5 Yoga poses for relaxation and stress relief.
Updated: Aug 28
Hello Space yogis! During these unprecedented times we are all coping with different challenges and many of us are feeling anxious or stressed. Uncertainty will do that for you! In our first Space blog we wanted to give you some poses you could do as a sequence, or on their own, to promote a sense of calm and wellbeing and help the body and mind sink into rest and relaxation mode.
There is a reason why when we are feeling anxious we fold in on ourselves. This posture soothes and calms the nervous system and promotes balance. With the body supported by the ground the front of the body can relax and the back of the body receives a gentle, passive stretch. You can also use this posture to explore the breath; feeling the rib cage expand against the thighs on your inhale and feeling the ribcage deflate as you exhale - try taking long, slow deep breaths here for at least 3 minutes.
You can modify this pose if the following ways: use cushions for extra support; take the arms alongside the body, palms facing up to round through the spine more; or arms out front to stretch the spine and sink your hips towards your heels.
Reclined bound angle pose
Sometimes known as reclined butterfly. Lie on your back making sure that as much of the spine is on the floor as you can. Relax the shoulders away from the ears and slightly tuck the chin to elongate the neck. Bend your knees and bring the soles of the feet to the mat. Now allow the soles of the feet to meet as you let the knees fall open and gravity gently draw the knees down towards the mat. Surrender all effort and let go of any tension around the hips or groin. Avoid the tendency to force the knees towards the floor or flatten the lower back to the ground.
The arms can relax alongside the body, palms face up or it can be nice to engage with the breath by placing one hand on the belly and one on the heart area. While you are here take long, slow, deep restorative breaths all the way to the bottom of the belly. This posture will stretch the hip and groin area as well as promoting a deep relaxation.
Twists are a great way to get rid of tension and stress - like wringing out a sponge! Also great for restoring balance and equanimity to body and mine, as you bring your body back to centre after the twist. It has the added benefit of stretching out the hips and spine. Note, if you have any back or hip issues please use caution in any spine stretch. Work within the limits of your own body and under guidance from your doctor.
To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can rest your head on a pillow or blanket for extra neck support.
On an exhalation, draw both knees to your chest and clasp your hands around them.
Extend your left leg along the floor, keeping your right knee drawn to your chest. Extend your right arm out along the floor at shoulder-height with your palm facing down.
Shift your hips slightly to the right. Then, place your left hand on the outside of your right knee. Exhaling, drop your right knee over the left side of your body. Keep your left hand resting gently on your right knee.
Turn your head to the right. Soften your gaze toward your right fingertips. Keep your shoulder blades pressing toward the floor and away from your ears. Allow the force of gravity to drop your knee even closer to the floor. If your right toes can touch the floor, allow your foot to rest.
Hold the pose for 10-25 breaths. On an inhalation, slowly come back to center, bringing both knees to your chest in Knees-to-Chest Pose.
Exhale, and extend your right leg along the floor. Repeat steps 3-6 on the opposite side.
When you’re finished with the pose, hug your knees to your chest for a few breaths in Knee-to-Chest Pose. Then, slowly exhale as you extend both legs along the floor.
Legs up the wall
A deeply relaxing pose. The body is supported and focus can be drawn inwards towards the breath. Long, slow deep breaths will lower the heart rate and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Raising the legs above the heart can improve blood circulation and aid drainage. You will also receive a gentle stretch down the backs of the legs, and the support of the floor allows the lower back to release and may help reduce lower back pain.
To come into this posture start by setting up a cozy space around a wall, or lie on your bed with your legs up the headboard! Next, slide your hips as close to the wall as possible, then start walking your feet up the wall until your body is in a somewhat L-shaped position. Make any adjustments to promote relaxation; maybe place a pillow under your head, or let your arms rest on your belly or out to the sides, even cover your body with a blanket. At this point, focus on your breath - try elongating your breath, taking a deep, slow inhale through your nose and a deep, slow exhale through your nose. Try to stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes to achieve full relaxation.
Known as corpse pose, it can seem like a simple posture but is actually one of the most challenging as it is the ultimate posture for relaxation and mindfulness, where we focus on letting go of distractions and turn inward to focus on the breath and the present moment.
In the full version of the pose, you will rest your entire body on the floor. Extend your arms and legs outward from your torso evenly and symmetrically. Now scan the body from head to feet, gradually releasing each body part and each muscle group; take time to notice all the places where the body is making contact with the floor. With each exhalation, imagine each limb getting a little heavier and spreading out a little more.
If you feel uncomfortable in any part of your body, you may need further support. Use props to relieve any pressure and release tension so you can fully relax. For example, add a cushion under the knees or head. Gradually notice that a feeling of complete stillness draws you inside. You may notice that the breath has become quiet and almost invisible.
When coming out of Savasana, first take a few deep breaths. Give yourself a few moments to regain physical awareness of your arms and legs, and then slowly move your body with gentle attention. Roll to one side into fetal position and then gradually make your way up to sitting.
Spending some time each day in these postures should help you to achieve a more relaxed state. However, relaxation is a skill that takes practise, so do not be hard on yourself if you find it a challenge to switch off. Keep at it, it does get easier to let go!
Helena and Becky