I don’t know about all of you, but with the semester coming to a close and Finals Week upon us, I am getting pretty stressed! I’ve tried lots of different stress relievers, from lavender tea to taking long walks by the river (weather permitting!), but I can say for sure that Yoga has been super helpful for me. So today I thought I would share with all of you some of the poses I find most calming through my own practice. I’ve chosen to discuss some easier poses so that anyone can practice, regardless of skill level!
**Disclaimer! I am not a certified Yoga instructor, I just love stretching out to focus on my mindfulness and to de-stress 🙂
1. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
This one is really straightforward, but it can be a great way to stretch out your back and legs and focus on your breathing. Start standing straight, with feet shoulder length apart. Take a slow, warm breath in through your lungs, and on the exhale, fold your upper body down toward your legs, one vertebra at a time. Allow your arms to hang, and if you can, touch your fingers to your feet. If you can’t bend down all the way, it’s ok! Focus on taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth and allow your body to sink into the pose. When you feel ready, wait for an inhale, and slowly unfold your body to come back up to standing, one vertebra at a time.
2. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is one of my absolute favorites. It’s a great stretch for your back, and it can be a perfect resting pose too! To start, kneel on the floor, feet together. Allow your knees to widen out to align with your hips. Take a low warm breath, and on the exhale, stretch your arms out in front of you, so that your forehead is to the ground. While in this pose, it is good to focus on keeping your shoulders wide and your spine aligned. Let yourself sink into your hips and take a few slow, deep breaths, focusing on the expansion of your chest and stomach. If you want, you can walk your hands to the right and left to accentuate the stretch in your ribs.
3. Cat/Cow Pose (Marjaryasana / Bitilasana)
Cat/Cow Pose is another great back stretch and does wonders for alignment. I usually go into this straight from Child’s Pose. Start on hands and knees with a neutral back. On an inhale, slowly arch your back and raise your head and shoulders to the ceiling. From here, take the next exhale, bring your belly into your spine, and bring your back toward the ceiling. This stretch helps with flexibility in the back and helps bring your awareness to posture and balance.
4. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Of course I had to do the one that we all think of when we are talking about Yoga! Downward Dog is such a standard in Yoga, and it’s because the pose is relatively simple and reaps a lot of benefits. Start in neutral hands and knees. Take a deep breath, and on the exhale, straighten your legs to balance on your toes and push your bottom into the air. In this pose, you want to focus on drawing your belly into your spine and extending your energy through your arms. If you can’t keep your legs straight, that’s ok! It’s better to keep your back and arms in line than to have perfectly straight legs. As an inversion pose, Downward Dog can provide many benefits, including relief from migraines, fatigue, and stress. It can also be a great energizer!
5. Supported Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana) or Plow Pose (Halasana)
The Supported Shoulder Stand is one of my absolute favorites. Like Downward Dog, this pose is an inversion, which means that your heart is above your head. This means that you get the same sort of benefits that you would get from Downward Dog. To start, lie down on your back. On an inhale, use your abs and pull your legs up into the air. If you need to, start by bringing the knees to the chest and then extending them straight above you. Plant your elbows on your sides, and place your hands under your hips for support. You want to focus on spinal alignment here.
**If you are feeling particularly flexible, you can turn this into Plow Pose. All you need to do is bring your legs down so that your knees are pointing toward your face. This allows for a little extra stretch and practice with balance. These poses are also both great for your abs!
***I have a little injury, so my posture and alignment in the Supported Shoulder Stand and Plow Pose are not a great example. Make sure that you focus on keeping your legs and spine aligned perpendicular to the ground.
I hope you can find these poses useful, especially with all the stress that comes with finals week! Remember, it’s ok if you can’t do all of these perfectly, everything takes practice. As long as you are allowing your body to stretch, breathe, and relax, you’ll be doing a great job!