Stress and anxiety are the unwelcome–but sadly unavoidable–side effects of everyday life. And after the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day to-do lists, you can wind up burned out, stressed out and in need of some serious tension relief. The solution? Meet your new favorite “me time” activity: yoga. Stretches and poses from this ancient physical and spiritual practice are shown to reduce anxiety and stress, boost your mood and simultaneously enhance your overall fitness. So next time you need to unwind, set aside your stress ball in favor of some time on the mat and try out these eight anxiety-alleviating yoga moves.
Getting Started: Things to Keep in Mind
Before you start practicing these stress-relieving stretches and poses, you’ll want to take some time to settle your mind and set up a space dedicated to finding your Zen. Begin your yoga sessions with these few simple steps to make the most of each pose’s anxiety-reducing benefits.
- Set Aside Time to Unplug and Relax–Allow yourself to fully indulge in yoga’s calming effects by dedicating time in your day solely to unwinding with a few stress-relieving yoga poses. Especially if you’re practicing yoga at home, you’ll want to retreat to a quiet area and take a moment to shift into a meditative headspace, so you can focus entirely on relaxing and feeling at ease with each movement. Make this space tech-free and give yourself this time away from texts, emails and social media in favor of a few moments of serenity.
- Use a Yoga Mat–Avoid straining or injuring your body by investing in a yoga mat for proper support as you move through each pose. Use a yoga mat as a comfy, soft surface to practice on and roll it out in your designated quiet space whenever you need to stretch out and de-stress.
- Wear Comfy Workout Clothes–Reaching a state of relaxation is a lot easier when you’re wearing comfortable workout apparel. Shop for cozy workout clothes to wear when you roll out your mat, so you can practice each pose with ease while reaping the anxiety-alleviating benefits of each exercise.
Leave It All on the Mat: The Best Poses and Stretches for Anxiety and Stress Relief
Once you’ve got your Zen space set up, your yoga mat laid out and your comfy workout wear on, you’re ready to chill out by tapping into your inner yogi. Give your mind and body some well-deserved care with these poses and stretches, perfect for when you need to shed your stresses and ease your anxieties.
- Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)–A great pose for those new to yoga or anyone looking to get a full-body stretch, downward dog activates and energizes your muscles from head to toe. As your head hangs down in this inversion, blood flow will increase to the brain, boosting your energy as you simultaneously let go of any built-up tension in your neck. Take time in this pose to focus on your breathing, quieting your mind as you engage and strengthen your arms, legs and core in the stretch.
- Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)–Another pose that allows your head to hang loose, standing forward bend is a fantastic lower body stretch with added benefits for your overall well-being. On top of its stress-relieving and anxiety-alleviating properties, this pose can also aid with headache relief.
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)–A pose less sinister than it sounds, cobra pose is an excellent stretch for your chest and shoulders and can help reduce pent-up stress and anxiety as you open the rib cage and heart. And for those who carry stress in their neck and back, cobra pose can loosen up these muscles, alleviating tightness in this tension-prone area.
- Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)–It’s hard to be stressed out when you’re doing a pose called happy baby, and this yoga move definitely lives up to its name. Mimicking the adorable habit babies have of reaching for their toes, this move will soothe your back and open up your hips as you lift your knees and grab your feet. Chill out in this pose and let your worries melt away as you spend some time embodying the movement and mindset of a happy baby.
- Child’s Pose (Balasana)–Graduate from happy baby to child’s pose, another posture terrific for tension-relief and relaxing both the body and mind. As you rest your hips on your heels and your head on the ground, you can tune into your breath, staying in the pose as long as you need to find your state of total relaxation.
- Easy Pose (Sukhasana)–Just because this yoga move is dubbed the easy pose, doesn’t mean regular practice of this posture can’t seriously benefit your body. Take time to achieve the proper alignment in this seated pose and you’ll not only improve your posture but allow yourself a few moments to sit still and meditate in this simple yoga move you can do anywhere, anytime.
- Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)–Stretch out the front of your body and strengthen your back by transforming your body into an archer’s bow. In addition to being a great full-body stretch, bow pose will open your heart, alleviate anxiety and help beat fatigue. Bonus points: This yoga pose can help relieve mild backaches and period pain, too.
- Corpse Pose (Savasana)–If you’re looking for total-body relaxation, corpse pose is for you. A pose that requires you to, quite literally, lie as still as a corpse, this relaxed posture will allow you to release any tension in your body. Corpse pose can also help lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and give your mind and body a mini meditative vacation.
Take Time to Find Your Zen
Whenever you’ve had a stressful week or just need a few moments to clear your head, try out one of these therapeutic stretches and poses to calm your mind. Diffuse some essential oils, play a little ambient music and head to the mat to decompress and de-stress.