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Five Yoga Positions for Stress and Anxiety Relief

posted: 03/07/17
by: Katie Morton

As we've all come to learn, unfortunately, stress is unavoidable. Whether at work or in our personal lives, we are often pushed to new limits.

There are many different ways for dealing with that stress. We caught up with vinyasa and restorative yoga teacher, Erin Joan Lamberty for five easy poses to help decompress. The best part: these poses can be done by anyone (even the yoga novice), anywhere--and all you need is 30 minutes!

Setting Up

Before beginning, Erin recommends creating the right environmental conditions for calming down your nervous system. Find a quiet place, light some candles, and turn the lights down. A reduction in sound and visual stimulation will already feel like a relief.

Lay out a blanket over your mat for a soft foundation. Wear enough layers so that your body is warm. Maybe even set a timer for 30 minutes so you won't have to keep checking the time (use a gentle alarm setting).

1. Half Sun Salutations

It can sometimes be difficult to go straight from the craziness of daily life to a relaxed state, so Erin recommends some gentle movement to help make that transition easier.

Begin in Mountain Pose, standing evenly on both feet. Inhale to raise your arms up overhead. As you exhale, bend at the hips, keeping a long spine as you fold all the way forward. Lift up half way on your next inhale to lengthen the spine. Exhale to forward fold. Inhale to lift the torso all the way up. Exhale while bringing your hands down by your side, returning to Mountain Pose.

Once you feel comfortable flowing through the postures, you can close your eyes as you move. Focus more on breathing deeply and treat this as a moving meditation. Repeat for five to eight rounds.

2. Child's Pose

Start on hands and knees in a tabletop position. Widen the space between your knees to mat-width distance apart. Settle your hips back towards your heels. For most, your butts won't touch your heels--that's ok!

Place a rolled blanket underneath the backs of your knees for added support and comfort. Let your forearms rest on the floor so your shoulders relax. Place a block (or stack of books) underneath your forehead. Gently rock your head side to side and release any tension from your jaw. Stay in this pose for three to five minutes.

2. Child's Pose

Start on hands and knees in a tabletop position. Widen the space between your knees to mat-width distance apart. Settle your hips back towards your heels. For most, your butts won't touch your heels--that's ok!

Place a rolled blanket underneath the backs of your knees for added support and comfort. Let your forearms rest on the floor so your shoulders relax. Place a block (or stack of books) underneath your forehead. Gently rock your head side to side and release any tension from your jaw. Stay in this pose for three to five minutes.

3. Reclined Spinal Twist

Twists are asymmetrical poses, but they can help bring balance to the physical body and nervous system. For this supine (on the back) twist, have a loosely folded blanket ready to place in between your legs. An additional blanket or pillow for underneath the back of your head might also feel nice.

Start lying down on your back with your legs stretched out and arms by your side. Draw your knees in towards your chest and then allow the knees to fall over to one side. Once your knees are down, feel free to shift your hips a bit to the opposite side to avoid over stretching your lower back. The backs of your shoulders should be down on the floor and your arms can be in a wide T-shape. Let go of any effort in the belly and take several rounds of deep breaths. Hold this pose for two to three minutes per side.

4. Seated Forward Fold

The active version of this pose can be an intense stretch, but that's not what we're going for with this variation. Use blankets under the knees and blocks under the head so that you can stay comfortably in this pose for several minutes (without strain or discomfort). The inward quality of this pose will be a welcome retreat from the outside world.

Sit with your legs out in front of you. Keep your knees bent with blankets stacked underneath for support. Hinge forward at your hips to rest your belly and chest on your thighs. Let your head be heavy and fully release your neck. Imagine sending your breath along the backside of your body. Stay here for three to five minutes.

5. Corpse Pose/Savasana

Typically reserved for the end of an active yoga class, Savasana can actually be done at any time to ground yourself and relieve feelings of anxiety and stress. You don't need any props to lie on the floor and breathe, but using an eye pillow to further block out light stimulation, draping a blanket over the front of the hips, and rolling a blanket up under your knees will create a deeper relaxing experience.

Erin's favorite arm position is to place one hand on the belly and the other over the chest. This allows you to feel the rhythm of your breath as you slowly lengthen your exhales. Don't force it, but the gradual deepening of the out breath sends signals to the nervous system to calm down.

Stay for as long as you can in Savasana! If you only have five minutes all day, just do this pose and feel your breath.