Stressful situations take their toll on the body. You can often feel the stress pile up during the course of the day, causing tightened muscles, rapid heartbeat and breathing, and of course overall anxiety and fatigue. Yoga to the rescue! If you don’t have time for a full yoga class, can get to a quiet place for some quality meditation, or just need a quick way to focus on some simple poses to combat stress, here are six of the top yoga poses for stress. We’ve selected them for their overall simplicity and focus on centering and calming. In general, these poses are easy to perform for any level practicioner, and can be done just about anywhere. Even at your desk!
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
The mountain pose is a great way to start any series of yoga poses. It’s simple to do and helps you improve your overall concentration and focus, without requiring too much in the way of exertion. Remember to breathe deeply, both through the inhale and exhale.
- To start, stand straight and tall with your feet flat on the ground. Turn your feet inward so that your heels have slight separation and your big toes are touching.
- At the start of the pose, your hands should freely hanging at your sides, palms facing inward.
- Stretch your arms, slowly guiding them to your front and bringing your palms together.
- Take a deep inhale, clear your mind, and bring your hands high above your head. Keep your back straight and stretch your arms as high as you can.
- Now, slowly lift and stand on your toes, with your eyes pointed up to the sky or ceiling.
- Hold this position, ideally for 20-30 seconds. Breathe purposefully but normally throughout the hold.
- Slowly relax, and return your feet flat to the ground. Return your arms to their starting point at your sides.
Repeat the mountain pose several times, focusing on your breathing and remembering to clear your mind.
Child Pose (Balasana)
You know this pose well. It’s every yoga practicioner’s favorite position for taking a break, especially when some of the more challenging poses wear you out. And it’s absolutely phenomenal for dealing with stress. Here’s what to do:
- Kneel on the floor with your arms to the side, palms facing comfortably. Tuck your feet beneath you so that the tops of your feet are pressed to the floor.
- Take a deep inhale, and lean forward over your thighs so that your forehead touches the ground in front of you.
- You can leave your hands with palms facing down in front of you, or optionally bring them behind your back and clasped together. A great resting place is on the bottoms of your feet, which should be facing upward.
- After holding the pose for 20-30 seconds, slowly raise your forehead and return to a kneeling position.
Repeat child’s pose several times, or utilize it inbetween other poses for maximum effect. It’s a great “resting” pose and a perfect way to let the stress of the day melt away.
Lotus Pose (Padmasana)
This pose is one of the best-known yoga poses and is closely associated with meditation. It’s the ideal position for thoughtful relaxation. Here’s how to master it and use it effectively for combatting accumulated stress and anxiety.
- Comfortably sit down in a cross-legged position. Your right foot should be resting on your left thigh and your left foot should be resting on your right thigh. Keep the bottoms of your feet facing up.
- Hold your back straight and still. Your spine should be elongated as much as possible without strain. Shoulders should be held back and down; never hunched.
- For maximum effect, hold your hands in the Gyan Mudra position. Your thumb and index finger should form a circle, touching finger tip to finger tip with light pressure. Your remaining fingers remain straight.
- Close your eyes. Breathe deeply, allowing your lungs to fill completely with air and then empty them fully on the exhale.
While holding the pose, repeat the deep breathing for several minutes. You should settle into a deeply relaxed state.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
There’s a reason this pose is used extensively in yoga classes. It’s a great pose for re-centering the body and mind, preparing for a transition. You can use it for handling stress much in the same way. Think of it as a tool for re-gaining balance and focus. Here’s how to do the pose properly.
- Stand up straight with your feet planted firmly and flat on the ground.
- Hold your arms straight at your sides, palms facing inward and resting on your thighs.
- Inhale and bend forward, placing your hands in front of you and face down on the ground. Your head should hang, facing downward behind your outstretched arms.
- Slowly stretch your legs, bringing them backwards to a comfortable and balanced position. When viewed from the side, your arms and legs should look like two sides of a triangle.
- Take a deep inhale and hold your abdominal muscles in tightly to work your core.
- Keep your core abdominal muscles engaged while inhaling and exhaling normally.
- After 30 seconds, take a final slow exhale and return to the standing position.
Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
We spend nearly our entire day with our legs close to the ground, whether we’re standing, walking or sitting. This is a great pose for reducing stress and recirculating your bloodflow and lymph drainage from the legs and back to the heart and chest area. You’ll need access to a nearby wall, although almost any reasonably tall and solid object can work in a pinch.
- Sit down, facing the wall with your hips placed as closely as possible.
- To start, it may be easiest to be sitting cross-legged so that you can get up close and comfortable with the wall.
- Lie down so that your back is flat on the ground and your arms are outstretched to the sides.
- Slowly raise your legs, keeping them straight as possible and pressed up against the wall.
Hold this pose for at least 30-45 seconds. Slowly bring your legs back down and then repeat the pose several times for maximum effect.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
What could be more relaxing than lying down, flat on your back? Not much. This simple pose is ideal for letting accumulated stress flow out of your muscles and disappate into the ground beneath you. Feel and visualize the negative energy of the stress leaving your body while you hold the pose.
- Lie down, back on the ground, with your legs straight and arms lying comfortably at your sides.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe deeply, but normally.
- Let go of your thoughts, worries and stress and allow your body to relax completely.
- Make sure your muscles are relaxed and not tensed.
- Hold the position for several minutes.