You have four assignments due by the end of the week, a virtual job interview at three o’clock, and dinner with your parents at your place tonight. Life can feel overwhelming sometimes--especially when it feels like everything is happening all at once.
It’s also no secret that 2020 was one of the most stressful years for most people due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, some stressors from last year are also creeping into this year.
If you feel stressed and anxious lately, you are not alone. The past year has challenged everyone in some way or another, be it from lack of employment, losing a loved-one from COVID, or overall anxiousness from the day to day changes we’ve all faced.
It’s completely normal to feel stressed during a time of immense uncertainty, but letting the stress and anxiety fester without taking any positive steps to resolve it can create long term damages. Elevated stress levels have been linked to higher cholesterol which can lead to heart disease, a weakened immune system causing difficulty fighting off sickness, and even tightened veins that can result in reduced blood flow throughout the body.
For too long people have looked at stress as a common symptom of everyday life without understanding how harmful prolonged periods of tension can be to our physical health. Stress may be something everyone experiences, but it’s how you choose to manage it that will make all the difference down the road.
There are plenty of ways to relieve stressful feelings right from the comfort of your home, including the age-old practice of yoga. Yoga has been proven to relieve stress and bring about mindfulness through the physical and mental discipline it requires.
The best part is, you don’t need anything but yourself and a little bit of patience to reap the benefits of yoga. If you have a yoga mat, that’s great--but any open space where you feel comfortable will be just fine. If you want to go a little further, you can purchase yoga blocks, straps, and bolsters to intensify the stretches.
Everyone--even the busiest people--can put aside five minutes a couple times a week to practice yoga poses that may exponentially benefit their well being.
What to know before you dive into yoga
It’s important to understand that the main focus of yoga is your breath--or “prana”. Although the poses are important to stretch the muscles of the body, deep breathing is what releases blockages from the body, allowing positive energy to flow in.
In order to experience the benefits of prana, the breaths must be deep and full so that you feel it within your entire body. Short, choppy breaths will trigger a stress response--which is the exact opposite result yoga intends to create.
Most of us are stimulated all day from work, phones, the news, etc., so it may feel unusual at first to pay attention to your breath while blocking out all other distractions, but after you settle into the practice, your mind and body will thank you.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best stress-reducing yoga poses for you to try at home the next time you feel too overwhelmed.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a great place to start for beginners. It’s considered the resting posture in many yoga practices because it’s used to calm the body and reconnect to the breath. Child's pose helps release tension from the back and shoulders while quieting the body and mind for total relaxation.
You can do this pose practically anywhere there’s a soft surface. When done right before bed, it allows you to clear your mind and calm your heart so you fall into a deeper and more relaxing rest at night.
How it's done: kneel on the floor on all fours, and then extend your arms straight forward on the ground as you lower your forehead to the mat.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose is a great yoga pose that increases both relaxation and strength throughout the body. It opens your chest and hip flexors while stretching your back and legs. Bridge pose is an energizing pose known to reduce anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and backaches.
How it’s done: Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet hips width apart on the floor. Ensure your ankles are directly under your knees so you don’t cause any strain on your joints. Lift your pelvic floor upward while pressing down with your shoulders and feet.
If you experience frequent back pain, it can feel relaxing to place a yoga block under your lower back for support.
Cat/Cow Pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana Poses)
The cat and cow poses are typically done in unison because they’re the inverse of one another. These two poses assist in the release of tension in the lower back and chest, while also massaging the organs in the abdomen which helps to create an emotional balance throughout the body.
How it’s done: Get on all fours and inhale deeply as you curve your stomach towards the ground. As you exhale, release your head towards the floor and arch your back towards the ceiling. Continue transitioning between both for at least 30 seconds.
Easy Pose/helpful in meditation (Sukhasana)
This pose, sometimes called the “easy pose” is used frequently in meditative practices. The upward seated position and placement of the hands allows for the opening of the heart. It also promotes inner peace and happiness, which helps to reduce mental and physical exhaustion.
How it’s done: Sit cross-legged on the ground, rest your hands on your needs and close your eyes.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Camel pose is a great pose to stretch the abdomen region and open the hips. It’s helpful with relieving back pain and regulating the digestive system. It’s also been shown to improve the circulatory systems and alleviate symptoms associated with asthma and diabetes.
How it’s done: Kneel on the floor and push your hips forward as you throw your head backwards and reach your hands to your ankles.
Corpse pose (Savasana)
Corpse pose may look like you’re just laying on the floor, but with the breath involved it becomes so much more beneficial than simply laying there. This pose is typically used at the end of a yoga practice to clear the mind and put the body at complete ease for total relaxation. It helps trigger a state of deep rest. Some people will lay flat with their hand on the center of their heart to connect to their breath. You’ll get the most benefit of this pose after 3-5 minutes.
How it’s done: This one is pretty self explanatory, but you lay on the ground with your arms at your side and legs spread hips width apart.
Melting heart pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Melting heart pose, also sometimes referred to as extended puppy pose is a deep stretch for the back, shoulders, and hamstrings. It’s also helpful for boosting your mood, calming your mind, and reducing overall mental stress. Holding this pose for anywhere from 30-60 seconds will release positive hormones that bring an overall feeling of wellness into the body.
How it’s done: Get on all fours and then lower your chest towards the ground and extend your arms forward, keeping your glutes and legs engaged.
Cobra pose: (bhujangasana)
Cobra pose provides much needed stretching of the back and shoulders where most of our tension is usually held. This pose provides instant relaxation as it opens and eases the breathing process. It’s very rarely that our bodies are used to moving in this type of way, so it may feel uncomfortable at first, but holding this pose for 30-60 seconds while focusing on deep breathing will deliver the best results.
How it’s done: lay on the ground with and push your chest upwards while keeping your legs and the top of your toes planted on the ground. You can throw your head back for an additional stretch.
Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Have you ever seen a baby play with his or her feet while laying on their back? There’s a reason why this pose is called happy baby pose! This is one of our favorite yoga poses to do because it supports enhanced mood, improves sleep, and it’s so much fun to do. Trust us, you’re going to love it.
Happy baby pose helps reduce fatigue and stress, as well as calm the mind and body when held for at least 60 seconds. To add a little movement to this pose, you can sway back and forth to really feel the benefits in your back.
How it’s done: Lay on your back and put your legs in the air, grab onto your feet with your hands and pull your legs as close to you as they can go. Hold for 60 seconds.
Legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani)
This pose is great for anyone, but especially helpful for those who experience delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS from regularly working out. When your legs are inverted above your body, fluids that often cause swollen ankles and sore legs flow into the lower belly, leaving you feeling refreshed and renewed.
This pose helps to quickly cool the mind and body, relieving stress in the process. The great thing about legs up the wall pose is you can do it while watching TV, hanging with the family, or in your bed before you fall asleep.
How it’s done: Find a wall in your house that is clear of hangings and other furniture. Scooch your butt as close to the wall as you can, and then kick your legs up so they’re as straight as they can go. Stay in this pose for about 1-4 minutes for the best results.
Next time your hectic schedule starts to create stress and anxiety in your day to day life, get on your mat and find the peace within this hectic world we live in. We promise you won’t regret it!