Whether you’re a bona fide yogi master or just starting out, yoga can do wonders for your strength, flexibility and even your mental health.
This ancient meditative practice has proven to be an excellent way to soothe your mind, body, and soul — and while it’s generally thought to be a more relaxing workout, there are certain poses that are better at stress relief than others.
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“Yoga helps us slow down for a moment and tune into the breath. Simply the focus on one thing — which is the very definition of meditation — allows us to decompress,” says registered yoga teacher Dr. Terri Kennedy. “The actual asanas [poses] release tension in different ways, and help certain parts of the body.”
Looking for new ways to ease anxiety and reduce tension? Here are eight of the best yoga poses for stress relief.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is one of the most basic and beneficial yoga positions. This resting pose stretches out your back to eliminate pain and is also beneficial to your nervous and lymphatic system.
“It’s one of the key poses that you can come to in the middle of a class whenever you want to relieve stress,” says Dr. Kennedy. “It’s very restorative … it’s child-like and allows us to come inward to ourselves.”
2. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Uttanasana is a transitional pose that stretches out your hamstrings, thighs, and hips. It has also been known to relieve stress, fatigue, and mild depression. Dr. Kennedy finds this pose beneficial because it reverses blood flow throughout your body, especially when your knees are slightly bent.
3. Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
The eagle pose helps to “squeeze out” tension throughout your back, shoulders, and legs. Because balancing in this pose takes a lot of focus, your improved concentration will rid you of any and all stress. It also feels like a warm hug for all your limbs, which can improve your sense of calm and well-being.
4. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Dr. Kennedy refers to savasana as “the relaxation pose,” and for good reason. As you may have been able to guess from the name, this pose requires you to lie flat on your back for up to several minutes.
Although lying perfectly still is a challenge for some yogis, it is greatly beneficial to your nervous system. This pose initiates your body’s relaxation response, which helps to lower blood pressure and put your mind at ease.
5. Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Another simple, yet highly beneficial pose requires you to lie flat on your back and place your legs up against the wall. While lying on your back can rid you of any pain, the legs-up-the-wall position allows for better circulation to your heart. It’s even been said to slow the aging process.
6. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana)
The cat-cow pose stretches out your lower back, where most people tend to build up tension. Arch your back gently and deeply, 10 times in a row, combined with deep focus and breathing to release any stress throughout your spine.
7. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
The bridge pose is thought to reduce fatigue, backaches, headaches, and even anxiety. This pose allows you to stretch out your back and relieve tension in your legs and glutes.
8. Dolphin Pose
Hanging upside down seems to work wonders for stress. This is similar to downward dog, but requires you to place your forearms on the ground. By inverting your body and placing your forearms on the floor, focusing on the deep stretches in the back of your body, you can reduce stress and anxiety.