The Best Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress
One thing is for sure. We are all way too stressed out. Doctors say that approximately 80 percent of their patients are seeking help for stress-related problems. Clearly, stress is not good for our health. But what can you do about it? The stressors in your life probably aren't going anywhere.
That means that you have to find a way to deal with them. Doing yoga poses to relieve stress is one excellent option. The research shows that 85 to 90 percent of people who regularly do yoga find stress relief from the practice.
All exercise is indeed good for stress relief, but yoga is unique. What makes yoga different from every other type of exercise is that it combines physical fitness with self-awareness and compassion. Yoga works with a strong mind-body connection.
So much of our stress is directly attributed to us being very hard on ourselves. Many of us are bad about judging other people, but we're even worse about negatively judging ourselves. The beauty of yoga is that it teaches you to be accepting and non-judgemental toward both others and yourself. Becoming more at peace with the world will help you manage your stress more effectively.
Now before we get to the yoga poses to relieve stress, let's talk a little about the problem.
First, Let's Talk About Stress
Stress is a part of our every day lives. We all deal with it to some degree. Believe it or not, it can sometimes be a positive thing.
Imagine driving in a pouring rainstorm during rush hour in L.A. or Atlanta. Now picture some idiot swerving into your lane just as the guy in front of you slams on his brakes. Pretty stressful, right?
Well, that heightened state of alertness brought on by the stress can help you react quickly and avoid a crash.
Unfortunately, stress is not all good. The truth is, it can also kill you.
So where is the point that stress becomes negative?
The dangers of stress occur when it is prolonged. In the example that I gave you with driving anxiety, you are using a stress response that is part of our bodies' autonomic nervous systems. It's called the "fight or flight response." That response causes physiological changes that allow us to manage stressful situations. We use that response in cases of emergency.
But the problem is, during long periods of non-stop stress, that stress response becomes chronically activated. That is what causes serious issues. It's not limited only hurting you physically -- it can also hurt you mentally and emotionally.
The real dangers of stress
When we experience prolonged stress, long-term health complications can be severe. Some health problems caused by stress include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, a weakened immune system, sexual dysfunction, and various gastrointestinal disorders.
And that's not all.
Stress can also cause skin problems, respiratory infections, autoimmune diseases, migraines, and insomnia. Long-term stress can even cause anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and in extreme cases, PTSD. Seriously!
The Health Benefits of Getting Your Zen On
The good news is that there are healthy ways to deal with stress. Yoga poses to relieve stress are certainly one way.
Dr. Natalie Nevins is a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor, and she says, “The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.”
Some of the other health benefits of yoga include increased muscle strength and tone, increased flexibility, improved respiration and energy, increased metabolism, weight reduction, circulatory health, improved athletic performance, and protection from injury.
Beyond the physical benefits, yoga also offers some fantastic mental benefits. One of the best things about yoga is that it helps you to manage stress. When you practice yoga regularly, it will give you mental clarity and calmness. It will also relax your mind, sharpen your concentration, and relieve chronic stress patterns.
The Equipment You'll Need
You don't need much equipment to do the yoga poses to relieve stress. All you need is a yoga mat and a towel or folded blanket. Yoga blocks may be helpful, as well.
The Best 8 Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress
In no particular order, here are our favorite yoga poses to relieve stress. You can do all of them in a row. Alternatively, you can focus on just one or two of them.
1. Child's Pose (Balasana)
The first of our yoga poses to relieve stress is the balasana or the child's pose. As you will see with this, and several of the other yoga poses to relieve stress, the forward bend increases the exhale, which leads your body into the relaxation response.
One of the things that we love about the child's pose is that it is very calming. It gently stretches the back while quieting the mind and easing stress and anxiety. On top of that, this pose is also excellent for the nervous system and the lymphatic system.
Start this pose by getting into a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Then sit back on your heels, opening your knees and bringing your big toes together underneath you. Slowly walk your hands out and gently rest your forehead on the ground. Relax and breathe into the pose.
2. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) with Shoulder Opener
The uttanasana is another of the yoga poses to relieve stress that incorporates a forward bend.
You probably have done this pose before as a transition between other postures. But uttanasana has many health benefits all on its own. First, it stretches your hamstrings, hips, and thighs. It is also known to relieve stress, fatigue, and even mild depression. The shoulder opener stretches the chest and arms, and it also opens the shoulder girdle. The upside position also brings blood to the brain to help with cognitive functioning.
To do this pose for stress reduction, try keeping your knees slightly bent.
Start by standing in mountain pose, then bend forward at the hips, relaxing your head and neck. Bring your hands together behind your back, interlace your fingers, and let gravity pull your arms down toward the ground.
3. Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
This pose is another of the yoga poses to relieve stress that incorporates the forward bend. And in addition to the benefits of the forward fold, this one also gives you the comfort of your head touching a prop which relieves pressure on the head.
To start this pose stand with your feet parallel and wider than shoulder-width apart. Then place your hands on your hips and bend forward. Place your hands on the floor lined up with your toes and bring your head toward the floor until the crown of your head rests on the ground. If you can't reach the floor with your head, you can use a yoga block.
The beauty of this pose is that it stretches your entire lower body and refreshes the mind. It's also excellent for relieving lower back pain, and it even helps with digestion. We love this stretch to improve posture, too.
4. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana Bitilisana)
The next of our favorite yoga poses to relieve stress is the cat-cow pose. We really love these two poses used together to release all of the tension in your spine.
Start by getting into the tabletop position on your hands and knees. You want your knees to be lined up directly under your hips and your hands directly beneath your shoulders. As you slowly round and arch your back, be conscious of your deep inhales and exhales. Every time that you breathe out, allow your stress and tension to leave your body.
Beyond the stress relief, the cat-cow pose also strengthens and stretches your back and neck, while at the same time massaging and stimulating the organs in your belly, including your kidneys and adrenal glands.
This pose creates emotional balance and relieves stress while calming the mind.
5. Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
The legs-up-the-wall pose could be considered the easiest of the yoga poses to relieve stress, but it's very effective.
All you have to do for this pose is lay on the ground with your legs resting straight up against the wall. You want your butt to be touching the wall so you may have to scoot a bit to get in the correct position.
You should relax into this pose and breathe deeply for 5 to 10 minutes.
When you are very stressed out, the best thing that you can do is to relax your body. This pose will help you do that. Another great benefit of the legs-up-the-wall pose is that it creates venous drainage. It also increases your circulation and can help soothe swollen or cramped legs and feet. On top of that, this pose stretches your hamstrings and lower back, which relieves lower back tension.
6. Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
The eagle is one of the best yoga poses to relieve stress because it improves concentration and balance while opening up the shoulders, upper back, and hips.
We love this posture because it is an active de-stressor. You actually squeeze out the tension with the eagle pose. You have to really focus to hold this pose. It's pretty tough to think about all of the things in your life that have you stressed while you're doing it.
To do this pose, you will cross your elbows and hands while you balance on one leg.
Another thing that we love about this pose is that it strengthens your thighs, hips, ankles, and calves. But the best thing about it is that it builds concentration, balance, and calm focus.
7. Plow Pose (Halasana)
The plow pose is another of our favorite yoga poses to relieve stress. This pose releases tension in your neck, head, shoulders, back, and hamstrings. The position also increases the power of your exhale and turns your focus inward.
Start by laying on your back with your legs straight up. Gently bring your toes over your head, allowing your back to come off of the mat. For some extra support, you can bring your hands to your back as your toes touch the floor above your head. Hold the pose for 10 slow breaths, and then slowly roll back down one vertebra at a time until you're back in the starting position.
One thing that we love about this pose is that it calms the brain. When we're very stressed out, it can be hard to quiet the mind. This pose helps with that. It's also excellent for stimulating the abdominal organs and the thyroid gland, and it reduces fatigue and stress. The plow is also known to alleviate some symptoms of menopause. And it has proven therapeutic for headaches, backaches, insomnia, sinus problems, and infertility issues.
8. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
The last of our yoga poses to relieve stress is the corpse pose. This relaxing pose is best to do at the end of your workout.
The corpse pose can be challenging for a lot of people at first, especially if you're very stressed out. For many people just laying in stillness can feel uncomfortable. But the whole point of this pose is to let go of all of your stress and anxiety as you bring your body into a calm, resting state. This simple pose is one of my favorite parts of a yoga class because it allows you to slow down and relax.
Savasana is excellent for easing tension and putting your body into a state that triggers the relaxation response. The relaxation response is a state of deep rest. You will find that your breathing slows down and your blood pressure lowers in this pose. It also quiets your nervous system. Of all of the yoga poses to relieve stress, savasana is the ultimate for relaxation.
To do this pose, lay on your back with your legs extended. Let your arms rest alongside your torso with your palms faced up.
You should do this pose for 5 to 10 minutes.
A Final Thought About Using Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress
The truth is, we all have to deal with stress. Unfortunately, it's an inevitable part of life. For some of us, stress can lead to terrible health problems and even death. It doesn't have to be that way, however. By doing yoga poses to relieve stress, you can better control it. In fact, you can even thrive despite the stress in your life.
In addition to the yoga poses to relieve stress, there are a few other things that you can do for stress management. For one thing, you can eat a healthy diet. It's also essential that you get plenty of rest and exercise regularly.
Other techniques could involve spending more time with the people that you love or even finding a new hobby that brings you joy.
I love doing yoga, and there is no denying that it has positive health benefits, but my favorite method of stress management is laughter. We could all benefit from taking ourselves less seriously. So my advice is to laugh a little. Or even better, laugh a lot! And then do your yoga.
Now we want to hear from you! Let us know about your favorite yoga pose for stress relief. And share with our readers if you have any great tips for dealing with stress.