Stress is one of the most common mental health issues people face today. Our work and personal environments leave us over-stimulated, over-worked, and constantly feeling pressure. Chronic stress inhibits our ability to heal and increases out the likelihood of developing long-term mental and emotional problems. The body tends to hold stress in three main places-- the hips, the shoulders, and the jaw, so yoga poses that focus on opening these areas and releasing tension will be the most stress-relieving. Let's look at a short yoga sequence designed to help rid our bodies of stress and improve mental clarity. To increase effectiveness each pose should be held for 1 - 2 minutes
1. Child's Pose
Bring your big toes to touch, knees out wide. Fold your chest over your thighs and reach your arms forward to the top of your space, palms face down. Let your forehead rest on the floor. Imagine each inhale filling your body with fresh life and each exhale releasing the tension you are holding onto. The calming child's pose is a resting posture that can help quiet the mind, easing stress and anxiety while gently stretching the back. It's also good for the nervous system and lymphatic system.
2. Toe Squat
Tuck your toes under your feet and lean back so that your bottom is balanced on your heels. You will feel the stretch in the toe joints and the arches of your feet. Focus on lengthening your spine. Close your eyes with your hands resting gently on your thighs. Bring your attention to your breath and remain here for 1 minute.
3. Standing Forward Fold
To transition from your toe squat to your forward fold, keep your toes tucked under and place your hands on the floor beside you. Press away from the ground, straightening out your legs, but keeping a micro-bend in your knees. Allow your head and neck to hang heavy over your thighs. Grab for opposite elbows. Use the weight of your upper body to stretch the back of your legs and spine. You can sway back and forth here, or remain in stillness. On each inhale imagine your breath creating space between your vertebra and on each exhale relax more deeply into the pose. Remain here for 1 - 2 minutes.
4. Downward Dog
Inhale to a flat back and step back to a downward dog. Let the energy flow out through your arms and out through your Sitz Bones. Relax your shoulders down your back, pressing them away from your ears. Press down on your heels as you exhale. You can play with hip-opening by lifting your right leg and then left leg, allowing gravity to pull them open. Remain here for 1 minute
4. Pigeon Pose
From Down Dog lift your right leg high and bring it forward so your right knee meets your right wrist and your shin becomes as close to parallel with the top of your mat as possible. Your left leg should be long out behind you like a tail. Walk your hands back by your hips and use your inhale to expand your chest open. Exhale and relax your chest over your knee for Sleeping Pigeon. Often this pose can cause discomfort if you are under a lot of stress. Breath through the discomfort to reap the benefits. Repeat with the left leg, holding each side for 1 minute.
5. Legs Up The Wall Pose
Just like the name says, in this pose you to lie on your back with your legs up the wall. This pose is said to help slow the aging process and it helps renew blood and lymph drainage back into the heart area. Remain here for 1 minute.
6. Corpse Pose
Lie on your back with your legs comfortably extended from your hips and your hands by your sides, palms up to energize yourself, or down for grounding purposes. Relax your entire body and close your eyes. Let your breath come naturally. Stay here for 5 - 10 minutes. Try this pose anytime you are feeling stressed. Even with limited time, squeezing-in corpse pose for a few minutes each day can bring ease into your life.
The best thing about this sequence is that it can be completed in under 15 minutes. Make adjustments to fit your needs and remember to honor your body.