Next time you feel tension in your neck, or your mind is busy circling an internal to-do list, stop. Despite the inclination to push through, it’s more rewarding (and productive) to pause.
One in four Americans experience a great deal of stress. It isn’t just unpleasant to bear; stress can affect everything from your health, relationships, and work life. The near-constant distractions and obligations posed by a 24/7 culture only contribute to a sense of everyday strain.
Yoga is one of the ways to cut through an overwhelming sense of stress. These five poses can help you to center no matter the situation, restoring a sense of peace in your body, mind, and spirit:
1. Child’s Pose
During a stressful tantrum, children automatically hit the floor. Their instincts guide them to ground — the soothing presence of the earth calms them down. When you feel a wave of stress, bring yourself into child’s pose on your bed or a rug in your home. From a kneeling position, pull your toes together behind you. Open your knees to leave room for your upper body, and bring your chest to the floor. For extra support, place a pillow or bolster under your chest.
2. Corpse Pose
After a long day at work, give your body the opportunity to rest and reset. Play relaxing music, as you lie down on your back. Cover yourself with a blanket, and if needed, place a small pillow under your head and knees. Imagine the stress melting below you into the surface of your yoga mat.
3. Spine Twist
A lot of people store stress in their backs from sitting all day. A simple spinal twist can help relieve tension if done gently. Sit in easy pose with crossed legs. Inhale and slowly twist your body to the right, while keeping your bottom anchored on the mat. Switch in the other direction and exhale. Allow any tension around your spine to release as you breathe deeply.
4. Standing Forward Bend
A standing forward bend is a great stress reliever for an overactive mind. Bring your feet hip width apart, breathing out as you bend forward from the hips. Relax your knees, so they aren’t locked, and allow your head and neck to hang without tension. You can hold the opposite elbow with each hand or drop your hands to the mat.
5. Tree Pose
Simple balancing poses require you to focus, bringing your energy to the present moment. Next time you feel off-balance in your personal life, try the tree pose. Start with your feet hips width apart. Take a few deep breaths, and lift your left foot. Rest the bottom of your left foot along your shin, and if you’re comfortable, bring it up to rest on your thigh. Breathe with your eyes fixed on a focal point ahead of you. Switch sides to reap the benefits of this balancing pose.
These poses not only relax your body, they restore your connection to your breath. Throughout your day and while practicing these poses, remember to bring awareness to your breath — it’s the best prescription for calming stress and alleviating anxiety.