Yoga to ease stress

It’s easy to let the weight of everyday tasks and the stressors going on around the world send you into a tailspin. We live in unpredictable times and navigating a new way of life today poses it’s challenges. For many, stress is at an all time high resulting in increased anxiety, poor sleep, withdrawal and physical feedback from the body manifesting as pain and disease. When stress is not managed, it accumulates and it becomes much harder to reverse the effects of stress once they are set in motion. It is very important that we manage and tend to our stress with things like yoga, breath, and meditation regularly. Practice this relaxing yoga sequence to relieve stress and access a state of peace and calm. 

 

Seated meditation 

Make your way into a comfortable seat, spine upright and sit bones firmly rooted. Place your palms face down on your thighs and take a few deep breaths. Once you feel settled, return to your regular breathing pattern, letting your breath flow in and out of the body at a smooth and natural rhythm. Direct your entire awareness to the sensation of the breath. Become curious as you witness the breath enter and leave the nostrils, noticing the temperature, sensations, and where in your body you feel it the most. 

 

When you notice your mind begin to wander, gently and non-judgmentally redirect your awareness back to your breath, letting your thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky of your mind. Continue meditation for 5-10 minutes, gently opening your eyes when you are finished, bringing your awareness back to the space around you.  

 

Child's pose (Balasana)

Press back into a table top by separating your knees out mat’s width and sit your seat back onto your heels, extending your arms out long on your mat and planting your forehead to the earth. Allow your body to relax and be heavy. Hold for 10-20 breaths.

 

Cat Cow 

Begin in a table top position, placing your palms underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. On an inhale, drop your belly and direct your gaze to the sky. On an exhale, press the mat away and arch your spine, directing your gaze toward your navel. Take slow, small and gentle movements, paying close attention to any sensation that arises and be mindful of any pain or discomfort in the back. Continue this pattern, linking your breath to your movement for 10 rounds. 

 

Downward facing dog (Adho mukha svanasana)

Press into the palms and straighten your legs, creating an inverted V shape with your body. Straighten out through the spine and extend the hips toward the ceiling. Invite in gentle movement, straightening one leg and then the other. Find stillness and hold for five breaths. 

 

Forward fold

Step both feet forward to the top of your mat on an inhale. Stand up with your feet hips width apart. Take a deep breath in and on an exhale, fold over your legs. Keep a gentle bend in the knees and allow the head and neck to hang heavy. You can let your arms heavy to the floor or grab opposite elbows to add extra weight to the stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds. 

 

Waterfall 

Come down to lie on the mat and transition into waterfall pose by simply extending the legs up toward the sky. You may need to adjust the prop underneath you to feel supported. Keep a slight bend in the knees and allow your legs to be soft. Relax deeply and hold the posture for up to 20 breaths. 

 

Supine twist 

On an exhale, slowly lower your feet back down onto the mat. Press into the feet to remove the prop beneath you. Let your sacrum come back down to the mat and bring the knees into the chest. Take a deep inhale, and on an exhale lower both legs to the right. Extend your arms out at shoulder height and gaze over the left shoulder. Hold the twist, breathing into the mid section for 10 breaths, then slowly come through center and repeat on the other side. 

 

Happy Baby Pose 

Once you have finished the supine twist on both sides, bring your legs in toward the chest and reach for the outer edges of your feet, directing your knees toward your armpits. Keep your spine firmly planted on the mat as you open up through the hips. You can invite gentle movement into the posture by rocking back and forth on the spine or straightening out one leg and then the other. Hold and explore the posture for 10 breaths. 

 

Savasana  

Bring your knees in toward the chest and wrap your arms around the legs. On an inhale, squeeze the legs and bring your forehead to the knees, starting to tense every muscle. Breathe in one more sip of air as you engage the entire body and on an exhale release your grip, coming to lie down on the mat. Extend your arms and legs out long, taking up as much space as you want. Let go of any breath control or attempt to control the mind and allow your body to melt into the mat, relaxing deeply. Stay here for up to 10 minutes, gently coming up when you are finished to resume your evening.

 

Gabrielle Marchese is a certified yoga instructor. 

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