Stress is never fun. Whether you suffer from chronic stress, anxiety or just feel like you’re constantly on the run, it can wear you down and cause serious health issues in the long run.
When stress is present for a prolonged time, most people develop some form of coping mechanism.
I call them “easy buttons”. Easy buttons are there to transport you out of the present and into your stress-free zone, and they often come in the form of food, alcohol, drugs, denial, shopping. Sounds familiar?
But we all know that those things don’t really help make the stress go away, they only numb it temporarily.
After dabbling with self-destructive easy buttons for a long time myself, I have found yoga as a new way of dealing with stress.
Showing up on your mat has been shown to decrease cortisol and adrenaline, the main stress hormones that make you feel overwhelmed and on edge. Especially yin yoga’s long hold of poses offers a chance to turn inwards and sit in stillness.
When you allow yourself to stay present and nurture stillness, time opens up. Deadlines, to-do lists, emails – all those things start to fade into the background and the stress begins to melt away.
Here are a few of my favourite poses that I attribute to helping me manage my stress and get back in tune with myself.
You don’t need a class, special sports wear or a teacher to do these poses. All you need is space, commitment and a little time for yourself. I recommend at least 10-15 breaths in each pose, but some you may even hold for up to 10 minutes or more if needed.
Sydney’s The Old Clare Hotel will be hosting one-hour Rooftop Yoga Sessions every Saturday morning from 23 September – 14 October. These $25 classes will be for participants of all levels and led by qualified yogi and health coach, Stefanie Jung.
Wide-legged child’s pose
Child’s Pose is commonly used at the beginning of yoga practices as well as in between challenging poses. I’ve found a lot of comfort in this pose whenever I need a moment to rest. It helps to release tension in the back, neck, shoulders and the pressure of the forehead against the floor activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees hip-wide. Now lay your torso down between your thighs and forehead to the floor. Lay your hands overhead with the palms on the floor and feel the opening in your chest. Breathe slowly and deeply, actively pressing the belly against the tights on the inhale.
Legs up the wall
If you’ve taken yin classes before, I’m sure you’re familiar with this pose. It’s one of my personal favorites when coming home after a long day of work, because it’s great for easing anxiety, lowering high blood pressure, and reducing lower back pain. All you need is a wall, your mat and maybe a pillow or blanket under your lumbar spine.
Bring your mat to the wall, sit with your right or left side as close as possible to the wall, then swing your legs up onto the wall and keep your shoulders and head on the mat. Bring yourself forward until your buttocks and hammies touch the wall. Close your eyes and relax. This is a great pose to hold for 10 minutes or longer, as needed.
Big toe pose
The great thing about this pose is that it can be done anywhere and anytime, you don’t even need a mat. Not only does it give the hamstrings a good stretch and improve your digestion, but it also helps to relieve headaches and insomnia. Bringing your head below your heart has a calming effect on the brain and can reduce stress and anxiety.
Start by standing straight with your feet placed parallel. Now, keeping your legs completely straight, exhale and bend forward from your hip joints. Grab your big toes with the index and middle finger of each hand. Inhale, lengthen your spine. Exhale, fold forward while engaging your quads and shifting your weight forward so that your hips are over your heels. Release the head, relax the spine and breath deeply into the back body.
If you are out and about wearing shoes, but you want to get the benefits of this pose, you can always come into Rag Doll – instead of bringing your hands to your toes, fold forward, grab opposite elbows and let the head drop heavy, maybe even swinging side to side.
Happy baby pose
Have you ever seen a toddler in happy baby pose and noticed how happy and giggly they are ? Clearly they are onto something. This pose gives a gentle stretch to the hips and inner groin where we adults notoriously hold on to tension and stress. It also calms the brain, making it a nice asana before bed time
Begin with lying on your back. With an exhale, bend your knees into your chest and separate the feet and knees wide, holding on to the outer edges of your flexed feet. Gently begin to pull on the feet, bringing the knees closer to the armpits. Continue to lengthen your tailbone and keep your shoulders pressed into the ground. If comfortable, you can gently rock from side to side, giving you a deeper release in the inner groin
Who doesn’t love Corpse Pose? Our whole body softens, we come back to our breath and have permission to just be still. Even though this pose might look uneventful, it has deep benefits that go beyond strengthening and lengthening our muscles. Lying still is often a challenging feat, but the state of ease and relaxation that arises from it is priceless.
Lie on your back and rest your entire body on the floor. Extend your arms and legs outward from the torso. Give your body a mental scan from head to toe, slowly releasing each muscle and sinking deeper into the ground. Notice if there’s any tension in the body, and with each exhalation, imagine each limb getting a little heavier. Stay here for 5-10 minutes, and when you’re ready to come out, roll over to one side, take a couple of breaths, and then press your hands against the floor and lift yourself back up to a seated position.
Personally, I love using props for this pose. Grab a blanket for extra comfort and warmth, a bolster for under your knees, an eye pillow and/or essential oils for added aromatherapy.
Got 60 seconds? This video will make you relaxed and happier all at once
September 26, 201710:25am