Yoga and Meditation

Yoga Poses that Help Manage Stress

Yoga is sometimes referred to as moving meditation. Yoga is especially helpful with stress relief due to meditation, controlled breathing, stretching asanas, and mental imagery. It reduces anxiety and depression and, thus, helps manage stress. Yoga helps in the body’s production of Endorphins. Endorphins play an important role in managing negative emotions and physical pain. These hormones are important for your physical and emotional well-being. Also, when tension is released in your muscles, it may help you feel more relaxed. In turn, that may lower your stress levels. 

1. Sukhasana: Easy Pose

Instructions

Step 1

Place a yoga blanket folded to about two hands long and one hand wide on your yoga mat. If you have chronic hip or knee pain, you can sit on two blankets or more as needed so that you can hold your back up straight when you sit on the floor. Now sit down on the front edge of your blanket support. The idea is that your sitting bones should stay on the blanket, but you should sit forward enough for part of your hamstring muscles to descend naturally toward the ground.

Step 2

Extend both your legs out straight in front of you. Bend your right leg and pull your right foot toward you. Lift your left thigh enough so your right heel can go underneath the middle of your left thigh. Now the outside of your right foot is against the floor, with your left leg resting on top. Next, bend the left leg and pull the left foot underneath your right knee. Adjust your legs so that you have crossed your legs precisely in the middle of both shins.

Step 3

Adjust your feet by extending through your heels, then relax the feet. Do not point the toes or push the toes out to the sides. The toes should face forward. Unlike other sitting postures, there will be a gap of at least one to two hands’ distance between your heels and your sitting bones.

Step 4

Lean forward for a second to pull the flesh of your buttocks back and away from your sitting bones. Now you are sitting directly on top of the sitting bones with a centered pelvis. Stack your spine up straight, forming an L-shape with your torso and your legs. Do not lean forward or backward.

Step 5

Lift your chest up, lengthening both sides of your torso as well. Pull your shoulders back, then let the shoulders drop down. Keep your shoulder blades tucked into your back. Remember that it’s the chest that should come slightly forward, not the ribs. Let the backs of your hands rest on your lap. You can also place your hands on your knees with your palms turned up or down.

Step 6

Stay in this posture for as long as you like. However, it’s important that you remember which leg you’ve crossed above which. That way, you can cross them the opposite way tomorrow. If you always cross your legs with the same leg on top, your muscles and posture gradually become out of balance. If you are sitting for some time, then spend half the time with the legs crossed one way and then switch them for the other half of the time.

2. Uttanasana: Standing Forward Bend

Instructions

Step 1

Start by standing with your hands on your hips. With an exhale, bend your upper body forward from your hip joints. As your torso lowers, draw in your abdominal muscles and let your chest and pubis area open. Prioritize the lengthening of your upper body as you get closer to the standing forward bend.

Step 2

Keep your knees straight as you bend from your hip points. Bring your palms to the mat, touching it with your fingertips. Keep your arms in front of you or beside your feet and cross your elbows if you feel you cannot bring your arms forward. Deepen the pose by applying pressure onto your heels and lifting your backside towards the ceiling.

Step 3

Each time you take a breath, lengthen your torso and bring your upper body closer to the final position of the forward bend. When you slowly progress onto the forward bent, it is easier for your body to adapt and avoid discomfort, mainly when you synchronize your movements with your breathing cycle. Allow your neck to relax and your head to hang neutrally.

Step 4

Hold the pose for anywhere between 30 seconds and 1 minute. The standing forward pose is commonly used as a resting position between challenging standing poses, but it can also be practiced as a standalone asana.

Step 5

Release the pose by bringing your hands near your hip points and slowly pulling your torso up while keeping your spine straight. Press on your tailbone to help your upper body keep its form and come back up smoothly with an exhale.

3. Balasana: Child’s Pose

Instructions

Step 1

Begin on all fours supported by your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders, knees directly beneath your hips, and your feet directly behind your knees.

Step 2

Sit back onto your feet, keeping your feet and knees hip’s width apart. The soles of the feet will be facing the sky in the pose. Gently lower your upper body forward, resting your forehead on the floor.

Step 3

Allow your arms to rest loosely by your sides, hands by your feet, with palms facing the sky. Or keep arms extended above your head with palms on floor. Inhale, lengthening your spine. Exhale, relaxing your shoulders.

4. Supta Dandasana: Legs Up Against the Wall Pose

Instructions

Step 1

Start with your support about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways on right end of the support, with your right side against the wall. Exhale and, with one smooth movement, swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. Your sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall.

Step 2

Lift and release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and soften your throat. Don’t push your chin against your sternum; instead, let your sternum lift toward the chin. Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.

Step 3

Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. Release the heads of the thigh bones and the weight of your belly deeply into your torso, toward the back of the pelvis. Soften your eyes and turn them down to look into your heart.

Step 4

Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to twist off the support when coming out. Instead, slide off the support onto the floor before turning to the side. You can also bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the support. Then slide the support to one side, lower your pelvis to the floor, and turn to the side. Stay on your side for a few breaths, and come up to sitting with an exhalation.

5. Savasana: Corpse Pose

Instructions

Step 1

Lie flat on your back and allow your arms and legs to completely relax on the ground. They should be comfortably apart from your body. Allow your feet to relax and open to the side, and face your palms upward.

Step 2

Close your eyes and take a couple of deep, conscious breaths. To help your body fully relax, take your attention to different parts of the body one by one, relaxing each part during an exhalation (you can start with your feet, then your legs, and continue upwards.).

Step 3

Try to calm your thoughts. Focusing on the breath helps with that. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, begin by slowly moving your fingers and toes, then move to your right side. Use the support of your arms to sit up in an easy seated pose of your choice.

These poses can be used during Meditation.

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