Yoga exercises have been touted as some of the best ways to relieve stress and anxiety. You do not need medicines or expensive spa treatments to help you relax. Try these yoga exercises this article will present shortly.
But first, what is yoga? Yoga, a Sanskrit word that can be translated as “union”, is an ancient mind-body practice that involves body movement, breathing techniques and meditation to help improve your mind-body connection and boost your overall wellbeing. The practice originated in India and has since become a part of many peoples’ daily lifestyles worldwide.
There are different types of yoga exercises, all of which utilise poses or asanas. These exercises range from gentle, restorative to full-time rigorous workouts.
Top 10 yoga exercises to relieve stress
1. Cat cow pose
These are two yoga poses in one: cat pose (marjaryasana), and cow pose (bitilasana). They complement each other so perfectly that they have been fused to become one. The cat pose comes from the resemblance of a cat rounding its back. Here, you will get on hands-and-knee tabletop position, then pull your core muscles in towards your spine as your back rounds and head releases gently toward the ground. For the cow pose, your belly sinks toward the ground, creating an arch in the back as your head rises. The cat-cow pose stimulates an emotional balance and an overall feeling of calm.
2. Sitting lotus pose
Also known as padmasana, this pose opens the hips, tones abdominal organs and the spine and helps keep the mind attentive and alert. It also helps rid stiffness in the knees and ankles. To do the lotus pose, sit on the floor and stretch your legs out in front. Bend the right leg and place the right foot on top of the left thigh with the right foot facing up, with the heel near the navel. Then bend the left leg and place it on top of the right with the left foot facing up and the heel near the navel.
3. Child’s pose
The child’s pose is one of the simplest and excellent yoga exercises to calm the mind and body whether you are just chilling or you are in the middle of a stressful day. The exercise also focuses on your back, hips, thighs and ankles. To do this pose, get on your hands and knees, then sit back on your heels with your hands out in front of you.
Slowly fold forward until your forehead rests on the yoga mat. Your big toes should touch either with your knees together or separated. You can rest your head on your forearms or simply stretch out your arms on the floor or yoga mat. Stay in this pose while breathing in and out at least 10 times.
4. Cobra pose
The cobra pose, also known as Bhujangasana, is a reclining back-bend yoga pose which helps fight fatigue and relieves lower back pain, boosting both the energetic and the physical body. It also helps to stretch your upper body, providing relief if you are experiencing back pain, tightness in the shoulders, upper body soreness, or stress.
For this pose, place your palms flat on the ground directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows straight back and hug them into your sides. Inhale to lift your chest off the floor and roll your shoulders back but keep your low ribs on the floor. Be sure your elbows continue hugging your side without winging out to either side. Hold this pose for about 30 seconds while maintaining even breathing.
5. Forward fold
The forward fold pose activates the relaxation response (your parasympathetic nervous system) and deactivates the stress response (your sympathetic nervous system). It also stretches the back side of your body, including your back and shoulders, buttocks (glutes), back of your thighs (hamstrings), calf muscles, and the soles of your feet. To do this pose, stand on your feet, bend your knees and hinge forward from your hips, placing your hands in front of your feet. Make sure your core is engaged and breathe out as you unfold.
6. Happy baby pose
The happy baby pose is a gentle and soothing pose for increasing relaxation and stretching the body. It is called “happy baby” because while lying in this position, you will resemble a baby lying happily on its back. The happy baby pose stretches the inner thighs, hamstrings and groin and releases the hips and back, resulting in more flexibility and mobility.
To do this pose, lie flat on your back on the floor or yoga mat. Bend your knees toward your chest at a 90-degree angle, while the soles of your feet face up toward the ceiling. Grab and hold the inside or outside of your feet. Spread your knees apart, shifting them toward your armpits. Then gently rock from side to side like a happy baby, while inhaling and exhaling deeply.
7. Downward-facing dog
The downward-facing dog pose helps awaken the senses and reduces fatigue. It is a great full-body stretch and rejuvenates the body by improving overall blood circulation. To do this pose, get on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Press into the hands and lift the hips towards the ceiling. Spread your fingers wide apart with the middle finger facing forward, and the palms shoulder-width apart. Press the heels into the floor feeling a stretch in the back of the legs.
8. Bridge pose
This is a reclined backbend and chest-opening yoga pose. It involves lifting the hips and sternum while pressing the arms down into the mat to create a bridge-like effect with the body for maximum stretch. To do this, lie flat on your back on the floor or mat, with your arms stretched out on the floor. Lift your hips by pressing down on your arms and feet.
9. Reclined twist pose
This pose helps you relax and restore your muscles. To do this pose, lie on your back with your arms out to form a T-shape. Move your hips a little over the right and bring your knees over to the left. You can support your knees using blocks or bolsters. Stay in this position for 3-5 minutes. Then repeat on the other side.
10. Legs on the wall
This yoga exercise is often considered the ultimate stress-relieving yoga pose due to its ability to calm the nervous system. When the body is stressed, it goes into a flight mode which activates the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system helps the body calm down and rest.
Therefore, legs up the wall simply activate the parasympathetic nervous system. It is a great pose you can do anywhere that has a wall. Just lie on your back and raise your legs to rest on the wall. Hold this position for at least 10 minutes while gently breathing in and out.
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