Your busy daily life is a breeding ground for stress. Racing thoughts, preoccupation with troubles and fears, rushing from one activity to the next, constantly watching the clock…this physical and mental grind creates ongoing stress that can ultimately lead to devastating effects on your health and emotional wellbeing. However, medical experts agree that something as “simple” as yoga can reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and your heart rate.
Yoga is often an important part of the schedule at a wellness retreat and is usually a key offering at a holistic spa or weight loss spa because it doesn’t require any special equipment or tools to get started. The only requirements are time, interest and focus. Here are our five favorite beginner yoga poses that reduce stress. You can incorporate these into your daily yoga routine or simply do one or more at your own pace on your own schedule.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a relaxing forward fold that helps you get back to your fun-loving, child-like self. Yogis often use it as a resting pose between other, more taxing poses, because it allows you to round your back, lower your heart toward the earth and simply breathe. Begin by kneeling on your yoga mat, with your toes touching. Spread your knees wide and gently lower your torso forward, extending your arms straight out in front of you and letting your chest drop toward the earth. If possible, let your forehead rest on the ground. If not, stay raised on your fingertips. Remember to breathe deeply into your sides, hips and lower back. This is a wonderful pose to release the tension and stress most of us carry in our backs as we sit at our desks and stare at a computer all day.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
The standing forward fold is a key part of most yoga practices because it encourages a full back-body stretch, from your neck all the way through to your hamstrings and heels. To achieve Uttanasana, stand with your feet slightly apart. Raise your arms straight overhead and then bend at the waist, folding forward and keeping a straight back for as long as possible as you descend. If you experience discomfort or tension along the backs of your legs, bend your knees as much as needed to restore comfort. As you are folding forward, let your head and neck relax. Allow your spine to round as you let your arms grow heavy and brush the floor. Breathe. When you are ready, slowly roll upward, allowing each individual vertebra to stack atop the one below it, until you return to a standing position.
Cat Pose/Cow Pose (Marjariasana/Bitilasana)
This sequence is actually two separate alternating poses that stretch your arms, shoulders, side-back and upper and lower back to relieve the tension you carry as you move through your day. To begin, start by positioning yourself on your hands and knees atop your yoga mat. Position your hands directly below your shoulder and your knees below your hips. Start with a flat back. As you inhale, drop your belly slightly, scooping your lower back to form a “swayback.” As you do this pull your shoulders apart left to right, shining your heart forward as you turn your head skyward, extend your neck and look up. Cow Pose! To transition into Cat Pose, exhale as you as you lower your head and neck below your heart and round your spine to achieve a “humpback”– that looks just like an alley cat. Continue to alternate between Cat Pose and Cow Pose, using your inhalation and exhalation as your guide.
Easy Pose (Sukanasana)
Don’t let the name or description fool you; it’s not a throwaway yoga pose. Instead, it’s a calming position that requires focus. Sit comfortably on your yoga mat with a straight back and your legs stretched out in front of you. Bending your knee, pull one leg inward, so your heel is close to your pelvis. Bend your other knee and place the opposite foot in front of your already-positioned foot. Keep your shoulders straight, your face forward, and breathe. This pose should look like a cross-legged pose, but with both legs resting on the ground, not crossed. After taking a few breaths here, stretch your legs forward again, and reposition yourself with the opposite leg forward.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
There’s a reason Savasana closes out most yoga sessions. It’s a time to fully relax, let yourself melt into your mat and release the stresses of the day. To get into corpse pose, transition from any other pose into laying flat on your back. Spread your feet to the edges of the mat, allowing them to fall to either side, if that feels best. Spread your arms wide and let the backs of your hands rest gently on the ground. Release all tension in your face, neck, arms, legs and feet. Simply breathe deeply and use this short period of time to put your mental to-do list on hold while you make serenity your priority.
Yoga is a wonderfully effective way to shift your focus away from worry and stress toward mindful, present-moment awareness. If you are new to yoga, consider booking a wellness retreat for yourself or visiting a holistic spa or weight loss spa to learn the basics in a supportive and gentle environment. Or, simply take 10 minutes out of your day (wherever you are) to practice a few yoga poses to conquer stress and replace it with peace.