by Hannah Aylward: If you are experiencing more stress than usual, learn why and how to manage it with yoga poses to relieve stress…
Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences that comes in many forms. Health concerns, socioeconomic stress, and job insecurity can create long term stress for many people. Stress can also come in the form of bad food and poor or inadequate sleep, which send negative signals to the brain that produce stress hormones. Modern day life also adds extra stressors, like environmental toxins, long work hours, the news cycle, and “never turning off” due to technology and constant accessibility.
Contrary to popular belief, stress can be beneficial to health for immediate, short-term situations. It can help people cope with potentially serious situations. However, if the stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on overall health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being.
Symptoms of chronic stress include: irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia. Stress also negatively impacts hormones, digestion, brain function, and the immune system.
Americans are among the most stressed people in the world, according to a new survey. Most people feel like they are constantly operating in a stressful state on any given day. They balance multiple things throughout the course of one day – commute, work, responsibilities, task switching, pollution, etc. – and likely don’t fully turn off until right before bed due to the tech devices that most of the population lives on.
It’s likely that, if people aren’t removing themselves from their current environment, taking a vacation, or completely changing their lifestyle, some stress will still be present. In a sense, it comes with the territory. Stressful situations can arise even in the seemingly calmest of moments. The point is, in modern day, stress isn’t going anywhere. Instead of trying to get rid of stress, people can instead learn useful tools to help them manage the stress that does inevitably come their way.
Yoga is an incredibly powerful tool to have in the stress management toolbox, along with breathwork, meditation and mindfulness. Yoga provides the opportunity to reconnect, slow down, and tap into the breath. Yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower heart rate. Yoga’s focus on breath and mind work can help calm racing thoughts. One of the best parts? Almost anyone can do it.
Yoga can be an excellent tool for self-regulation. When stressed, the sympathetic nervous system (the “flight or fight” response) kicks into gear. A stressful trigger prompts the body to release stress hormones, causing a cascade of changes like elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, and increased blood pressure. Studies have shown that yoga can be helpful in managing stress. This is why we’ve put together 5 yoga poses to relieve stress.
Feeling Stressed Out? Practice These 5 Yoga Poses to Boost Immunity, Encourage Sleep, and So Much More
Yoga Poses To Relieve Stress: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
There are many benefits to forward bends, both standing and sitting. They create length and space in the spine, counteracting compression, and their inward nature can promote introspection. Yet forward bends can also be a challenge to many people, especially those with tight hamstrings. Forward fold is one of the fastest poses to bring you out of an acute stress response.
By dropping the head below the heart, the heart rate slows down and the mind begins to calm. Forward folds from standing can be done with either allowing the arms to dangle or with grabbing opposite elbows for a position known as rag doll.
Yoga can help dissolve patterns so people can uncover fresh ways of looking and experiencing themselves. This multifaceted awareness about how we move can help us cultivate a deeper, richer yoga practice, allowing us to discover new ease in our forward bends.
Yoga Poses To Relieve Stress: Cat/Cow (Chakravakasana)
These poses combined offer relief for the spine and all the muscles in the back. Cat/Cow is a powerful pose for the mind. The breath synchronized movement increases coordination, fosters intentional focus, and invigorates the vital life force in the body known as prana. Cat/cow is also associated with increased emotional balance and stability of the mind.
Lastly, lengthening the spine improves circulation to the discs between the vertebrae, which in turn relieves stress from the back and calms the mind.
There are many physical benefits of Cat/Cow Pose, including toning the gastrointestinal tract and female reproductive system. The asana flow helps relieve stress from menstrual cramps, lower back pain, and sciatica. Cat/Cow Pose increases flexibility of the neck, shoulders, and spine. The movement also stretches the muscles of the hips, back, abdomen, chest, and lungs.
Cat Stretch held at its peak releases tension of the upper back and neck. Activation of the tailbone emphasizes the root movement of the spine, which increases flexibility for forward and backbends.
Yoga Poses To Relieve Stress: Child’s Pose (Bālāsana)
Child’s pose is a restorative posture that stretches the low back and calms the mind and central nervous system. This asana is useful for taking rest and slowing down the breath.
Child’s Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back torso.
This resting pose centers, calms, and soothes the brain, making it a therapeutic posture for relieving stress. When performed with the head and torso supported, it can also help relieve back and neck pain. Sometimes used as a counter-pose to backbends, Child’s Pose restores balance and equanimity to the body, helping to relieve stress.
Yoga Poses To Relieve Stress: Plow Pose (Halasana)
This is the perfect way to relax after a long day, allowing the hips and lower back to take a break. This pose is also a great way to unwind before bed and represents a chance to let any racing in your mind dissipate. Allow the whole body and mind to let go of any stressful thoughts or worries and be fully present in the moment.
Plow pose gives blood circulation a gentle boost toward the upper body and head, which creates a pleasant rebalancing after standing or sitting for long periods of time, like working a desk job all day. This pose can help stretch the hamstrings and relieve lower back pain.
When practicing this inverted pose, you can open to receptivity, which may be exactly what the body needs to shift out of the stress response.
Yoga Poses To Relieve Stress: Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Most yoga practices end with several minutes spent in savasana (pro tip: never skip out on this!). The pose puts the body completely at ease and emphasizes total relaxation. Savasana can trigger the body’s “relaxation response,” a state of deep rest that slows the breathing and lowers the blood pressure while quieting the nervous system. Contrary to what many may think, this pose can actually be the most difficult for many people because they’re not used to being still and releasing the grip.
Savasana calms the brain and helps relieve stress, relaxes the body, reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia, and helps to lower blood pressure.
Savasana is the great balancer in terms of our nervous system. It shifts the away from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic side, allowing the body and mind to experience a calming and powerful release. This balancing, downregulated state allows the digestive system, the immune system, and other essential systems to be restored and enhanced.
Feel free to practice these yoga poses to relieve stress separately or together in a relaxing flow, holding each pose for a few deep breaths. Yoga helps people develop a sense of awareness and education around their bodies, habits, and tendencies. A consistent practice will bring recognition to symptoms of stress just as they start and can help quickly halt that stress response before it turns into something larger. Make sure to incorporate these 5 yoga poses to relieve stress into your weekly routine and feel the freeing benefits within seconds.