Now more than ever, we are looking for ways to reduce stress, relieve anxiety and improve our overall health. Making sure we maintain some level physical activity is a key component to that, and if it’s not already part of your regular routine, this might be a great time to add yoga to your workouts.
Yoga requires minimal equipment, can be done anywhere, and is accessible to nearly any level of fitness. More importantly, it doesn’t have to be difficult or even physically taxing in order to do what it was created to do: build a mind-body connection that strengthens both our physical and mental self.
These yoga poses are designed to help with stress and promote relaxation. You can incorporate them into your other workouts, or do them on their own. Check out these easy moves to help you start your own yoga practice:
Standing Forward Fold
A simple inversion that helps calm the brain, relieve stress and stimulate the liver and kidneys, standing forward fold starts with your feet about hip-width apart. Stand tall with your arms at your sides, then sweep the arms up to the sky. Inhale, and on your exhale, sweep the arms out and down as you bend at the waist. Relax your body and bend your knees slightly. Hold for two to three breaths.
This hip-opener not only expands the hip flexors and quads, it also helps us center ourselves while reducing anxiety. Start by kneeling on the floor, toes together and knees hip-width apart, hands resting on your knees. Inhale, and on your exhale, slowly lower your torso between your knees until your forehead touches the ground. Rest your arms alongside your body, palms down, shoulders curled toward the ground. For deeper relaxation, slowly massage your forehead against the floor, as this is said to stimulate the third eye, improving concentration and releasing mental blocks.
Eagle Pose improves balance, focus and concentration. It’s also good for anyone struggling with lower back pain, as it stretches back and shoulder muscles. Stand with your arms at your sides and feet slightly apart. Sweep your arms out in front of your body and hook your left arm under your right, bringing the arms together in front of you and pressing your palms together. Slowly bend your knees, then raise your left leg while balancing on your right foot. Cross your left leg over your right and wrap and wrap your left foot behind your right calf. Hold the pose for at least two full breaths.
A combination of two poses, Cat/Cow is a moderate flow that opens the chest and encourages deeper breathing, while calming the mind and easing stress. It stretches the back and upper body, as well as stimulating the kidneys, adrenal glands and abdominal region. Start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees aligned with the hips. Gaze downward, inhale and drop your belly toward the mat while lifting your chin, gazing upward and pulling your shoulders away from your ears. Exhale into Cat, drawing your belly in and arching your back toward the ceiling, slowly releasing your head toward the floor. Inhale back into Cow, and repeat the movements at least five times.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Savasana, or Corpse Pose, is considered one of the most important poses in yoga. It is also considered one of the most difficult, as achieving stillness can be a challenge for many of us. Savasana is the final pose at the end of practice, and is said to renew body, mind and spirit. Lay on the floor on your back, legs straight and arms out from your sides, palms up. Let your feet relax and drop open, closing the eyes and breathing natural. Slowly and with consciousness, release each part of your body into the ground, feeling the heaviness as you sink into the earth. Stay in Savasana for at least five minutes.
Jody Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, health, travel, fashion and style. Her work has appeared in publications such as LennyLetter, Huffington Post, BBC Future Planet, Civil Eats and Eater.