Whether you have finals and graduation looming, wedding season approaching, or are just busy with the pre-summer buzz, May can be a stressful month! Prevent the stress from wreaking havoc on your mind and body with these basic yoga poses, known to slow breathing and release tension.
4 Simple Yoga Poses to De-stress
RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE (SUPTA BADHA KONASANA)
Why: Restorative yoga poses help to dial down the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and turn up the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).
How: From a seated position, exhale and lower your back to the floor. Lie all the way back, resting your head and neck on a blanket or bolster for support. Bend your knees and let your legs fall open to the sides, soles of your feet meeting. Let your arms fall to the floor, angled at about 45 degrees, palms facing up. Stay in this pose for one-to-five minutes, focusing on your breath.
CAT-COW STRETCH (CHAKRAVAKASANA)
Why: This deep back and torso stretch gently massages the spine to relieve tension in the upper body and soften stress residing in the shoulders and neck.
How: Start on your hand and knees, with a neutral flat back. Your hips should be just over your knees, and your hands just under your shoulders. Move into cow pose as you inhale, lifting your sit bones up, your chest forward, and your head up as you gaze straight ahead. Exhale into cat pose. Round your spine out, tuck your tailbone in, and release your head down, keeping your gaze to the floor. Move between cow and cat pose for five-to-10 breaths.
SEATED SPINAL TWIST (ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA)
Why: When stress wreaks havoc on your digestion and nervous system, this twist can slow your breath and massage your digestive organs to stimulate blood flow.
How: Seated with your legs in front of you, bend your right knee to point to the ceiling, sole on the floor. Slip your left leg, underneath your right, bent with your right heel wrapping behind you. Twist to the right, your left arm wrapping the back of your right knee, and your right arm reaching behind you as you gaze over your right shoulder. Hold for five-to-10 breaths and then move to twist left.
CORPSE POSE (SAVASANA)
Why: The deep relaxation of the corpse pose helps to calm the unconscious tension and patterning of the brain.
How: From a sitting position, slowly extend the legs and let the feet drop to each side. Lie back, with your head resting on the floor and let your eyes fall shut. Release the arms to the sides, palms facing up. Breathe slowly and deeply for five-to-10 minutes.
Some really great research has looked into the de-stressing benefits of yoga poses. For instance, one randomized controlled study found even a short period of regular yogic practice for one hour a day is as effective as medical therapy in controlling blood pressure in hypertensive subjects. Other researchers working with breast cancer survivors found those who practiced yoga reported less fatigue and higher levels of vitality, due to the role of yoga poses in helping to reduce inflammation (the body’s way of reacting to injury or irritation). A study in 2008 even used MRI brain activity to determine yoga practitioners had higher pain tolerance compared to a control group!
A major focus of yoga is about accepting yourself as you are, so make sure to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed!