Almost everyone feels stressed out from time to time. That helps explain yoga’s popularity; many people turn to this ancient practice for natural stress relief.
These poses are among the best at turning down the tension.
The focus it takes to practice this pose helps you concentrate on something other than your stress. Tree Pose also improves balance while strengthening your core and legs.
Start in Mountain Pose: feet strongly rooted into the floor, chest lifted, arms at sides, fingers reaching to the ground. Then:
- Bring your hands up to meet in prayer position in front of your heart.
- Shift your weight into one foot, pressing into the big toe and tightening your core.
- Lift the heel of the other foot and turn the foot outward, opening the groin, and bring that foot to the ankle of the standing foot.
- When you feel balanced, lift the turned foot to the side of the calf or the thigh—do notplace the foot on the knee.
- If you can, lift your arms above your head for several breaths before bringing them back to prayer position.
- Release from the pose and repeat on the other side.
In addition to relieving stress, Triangle also provides a good all-over stretch along with support for healthy digestion.
Return to Mountain Pose. Then:
- Step your feet wide and turn the right foot to form a 90° angle with the left foot, which should turn slightly inward. The right heel should intersect with the left arch.
- Extend your arms parallel to the floor. Inhale, then exhale while reaching your right arm down towards the floor and shifting your hips to the left.
- Place your right hand on either the floor (or a block) by the right ankle or on your shin. Extend your left arm up, fingers spread.
- Inhale as you turn your head to gaze up at your fingertips. Hold for up to five breaths, then come up and repeat on the other side.
Technically two separate poses, Cat and Cow are almost always combined. In addition to helping with stress relief, Cat/Cow is great for strengthening your spine and massaging your internal organs.
Get onto all fours, shoulders above wrists and hips above ankles; your back should be in a neutral position. Then:
- Go into Cow Pose by inhaling and simultaneously lifting your bottom and pressing your chest forward, letting the abdomen sink towards the floor, gazing straight ahead. Don’t hunch your shoulders.
- Go into Cat Pose by exhaling and rounding your spine while tucking in your tailbone, releasing your head towards the floor (don’t force your chin to your chest).
- Go back and forth between the two poses for up to 10 breaths.
Besides helping to ease stress, Camel also allows you to open up the front of your body—especially important if you spend hours at a keyboard every day—while strengthening your back muscles and bringing flexibility to your spine.
- Kneel, knees hip-distance apart, and shins and tops of your feet pressed into the mat. Place your hands on your lower back. Then:
- Slightly rotate your thighs inward, as if you’re pulling up your sitting bones.
- Inhale and lift your sternum, drawing your elbows towards each other and engaging your core. Tuck your chin and bring your hands to your heels, cupping the heels with your palms.
- Keeping your core engaged, press the heels of your hands into the heels of your feet, with your fingers draped over the soles. Keep your neck in a neutral position. (If you can’t reach your feet, place your hands on your lower back.)
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Then move your hands to the front of the pelvis, inhale and push down on the hip points to lift the head and torso, again using your core.
Seated Forward Bend
Besides its value in stress relief, this pose also gives your internal organs a gentle massage while stretching the hamstrings, shoulders and spine.
Sit with your bottom on a folded blanket, legs out in front of you, thighs turned in slightly and heels pressing into the floor. Then:
- Inhale and lean forward from the hips (not the waist), keeping the spine long.
- If you can, grasp the sides of your feet, or use a yoga strap around the bottom of the feet and hold onto that. (If you don’t have a strap, grasp the sides of your ankles or calves, as far forward as you can.) Do not bend the elbows.
- With each inhalation, lift and lengthen your torso; with each exhalation, sink more fully into the bend, bending your arms as needed and remembering to keep your spine straight.
- After 1–3 minutes, come out of the pose by lifting your torso, straightening your arms and pulling up to a seated position with a flat back.
A resting pose that’s a good antidote for stress, Child also lengthens the spine and releases tension from the shoulders and back.
Kneel down and touch your big toes together. Then:
- Sit on your heels, moving your knees as wide as your hips. If you find this difficult, place a rolled-up blanket between the tops of your calves and the backs of your thighs.
- Exhale and lay your torso between your thighs, trying to broaden your lower back and to lengthen your spine up through your neck.
- Lay your hands on the floor beside you, palms up, allowing the shoulders to open, for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 or 3 minutes. (If that’s too difficult, place your hands out in front of you and stacked on one another palms down, and rest your forehead on them.)
Legs Up the Wall
Like any pose that puts the body into an inverted position, Legs Up the Wall promotes energy and relaxation. It also supports the flow of blood and other body fluids and helps to ease sore feet and legs.
Place a yoga mat or folded blanket against a wall. Then:
- Sit on the mat or blanket with either hip as close to the wall as possible.
- Take a breath, and as you exhale, smoothly move your legs up the wall, turning to lie perpendicular to the wall with your shoulders firmly rooted to the ground. It may take a few tries—don’t get discouraged.
- Soften the throat by gently lifting the base of your skull away from the back of the neck. Use a small neck support (a rolled-up hand towel is fine) if you need to.
- Place your arms at your sides, palms facing up. Stay in this position for 5–15 minutes.
- Be careful to not twist your spine as you come out of the pose.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.