A big work presentation. When a loved one is sick. Deadlines. Bills. Whether big or small, everyone experiences stress as a normal part of everyday life. And while we can’t eliminate stress altogether, evading stress may be easier than you think.
One of the best ways to get a handle on it all: Hit the yoga mat. Yoga, a mind/body exercise that involves stretching and structured breathing, is a proven way to reduce stress and calm your nerves.
“Yoga helps us slow down for a moment and tune into the breath. Simply the focus on one thing — which is the very definition of meditation — allows us to decompress,” Dr. Terri Kennedy, registered yoga teacher and president of Power Living Enterprises, Inc. “The actual asanas [poses] release tension in different ways, and help certain parts of the body.”
While most yoga moves are good stress relievers, specific poses may help more than others. Practice these poses to tame tension and find your inner calm:
- Corpse pose (Savasana)
How to do it: There are many variations to those pose, but they all begin with laying down on your back with your feed slightly apart, arms at your side with palms facing up. As you inhale, extend your right leg, and then the left, and allow them to drop to the side. Tense your whole body. Then allow your body to sink into the floor. With arms outward, let them rest on the floor. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, allowing your body to relax for five to10 minutes.
Why it works: This pose relaxes your body and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate. That means lowered blood pressure and decreased muscle tension, which are essential to ridding yourself of stress. It also helps clear your head.
- Mountain pose (Tadasana)
How to do it: Stand with your feet together, arms by your sides, with weight evenly distributed to both feet. Press your big toes together and then lift and spread your toes out. Elevate your kneecaps by tightening your thighs. Slightly tuck your tailbone in. Straighten your arms with fingers extended and your palms facing in. As you inhale, lengthen your torso. Keep your neck elongated and eyes forward. Hold for one to two minutes.
Why it works: This pose works to help you clear your mind and overcome you with a sense of calmness. Smooth breathing and regaining balance are also great stress busters.
- Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
How to do it: Place your palms on the ground and step back one leg at a time, keeping your hands and feet in line with each other. Stretch your arms forward and keep them straight. Lift your backside in the air and straighten your legs, while pressing your hands and heels into the ground. Your head and neck should naturally relax.
Why it works: Your spine is elongated during this position, which can help you feel and overwhelming sense of relaxation overcome your body. Downward dog is especially helpful if you’re experiencing a tension headache due to stress.
- Cat pose (Marjaryasana)
How to do it: Begin with your hands and knees on the floor, creating a “table top” position with your back. Straighten your arms and center your head, with your eyes looking at the floor. Inhale, then exhale and round your spine to create an arc. Let your head drop (but avoid bringing your chin towards your chest). Inhale and revert to the tabletop position. Repeat up to 12 times.
Why it works: The feeling of your spinal cord stretching may mimic the feel of a massage, which can ease stress. Cat pose also benefits your stomach organs and muscles.
- Child’s pose (Balasana)
How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees, with your knees about hip width apart and feet together. Stretch your arms forward and lengthen your tailbone away from your back. Extend your torso and lengthen the back of your neck as you place your forehead to the floor. Place your arms at your sides with your palms facing out. Breathe slowly and deeply.
Why it works: This pose works as meditation to tender feelings of calm by soothing the central nervous system. As your spine, shoulders and neck relaxes, so does your mind.
As stressful as life can be, there are ways to help calm you down and relax. Make sure to say Namaste to your stress levels after doing some yoga.
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