Stretch, Breathe, Relax – Five Yoga Poses to Change Your State of Mind
Looking for a reason to justify wearing those comfy yoga pants? How about a surefire way to relax, de-stress and center yourself? If you can’t make time for a ninety-minute yoga class every day (and let’s face it, that’s most of us), you can still enjoy the benefits of regular practice – even if you don’t know your crow pose from your cat stretch. All you need is a rolled-up towel, a relaxing playlist and about fifteen minutes. Bonus – some of these poses are totally workplace friendly.
- Downward Dog on the Couch
- Supported Spinal Twist
- Legs up the Wall
- Standing Forward Bend
- Child's Pose
- Bonus: Square Breathing
The Benefits: Serious lengthening of the chest, back, glutes and hamstrings
The Steps: Begin with feet positioned shoulder-width apart and hands on the edge of a couch or another raised surface. Step your feet back and begin leaning your hips back as you lower your upper body, bringing it parallel to the floor. Don’t move past parallel. You’ll feel the stretch in your upper body and down the backs of your legs. Hold for a minute, focusing on breathing evenly and deeply. Return the starting position and repeat the pose.
The Benefits: Opens the hips, lengthens the chest and offers relief from spinal tension
The Steps: Begin by lying down, knees bent and feet on the floor, with two pillows – one supporting your head and neck and the other between your inner thighs and knees. Moving slowly, lower your legs to the right and your arms to a comfortable spot. Breathe slowly and deeply for three to five breaths, then continue breathing normally for another minute. Return to center and repeat on the opposite side.
The Benefits: Reduces edema in the legs and feet, relieves tired leg muscles and calms the nervous system
The Steps: Start by lying on your side, legs stretched out in front. Slide towards a wall, moving your sit-bones as close to it as possible and extending your legs upward so that the backs of your thighs are resting against it completely. Move your arms out to the sides, palms up. Breathe deeply and evenly, relaxing into the pose for up to ten minutes.
The Benefits: Elongates the spine and hamstrings, relieves tired legs and feet
The Steps: Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, toes facing forward. Fold forward at the hip, reaching the top of your head toward the floor, knees slightly bent. Bend your arms to a 90º angle and cup your elbows, swaying your arms and upper body gently from side to side. Breathe evenly, letting the backs of your legs stretch, for one to two minutes. Then drop your arms and roll up slowly, one vertebra at a time, head coming up last.
The Benefits: Alleviates lower back pain, calms the nervous system
The Steps: Begin in a kneeling position. Keeping your knees about hip distance apart, bring your big toes together. Hinge forward from your spines, elongating your spine and extending your upper body forward to rest your lower abdomen on the inside of your quads. Extend your arms out in front, palms facing down, or move them behind you with palms facing up. Breathe deeply – inhale, exhale – then relax into steady-state breathing. Focus on the point between your eyebrows (known as the third eye) to further calm and ground yourself.
The Benefits: Calms the body and focuses the mind
The steps: Sit comfortably upright in a chair or on the floor. Inhale through the nose for four counts. Hold your breath for another four counts. Exhale through the nose for four counts, then hold your breath again for four counts. Repeat this cycle ten times – inhale, two three four. Hold, two three four. Exhale, two three four. Hold two three four.