- Sit up straight on the floor with your legs outstretched in front of you.
- Keep your feet flexed towards you throughout the pose.
- Place folded blanket or yoga block under your pelvis for support if you’d like.
- Reach your arms up towards the ceiling.
- Inhale and lengthen your spine up.
- While exhaling, bend forward at your hips.
- With each inhale, lengthen your spine straight to avoid curving your back.
- With each exhale, deepen your forward bend.
- Keep your neck as a natural extension of your spine, without craning it up or down.
- Once you’ve bent forward as far as is comfortable, choose to stay there or round your spine forward.
- Grab your ankles or shins if you can.
- Hold here for a few deep breaths before gently releasing the pose.
Warrior Two (Virabhadrasana II)
As the name implies, this pose helps you to tap into your personal strength and courage. As you expand your body, you can gain the confidence necessary to confront any situation giving you stress. In fact, powerful poses such as this are shown to reduce cortisol levels.
Follow these steps to practice Warrior Two:
- Begin by standing on your yoga mat with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides.
- Exhale as you step your feet about three to five feet apart.
- Place your left foot parallel to the short edge of your mat.
- Align your heals.
- Turn your right foot 90 degrees forward, so your toes are pointing to the top of your mat.
- Press down firmly through the pinky toe of your left foot.
- While inhaling, extend your arms out alongside your body, raising them parallel to the floor with your palms facing down.
- Gently gaze over the middle finger of your right hand while relaxing your shoulders down.
- Deeply bend your right knee so that it aligns with your right ankle.
- Slightly draw your tailbone under your spine and open your pelvis towards the left side of your mat.
- Draw your ribs down and engage your core.
- Remain here for a few deep breaths before stepping to the front of your mat and repeating the pose on the other side.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Although it may look complicated at first glance, with a bit of balance, anyone can master eagle pose. This posture can bring great clarity to the mind as it improves your concentration, balance, and circulation. All of these benefits can help you to stay grounded in times of stress.
To practice eagle pose, follow these steps:
- Stand up straight with your arms at your sides
- Bend your knees and balance on your right foot.
- Lift your left leg and cross it over your right leg.
- Hook your left foot behind your right calf.
- Fix your gaze on a point in front of you to increase your balance.
- Stay here for one breath.
- Extend your arms straight in front of your body.
- Place your left arm under your right arm.
- Bend your elbows, raising your arms perpendicular to the floor.
- Intertwine your arms around each other and press your palms together.
- Lift your elbows, pushing your fingertips towards the ceiling while keeping your shoulder blades down.
- You should feel a stretch in your upper back
Square your hips and chest to the wall in front of you.
- Draw your stomach up and in.
- Continue fixing your gaze on a single point for balance.
- Stay here for as many breaths as you’d like before gently releasing the pose.
Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
When it comes to relieving stress, what could be better than embodying the energy of a happy baby? Thankfully, yoga has the perfect posture for this. Happy baby pose can be a blissful and silly way to relax your mind and body. Whenever the stresses of adult life leave you feeling the need to return to childhood innocence, definitely practice this posture.
Here’s how to do it:
- Lie on your back on your yoga mat.
- Exhale and raise your legs, bending your knees into your body.
- Inhale as you grip the outsides of the feet with your hands.
- Open your knees slightly wider than your torso and bring them toward your armpits.
- Position each ankle directly over each knee, putting your shins perpendicular to the floor.
- Gently push your feet into your hands while pulling your hands down to create resistance.
- Take a few deep breaths here, enjoying the stretch in your hamstrings.
- When you’re ready, gently relax your arms and legs back onto the floor.
Boat Pose (Navasana)
As an excellent workout, boat pose builds strength and steadiness in your core, giving you the power and stability necessary to overcome stress in your life. It can be a bit challenging at first, but with enough practice, you’ll be performing boat pose like a pro.
Here are the steps you can follow to do boat pose:
- Sit on your yoga mat with your legs stretched out in front of you.
- Keep your feet flexed towards your body throughout this posture.
- Balance your weight between your sitting bones and your tail bone.
- Place your hands on the floor just behind your hips and lean slightly back.
- As you do, lift your sternum to avoid rounding your back.
- As you exhale, lift your legs so that your thighs are at roughly a 45-degree angle with the floor. The angle between your legs and torso should be about 90 degrees.
- Stretch your arms out forward, parallel to the floor.
- Remain here, breathing steadily for as long as you’d like before gently releasing the pose.
All in all, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, incorporating these poses into your personal yoga practice can help your stress to melt away. However, if you’re struggling with any mental health issues, we recommend consulting your physician before trying alternative treatment options.