Yoga can have so many different qualities. Some days we want our bodies to work, sweat and feel the burn, but sometimes when you’re feeling anxious, stressed or overworked it can be so beneficial to take 10-20 minutes out to find some calm. We know that meditation is proven to reduce stress, though I’m sure we can all agree that it’s not all that easy to switch off the chatter in our mind by simply sitting still. So why not take a short amount of time out of your day and focus on some of these seven yoga poses, while breathing evenly and deeply. Some evenings doing this is the only way I can shake off icky feelings or anything that’s been bothering me through the day – and it really does work.
1. Cat and Cow (MARJ-AR-I-AS-AN-A)
Ah, Cat and Cow, a true yoga staple. I know this is technically two poses – but they come as a pair! I love this pose for focusing my breath and getting my spine moving after a long day sat at my desk. Starting in a table top position breathe in and extend through the top of your head and out through the base of your spine: cow pose. Exhale and dome your back up towards the sky: cat pose. Move on your breath and repeat as many times as you like. This pose doesn’t have to be linear, once you get going you can start shifting your weight around – improvising here feels really good.
2. Standing Forward Fold (UTT-AN-AS-AN-A)
Folding forward doesn’t have to be an intense stretch, and for the purpose of this post, it shouldn’t be! When I want to relax in this posture I take a wide stance, bend my knees and hold opposite elbows – this really does feel incredible. This pose can release tension in your lower back and hamstrings and this is a great place to let go of anything you’re holding onto in your neck and jaw – open your mouth and gently nod and shake your head. HEAVEN. This pose is also known for lowering your blood pressure – always an awesome benefit.
3. Garland Pose (MAL-AS-AN-A)
Now if honest I’m not sure what it is about Malasana that I find relaxing but there’s something about putting my palms together, finding balance and closing my eyes here that I find soothing. Use the resistance of your elbows against your legs to broaden your shoulders and open your chest wide. If this posture is too intense or you have injuries in your pelvis, lower back or knees, you can place a block underneath your sit bones for assistance.
4. Knee to Chest Pose (A-PAN-A-SAN-A)
Lie back for Apanasana and draw your knees into your chest – holding onto the front of your shins gently. Once you’ve tried this pose you’ll understand that there’s very little explanation required to why it is relaxing. Just let your weight pour into the floor and once again, close your eyes and breathe. It feels wonderful to rock your weight from side to side to softly massage your back against the floor.
5. Simple Spinal Twist (JATH-AR-A PAR-I-VAR-TAN-AS-AN-A)
Another supine posture – because who doesn’t want to lie down and close their eyes when they’re feeling stressed? There is a version of this pose that is a real abdominal strengthener, but that’s not what we’re going for this time! So lie back with your shoulders firming into the ground, arms stretched out to the sides, knees bent, feet on the floor and gently drop both knees down to one side. If there’s a gap between your knees, you can place a pillow between them for support. Breathe into this and move onto the other side when you’re ready. Twisting poses are also great because they can massage your internal organs – pro tip for helping digestion! This one really is a great stress-buster!
6. Legs Up the Wall (VIP-AR-IT-A KAR-AN-I)
Legs up the wall is a restorative pose that feels wonderful if you have been on your feet all day, or if you’ve been for a hard workout at the gym. It can also be used as a modification for shoulder stand, which is also a cooling posture. As with most of these postures, I could stay here for hours. Placing a block or blanket underneath your hips for support can be useful here, and other than that I suggest you just let your shoulder blades melt into the floor, close your eyes and relax your facial muscles – we hold so much tension in our jaws and brows so try and let this go.
7. Total Relaxation (SAV-AS-AN-A)
Savasana is a highlight in any yoga class for me, and since we refer to it as ‘Total Relaxation’, it would be impossible not to include it on this list. I love using props during Savasana – a rolled up blanket under my knees, another blanket on top of my legs and a block on my belly and one on my chest; this feels so grounding and really helps you to find total relaxation. Don’t be surprised if you drop off to sleep…
Put your phone in another room, light some candles, put your favourite relaxing album on and combine all/some of these poses with deep breathing and you’re sure to feel relaxed and calm. Dedicating time to yourself away from any outside influences and stresses is such an important way to thank yourself and your body for everything you do.
Let me know if you try any of these and what your favourite yoga poses are for decompressing!