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10 Yoga Poses for Stress Relief

How a few minutes of yoga can reduce anxiety.

Jul 16, 2020

Did you know that about a third of all teens have an anxiety disorder?  And smartphones and social media have increased that statistic even further, research says.  Doing things that increase mindfulness like yoga have proven to help treat this anxiety.  If you feel anxiety but never wanted to try yoga, you might want to reconsider!  It’s easier than you think, helps calm you down, makes you feel focused and in tune with yourself when you’re stressed, and it’s free!  Check out these poses.

10 Yoga Poses for Stress Relief  Courtesy of Unsplash

Resting Childs Pose

This comforting pose is a good go-to when you feel extra overwhelmed.  It relaxes the back muscles, stretches the hips, thighs and ankles, and calms the nervous system.

  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
  2. Spread your knees wide apart while resting your hips on your heels.
  3. Bow forward, draping your torso between your thighs. Allow your forehead to come to the floor.  Bring your arms back to rest alongside your thighs with your palms facing up.
  4. Allow all tension in your shoulders, arms, and neck to drain away.  Hold for up to a minute or longer, breathing softly.

Hold resting child's pose for as long as you like.Hold resting child's pose for as long as you like.Courtesy of Jennifer Muscato

Tree Pose

Tree pose improves focus, grounding and confidence.

  1. Standing, slowly shift your balance to one of the legs, as you bend and lift the other knee. Draw your foot up and place the sole above your knee or as far up as you can.
  2. If you like, place your palms together for a prayer position and then, keeping your balance and standing tall, reach with your hands upwards to the sky like tree branches, palms facing each other.
  3. If you’re new to balancing poses, it helps to pick one point to look at.  The focus aids with keeping your body balanced.  Hold for a few deep breaths.

If you like, lift your arms up to the sky like branches, while your foot is firmly rooted to the floor.If you like, lift your arms up to the sky like branches, while your foot is firmly rooted to the floor.Courtesy of Jennifer Muscato

Downward Facing Dog

This pose helps quiet the mind and stretches and eases tension in the back, shoulders and legs.

  1. On your hands and knees, spread your fingers on the floor and press into your index fingers and thumbs.
  2. Turn your toes under, and, on an exhalation, lift your knees off the floor, lengthen your tailbone, lift your hips toward the ceiling, and begin to slowly straighten your legs.
  3. Allow your heels to move toward the floor. Bring your head between your arms. Let your shoulder blades move away from your ears.
  4. Hold this position for a few slow, deep breaths.

If you can't get your heels all the way to the floor, that's okay.  You can also bend your knees if you need to.  Just keep your torso straight and long.If you can't get your heels all the way to the floor, that's okay. You can also bend your knees if you need to. Just keep your torso straight and long.Courtesy of Jennifer Muscato

Yogi Squat/Garland Pose

This squat is grounding, which provides calm. Many yogic beliefs consider the hips to be a gathering place for stress and negative feelings, and this pose may allow for the release of these negative feelings by opening the hips.

  1. With the hands in prayer position, slowly and cautiously drop into a squat.  Place support under your heels if they can't reach the floor.
  2. Lean slightly forward and bring your elbows or arms to the inside of your knees. You can place your hands in prayer position and use the elbows to support and keep the knees spread.  Do not allow the back to round.
  3. Allow some of your weight to balance into the heels.
  4. Hold a few slow, steady breaths and then drop your hands to mat. 

This pose provides stress relief and relief from tight hips.This pose provides stress relief and relief from tight hips.Courtesy of Jennifer Muscato

Bridge Pose

This pose does it all!  It reduces fatigue, anxiety, backaches, headaches, and insomnia, and even improves blood pressure.

  1. Begin by laying on your back on the mat with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
  2. Lift your hips so that your body slopes in a line from your knees to your head and upper body.
  3. If you like, bring your arms underneath your back, clasping your palms together.  Hold here up to a minute, breathing deeply.

You can keep your arms at your sides as an alternative to placing them under the back.You can keep your arms at your sides as an alternative to placing them under the back.Courtesy of Jennifer Muscato

Standing Forward Bend

This pose will stretch your hamstrings and calm the mind.

  1. Bend forward from the hips. Cross the forearms and hold your elbows.
  2. Let your head hang easily between the shoulder blades.
  3. Stay in the posture for 30 seconds to a minute.

You can put your hands on the floor in front of you as an alternative to holding your elbows.You can put your hands on the floor in front of you as an alternative to holding your elbows.Courtesy of Jennifer Muscato

Eagle Pose

This pose can help with stress by improving focus and balance.  It also eases tension in the shoulders, neck, back and legs. It's an all-over body toner and stress reducer. Do just the upper body portion of the move to start, if needed.

  1. Standing, bring your right arm in front of you making an “L” shape. Then wrap your left arm under and in front of your right, and bring your palms together in a prayer position. Lift your arms up and away from your face.
  2. Lift the right foot. Balance your body on the left foot.  
  3. Wrap your right leg over your left. Then curl your right foot's toes around the ankle or shin of your left leg.
  4. Hold whatever version of the posture you like for 5–15 breaths. Release and repeat on the other side.

This pose can be challenging.  Just do the upper body portion to start, if needed.This pose can be challenging. Just do the upper body portion to start, if needed.Courtesy of Jennifer Muscato

Legs up the Wall Pose

This pose gives blood circulation a gentle boost toward the upper body and head, which rebalances after you have been standing or sitting for a long time.

  1. Lie on the floor on your back.
  2. Scoot your seat up against a wall.
  3. Relax your feet above your hips so your legs are up against a wall (vertically in the air).
  4. Hands can rest wherever is most relaxing for you.
  5. Close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few minutes.

This pose promotes a feeling of well-being.This pose promotes a feeling of well-being.Courtesy of Trailrunner.com

Cat pose

This pose will soothe and stretch the lower back while massaging the spine.

  1. Start on your hands and knees, then while exhaling, round your back toward the ceiling and bring your navel up towards your spine.  Hold here for a few seconds.
  2. Bring back to the neutral position, keeping your spine and head aligned. 
  3. Repeat this as many times as you wish.

Tension in your back?  Try this pose.Tension in your back? Try this pose.Courtesy of drweil.com

Savasana

This is a pose of total relaxation and a perfect pose to end with.

  1. Lie flat on your back. Use a small pillow behind your back if required. Close your eyes.
  2. Keep your legs comfortably apart, relaxed, and toes pointing towards outside.
  3. Leave your arms relaxed alongside your body and keep your palms facing upwards.
  4. Bring attention to every part of your body, and try to relax your body.  Keep breathing slowly and gently.
  5. Open your eyes when you feel relaxed and de-stressed.

During savasana, try focus your attention on the breath to remain in the present moment.During savasana, try focusing your attention on the breath to remain in the present moment.Courtesy of Jennifer Muscato

Whether it's stress with friends, family, your workload, COVID-19, or going back to school soon, doing just a few yoga poses regularly--maybe first thing in the morning or before bed--can make a difference in your mood, outlook, and daily life.  Notice, over time, how you feel after making these basic poses a part of your normal schedule.

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