In Part 2 of our Stay Calm series, MICHI Brand Ambassador and WanderfulSoul founder Vitina Blumenthal shares the best yoga poses to calm the body and mind, and combat stress. Because we can all use a break from moving at lightning speed and a reminder to get out of our heads and focus on how our bodies feel. For experienced yogis, read on for a refresher of the benefits the poses, and for those new to the mat, discover directions and practice anywhere.
The king of all calming yoga poses. It’s the pose that any teacher would guide you to take when rest is needed during a yoga class. Child’s pose is a resting posture that can help quiet the mind, to ease stress and anxiety. It is quite “child-like” and allows us to come inwards to ourselves. It’s also beneficial for the nervous and lymphatic system, and is great for relieving lower back pain, hip strain and shoulder and neck stiffness.
- Kneel on a yoga mat and bring your knees together or mat distance apart. Rest your buttocks on your feet.
- When you exhale, slowly lower your torso over your thighs. Touch your forehead to the mat and extend your hands in front of you, to rest on the floor.
- Breathe consciously and fully into the back of the torso (inhale count of 4).
- With each exhalation release the torso a little more deeply into the fold (exhale count of 4).
- Do at least 10 rounds of breath in this pose.
Pregnancy, Knee injury
A jack-of-all-trades. This pose provides gentle stretching of the back and legs and alleviates stress and tension. It is also said to reduce anxiety, fatigue, backaches, headaches and insomnia, and thought to be therapeutic for high blood pressure. For a more passive yet enjoyable stretch, place a block under the sacrum.
- Lie flat on your back and bend your knees. Rest your feet close to the buttocks, hip width apart. Your finger tips should graze your heels.
- Lift your hips upward by pressing into your heels and your arms on the floor. Lift up your breastbone while keeping your head fixed, facing the ceiling.
- Stay in the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute and come back to the starting position.
- Repeat 5 to 6 times.
Often used in surya namaskar, this pose has benefits when practiced on it’s own. It stretches the hamstrings, thighs, hips and relaxes the spine. It’s thought to relieve stress, fatigue and mild depression. It helps to preserve proper functioning of the nervous system by improving blood supply throughout the body. To really de-stress, bend the knees slightly.
- Stand with your feet closed and arms resting by your side.
- Inhale and raise your hands above your head.
- Exhale and bend your torso forward.
- Touch the ground with both hands and keep legs straight, or with a slight bend in the knees if you are tight in the hamstrings.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds with normal breathing rhythm.
- Bend your knees and roll up slowly. Move so that your head comes up last, back to the starting position.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Back injury: Do this pose with bent knees.
Balancing poses, including Eagle and Tree Pose (Vrksasana), are an amazing way to come back to the present moment, by regaining focus and concentration. Eagle pose takes it to the next level by releasing tension in the shoulders (where many of us hold tension), legs and back.
- Start standing with hands by your side. Bend your knees slightly, lift your left foot up and, balancing on your right foot, cross your left thigh over the right.
- Keep your toes on the floor for balance or point your left toes toward the floor, press the foot back, and then hook the top of the foot behind the lower right calf. Balance on the right foot. The lower you sit, the easier it is to balance!
- Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor. Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows.
- Grab opposite shoulders or snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. Face the backs of your hands towards each other.
- To take it one step further, continue to cross the arms, so that the palms face each other. Press the palms together as much as is possible for you, lift your elbows up, and stretch the fingers towards the ceiling. Keep the shoulders away from the ears.
- Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, then unwind the legs and arms. Repeat for the same length of time with the arms and legs reversed.
Knee injuries: Avoid this pose
As a full body stretch, Triangle Pose is a terrific stress-reliever. It helps increase flexibility, improve digestion and relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression and fatigue.
- Stand with your feet together. With an exhalation, step your left foot back 3½ to 4 feet apart. Keep your right foot facing forward and turn the left foot 90 degrees.
- Align the right heel with the left heel. Firm your thighs and turn your right thigh outward, so that the center of the right kneecap is in line with the center of the right ankle.
- Raise your arms out wide, parallel to the floor. Reach them actively out to the sides, with your shoulder blades wide and palms down.
- Exhale and extend your torso to the right directly over the plane of the right leg, bending from the hip joint, not the waist. Strengthen the left leg and press the outer heel firmly to the floor. Rotate the torso to the left, keeping the two sides equally long.
- Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or the floor outside your right foot.
- Extend the left arm into the air and reach for the sky with your fingertips.
- Look towards the ground or point your gaze towards your left thumb. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Use the core to bring you back up to center.
- Arms out wide, close your right toes in and turn your left foot to point to the back of your mat.
- Repeat on the left side.
Headache, Low blood pressure
Heart Condition: Practice against a wall. Keep the top arm on the hip.
High blood pressure: Turn the head to gaze downward in the final pose.
Neck problems: Don't turn your head to look upward; continue looking straight ahead and keep both sides of the neck evenly long.
Savasana is the ultimate relaxation pose. It is well deserved not only at the end of a sweaty yoga class, but also when you need to calm the mind. It may appear to be an easy pose, but many people experience difficulty in this posture because they are not used to being still. This pose puts the body completely at ease and emphasizes total relaxation. It helps to slow breathing and lower blood pressure, while it quiets the nervous system.
- Lie down on your back with legs mat distance apart and hands by your sides away from your body, facing the sky. Alternatively, place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your stomach.
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale to feel the breath come through the chest and into the stomach. Exhale to compress the stomach and deflate the chest. Repeat 3 times to relax yourself and let your body sink into the ground.
- Come back to a regular state of breathing. Stay in this posture for 5 to 10 minutes.
Back injury or discomfort: Do this pose with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, hip distance apart or support the bent knees on a bolster.
Pregnancy: Raise your head and chest on a bolster.