5 Yoga Poses for Stress Relief
A Yoga Sequence to Help Calm Your Nervous System
Yoga is an incredibly powerful tool for stress management. Try this sequence of five poses to calm down, relax, and recenter yourself.
How is your body doing in these strange times? Are you having trouble sleeping? Gut issues? Random illnesses? Brain fog? Fatigue? Crying jags? A lack of motivation? You are not alone.
Those symptoms are normal reactions to being under chronic stress, especially if you have trauma in your past (and the majority of us do on some level or another).
Practicing Yoga for Stress Management
Yoga can be incredibly powerful for helping to get your system back into the present, where you are reasonably safe and can breathe.
There’s so much going on in the world right now. With the pandemic and the ongoing news about racialized violence, many of us are getting triggered on many different levels—which means our bodies think some old trauma is happening all over again, even if we know the trauma is in the past.
Trauma could be if we’ve been through anything to do with feeling different, being outcast, illness, hospitals, not being able to breathe, being isolated, abandoned, violence in general … the list goes on. We may not feel we are coping very well, but that’s simply because our systems are trying to help us survive the day.
Yoga, and specifically these five poses, may help you move out of the trauma response so you can get through the day a little better. Be sure to check with your doctor if you have any concerns about trying these poses. They should all feel pretty good—if something hurts or feels stressful, come out right away.
Five Yoga Poses for Stress Relief
Why: This is a classic pose for initiating calm.
How: Come to hands and knees. Widen your knees apart, and bring the toes to touch with the tops of the feet on the floor. If your ankles are tight, you might need a blanket under them. Sit back on your heels and bring your forehead to the floor or a prop. Find any comfortable position for your arms. See if you can breathe a little bit deeper, specifically into your back body for 10 to 20 breaths.
Why: Twists tend to be calming for the nervous system, and they are great for realigning the spine.
How: Lay on your back. Shift your hips 1 to 2 inches to the right; then bend your knees into your chest and bring them to the floor on your left. Open your right arm out to the right. Your left arm can be open or holding your knees. If it’s comfortable, allow your head to rest facing away from your knees. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths, and then switch sides.
Thread the Needle
Why: We tend to hold stress in the hips, and this pose can help release that.
How: From laying on your back, have your knees bent, feet on the floor. Cross your right ankle just above your left knee. Bring the legs in, and interlace your fingers around your left thigh. Your right arm goes through the window between your legs, so your right knee can press away from your face gently. If you feel your spine curling up a lot or you can’t keep your head on the ground, try putting a pillow under your lower back to help lift the hips. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths; then switch sides. Shake the legs out gently between sides.
Seated Forward Fold
Why: Forward folds trigger the calm response.
How: Sit up on a cushion and bring your feet together, knees wide. Support your knees with blocks if needed. You may simply allow your head to fall forward, perhaps rolling it gently from side to side. If your back is healthy, you can fold from your hips to any depth, perhaps continuing to roll your head gently if you like. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
Savasana (aka Corpse pose)
Why: This is a pose for resting and integrating your practice.
How: Traditionally this pose is laying flat on the back, but you can lay in any comfortable position. Relax here for 5 to 20 minutes.