Stress is just a part of life. The good news is you don’t have to add “yoga class” to your To Do list, thus heightening your anxiety levels. We’ve put together a list of a few quick valuable yoga poses that can help you find a bit of calm—anytime—in the eye of the storm.
It’s important, however, to remember that yoga poses aren’t magical. The physical movements, or asanas, won’t do the trick unless you understand the other two elements of yoga: meditation and breathing. When combined with the exercises, yoga can truly be transformational for your body, mind, and spirit.
By definition, meditation simply means awareness. You can become aware while you’re doing the poses we’ve chosen, or when you’re short on time or can’t find a space to complete the poses, you can still yourself and become aware of how you’re feeling without judgment or contemplating how to change it. Then, shift your awareness to calming anxiousness by clearing your mind. Of course, you can engage in guided meditation and lengthen the amount of time you dedicate to this practice. My favorite app for short, easy-to-follow guided meditations is Headspace. You will be surprised how effective even five minutes can be!
Breathing, another fundamental element of yoga, is often closely associated with meditation and is cued in yoga poses to achieve maximal benefit. But if you find yourself in a public place (or perhaps, the family dinner table!) and in need of stress-relief stat, breathing can be your best friend and go practically unnoticed. If you can, put your hands over your belly, and begin breathing deeply. Try to get your hands to rise and fall as you find a deep belly breath. Count the length of your inhale and exhale, trying to extend the time you’re taking for each phase of the breath. Finally, begin focusing your breath on moving three-dimensionally: in and out (the belly rising and falling), right and left (your ribcage expanding), as well as up and down (your clavicle rising and falling as the lobes of your lungs fill up) to achieve complete breath. You’ll notice your shoulders begin to relax, your heart rate slowing down, and your mind calming with each breath. Now, on to some helpful poses!
Quick De-Stressing Yoga Poses
If You Have 1-3 Minutes
Choose 1 or 2 of the following poses and hold for 60 seconds each (5-10 rounds of breath) to achieve calm.
Begin seated on the floor with your legs out in front of you; you can elevate your hips on a folded blanket or bend your knees if you have tight hamstrings or lower back. With feet flexed, sit up tall and reach arms overhead as you inhale. Then, as you exhale, reach out toward your feet as far as you can with a long spine. At your end point, round your spine and place your forehead on your legs (or close to your legs). To come out of the pose, pull your belly button to your spine and slowly curl up one vertebrae at a time.
Begin kneeling with big toes touching, sitting back on your heels. Separate your knees about as wide as your hips. Inhale; as you exhale lay your torso out in front of you with arms reaching above your head, palms down. To come out of the pose, tuck your tail under, pull your belly button to your spine, and slowly curl up one vertebrae at a time.
Lie down on your side with your legs stretched out in front of you. Scoot your hips toward a wall, and then, roll onto your back as you move your legs ‘up the wall.’ Try to keep your feet stacked over your hips and your back in contact with the floor. Exit the pose the same way you entered.
Begin lying on your back, knees bent with feet on the floor. Keeping your feet together, begin to let your legs open up toward the floor. Use your hands on the outside of your thighs to support the weight of your legs or place folded up blankets or yoga blocks underneath your thighs, depending on your flexibility. To exit the pose, use your hands to bring your knees back together. Then, either grasp behind your legs to return to seated or roll to one side and use your arms to push yourself up to seating.
If You Have 5 Minutes
If you can spare 5 minutes, enjoy this ultimate relaxer.
Find a nice, quiet, dark space and lie on your back with your eyes closed, arms down by your side and palms up. Legs are outstretched, as well, a bit farther than hip-distance apart. Instead of concentrating on active breathing, simply melt into the mat and try to free your mind from all thoughts and your body from all work.
If You Have 10+ Minutes
If you can find more time, try using a Yoga app that will allow you to piece together quick workouts to de-stress, tone the body, and energize your mind! Here’s a great rundown of the best yoga apps from 2015.