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4 Gentle Yoga Poses for Stress Relief and Relaxation

In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to accumulate unwanted tension in your body and mind. This snowball of physical tension manifests as muscle stiffness, headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, and insomnia. Stress seems to be an unwelcome companion that tags along.

Stress is a necessary part of daily life and can help to propel you forward, however, you have the ability to manage the amount of stress that you accumulate. Whilst it can help to motivate you to achieve your goals and move through life challenges, it can also affect your sleep through increased cortisol levels.

Yoga For Stress Relief Explained

Practicing yoga helps create a sense of peace and relaxation by causing your body to release feel-good hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Yin yoga helps to calm your stress hormones down and increases your parasympathetic nervous system response, known as your rest and digest response.

Gentle yoga poses for stress relief are an effective way to release strain, reduce cortisol levels, and find some inner peace! These soothing postures are perfect for relieving stress and promoting relaxation.

I recommend using them to start or end your day, after a workout (not before), or whenever you are feeling a build-up of tension or stress. All you need is 10 minutes and a quiet space to decompress. Feel free to practice these in bed, or on the floor. You don't need any fancy equipment, you can use what you have around the house. If you want to deepen the experience, practice in low light with some soothing music.

I am passionate about making yoga accessible to all, no matter your ability. This is why I provide options for each pose, as I believe that you are unique and your practice should be too. If you find that there is not an option for you, or you have any questions about a pose, please feel free to reach out to me here.

What are the benefits of using yoga poses for stress relief?

Using yoga to release stress offers numerous benefits for your body and mind. Some of the key advantages include:

Stress reduction: Yoga promotes relaxation and helps to reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body, leading to a calmer state of mind.

Muscle relaxation: Yoga poses, combined with conscious breathing, help release muscle tension, particularly in areas prone to stress, like your neck, shoulders, and back.

Improved flexibility: Regular practice of yoga can increase flexibility, making it easier to move and reducing stiffness caused by tension.

Enhanced body awareness: Through yoga, you develop a heightened sense of body awareness, through your mind-body connection. This allows you to recognise and release areas of tension before they become chronic issues.

Mindfulness and presence: Yoga encourages being present in the moment, focusing on breath and movement, which helps to shift your attention away from stressful thoughts.

Better sleep: Yoga can promote better sleep quality by relaxing your body and mind before bedtime, leading to improved rest and rejuvenation.

Reduced anxiety: Practicing yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to counteract your "fight, flight, freeze" response associated with anxiety.

Emotional release: Yoga can create a safe space to release emotions that may be contributing to tension, providing a sense of catharsis and emotional relief.

Increased circulation: Certain yoga poses promote blood flow to various parts of your body, nourishing tissues and aiding in the release of tension.

Overall well-being: Regular yoga practice can lead to a sense of overall well-being and balance, supporting your mental and emotional health.

Endorphin release: The physical activity involved in yoga can trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters and pain relievers.

The benefits of yoga for releasing stress may vary from person to person. Although these poses are safe for you to do at home, it's advisable to practice under the guidance of a qualified instructor, especially if you are new to yoga, to ensure safe and effective practice. Always listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself into positions that cause pain or discomfort.

Let's dive in!

1. Crescent Moon | Bananasana

This can be a calming pose for many people. It’s the one that I see most students fall asleep in. Great for increasing access to your lung capacity, and calming your mind. Lay on your back and simply allow your side body to open your breath.

Crescent Moon Pose
Crescent Moon Pose

Crescent Moon Pose
Crescent Moon Pose

Target areas: side stretch of the torso, hips, and neck.

Contraindications: if you have any lower back issues, don’t go too deep into this pose, stop when you start to feel the sensation of stretching. If you experience any tingling sensations in your arms or fingers, rest your elbows on a folded blanket, pillow, or block, or bring your arms down.

How to enter the pose

Start by laying your back. Bring your legs together and raise your arms overhead to grab opposite elbows. Keep your buttocks on the floor and shift your head and arms to the left. Once you have found the depth of the pose, shift your feet to the left. This will create a stretching sensation on the right side of your body. Check that your hips don’t lift or twist, and the whole back of your body is firmly on the floor.

Options in the pose

  • Once you have been in the pose for a while, maybe cross one ankle over the other, and experiment with which one feels more stable for you.

  • Place a folded blanket under your arms if you experience tingling, or lower them down.

  • Place a heavy bolster/sandbag on your hip for extra support if your hip rolls up.

Time in the pose: 3 - 5 minutes

How to exit the pose

Straighten your legs and bring your body back to the centre. Allow your awareness to be with the effects of the pose. When you are ready, do the other side.

2. Child's Pose | Balasana

Childs pose can be very comforting as you create a cocooning sensation with your body, which allows you to draw your senses inward. Close your eyes, surrender to the pose, and feel the soothing stretch through your spine, shoulders, and hips.

Target areas: spine, hips, knees and ankles

Contraindications: if you have knee or hip issues, place a folded blanket/towel behind your knees to alleviate some pressure. If this doesn’t alleviate the pressure, skip this pose. If the connection of your knees to the floor creates discomfort, place a blanket under your knees. If you have discomfort at your feet, place a rolled blanket under them.

How to enter the pose

Kneel on your mat, and sit back on your heels. You can choose to have your knees wide or together. Round your spine and rest your forehead on the mat. If your knees are wide, rest your torso on a bolster or a few pillows for support.

Options in the pose

  • Stretch your arms out or place them on either side of your body.

  • Thread arms between legs.

Time in the pose: 3 - 5 minutes

How to exit the pose

Push your hands into the floor and slowly roll up. Lay on your back for 2 minutes.

3. Butterfly Pose | Baddha Konasana

Release your hips and spine all at once, whilst creating a soothing cocoon for your body and mind. If folding forward isn't for you, reclined butterfly is a soothing alternative.

Butterfly Pose
Butterfly Pose

Reclined Butterfly Pose
Reclined Butterfly Pose

Target areas: the whole spine, hips, inner thighs, and hamstrings.

Contraindications: if you have sciatica issues, sit on a pillow/blanket to elevate your hips. If the pose aggravates sciatica symptoms, skip it. If your knees hurt, send your heels further away from your seat. If folding forward aggravates any back issues, try reclined butterfly, lying on your back with your legs in butterfly.

How to enter the pose

Sit with your legs extended. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, and then slide them away from you. Allow your knees to fall out to the sides. Support your knees with some pillows or blocks. Round your spine and allow your body to fold forward. Rest your head on a bolster or more pillows for support.

Quick tip: if you don’t have a bolster, you could rest your head and arms on a chair in front of you for support.

Options in the pose

  • Sit on a pillow or folded blankets to elevate your hips and tilt you forward.

  • If your spine doesn’t like this pose you could try it with butterfly legs up the wall, lying on your back.

Time in the pose: 3 - 5 minutes

How to exit the pose

Press your hands into the floor and slowly roll your spine up. Lean back and gently straighten one leg at a time. Lay on your back for 2 minutes.

4. Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose | Viparita Karani

This is my go-to pose for tension relief. It can be very helpful if you spend a lot of time on your feet or experience swelling in your legs or feet. Give yourself a moment to relax and rejuvenate with the legs-up-the-wall pose.

Legs Up The Wall Pose
Legs Up The Wall Pose

Target areas: the whole spine and legs

Contraindications: if you experience discomfort in your lower back place a folded blanket or pillow under your pelvis..

How to enter the pose

Sit sideways next to a wall, lay on your side with your glutes against the wall, and swing your legs up, lay on your back. Allow your arms to rest by your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and let gravity do the work as your legs receive a gentle stretch and your mind unwinds.

Options in the pose

  • If the folded blanket under your pelvis doesn’t relieve pressure, place your legs on a chair instead. Bend your knees at 90 degrees and allow your calves to rest of the seat of the chair.

  • Place a folded blanket under your head for an extra layer of comfort.

Time in the pose: 5 - 20 minutes

How to exit the pose

Bend your knees to your chest and roll to one side. Stay here for 2 minutes to allow your blood to circulate in your legs again. Use your top hand to gently press yourself up to sit.

Combine these poses with this FREE 8 Minutes to Calm Yoga Nidra for an extra boost of calming goodness.

Return to these poses whenever you feel like you need a moment of tension release or solace from the daily grind. Remember, it's not about pushing yourself but rather finding moments of peace and surrender. Embrace the pose, let go of expectations, and allow yourself to enjoy the journey of stress relief and relaxation.

Release the tension, find your inner peace, and discover the joy of a calm and rejuvenated mind and body.

Restful regards




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