You don’t have to be a ‘yogi’ to realize the benefits the practice of yoga can bring to your everyday life. If you’ve done yoga before, you more than likely know that ‘yogi high’ you feel after a practice. It’s a feeling I wish could be bottled up for all to experience. And the good news is you can bring yoga into your home whenever you like.
My friend and life coach, Rachel Tenenbaum, who you’ve seen on the blog before (she also led my birthday yoga class!), is here today to talk about easy yoga moves you can do anywhere, with no fancy equipment, that help with stress and anxiety.
Whether or not you practice yoga, and whether or not you are a beginner or extremely advanced, these poses anyone can do, anywhere. So, keep on reading to find out what they are. Take it away, Rach!
My favorite yoga pose for relieving stress and releasing from the day’s craziness is two minutes of “legs up the wall” pose. I absolutely love this pose as it can be done just about anywhere. All day long our blood, courtesy of gravity, flows downward in our bodies. Blood circulation must fight gravity to flow back up from our toes and our fingers towards our hips and shoulders. When you invert, for the first time in hours, weeks, months or even years, your blood gets to flow with ease from the extremities (especially if you lift your arms up, image 2) without having to fight against gravity. Edema and Inflammation are greatly reduced as inverting the legs gets stuck and stagnant fluids moving again. For all these reasons, “legs up the wall” is probably one of the most restoring poses for aching legs, knees, ankles and feet, and is purported to help with arthritis and many other ailments.
So why two minutes? It takes approximately 2 minutes for the blood to recirculate in the body, and as it does, it can also reset the nervous system, especially when the focus is on the breath and relaxing the body. Modifications for “legs up the wall” include placing a block, blanket or small support under your hips and sacrum. This pose should be done with hips 6-12” away from wall so that the legs can properly relax as their weight falls into the wall. Further than 12”, can add strain to the knees.
Another great stress – and anxiety—relieving pose is child’s pose. I’ve included two versions, since for many people, the first version is not relaxing due to tight hips or knee pain. The second version (similar to puppy dog pose) brings the hips over the knees, which allows for a draping in your back and space to breath into your lungs and belly. Touching the floor with your forehead (or using your hands as a pillow) signals to the brain that it is time to relax and thus can slow the spinning hamster wheel of the mind. Both versions offer a delicious lengthening stretch for the back, with the first version also encouraging a deeper stretch in the hips and quads. The objective in child’s pose is to breathe into the belly, stimulating the neurotransmitters that calm the body and mind. (A modification for the full child’s pose for those who have pain in their knees is to place a blanket behind the knees, where the calf muscle and hamstring meet; this can alleviate the pressure and pain in the knees).
Twisting! Twisting metaphorically “wrings” everything out. It is more difficult to breathe in a twist, but that forced concentration on the breath brings an awareness to the breath when stress and anxiety arise. This flipbook video gives a step-by-step on how to get into this deeper twist in a safe and accessible way. Why do I love this twist? Many back problems come from rounding and twisting, and this version forces extension with the twist (complete opposite!), especially when you are creating traction with your hands or forearms on the floor (traction = pulling chest forward through your arms or hands). Hands flat on the floor is the most gentle variation, forearms down takes the twist deeper, and the deepest expression has you placing the hand towards which you are twisting on the floor where the elbow was, and leveraging the twist even deeper. It is important you feel your body and notice at what point the twist is “enough.”
I LOVE forward folds. That being said they can be very difficult on the lower spine and legs when improperly done, especially for those who have tight hips, hamstrings or legs. What we want to avoid is a very rounded spine with straight legs, as that creates tension in the lower back. When done correctly, this pose REALLY gets into the back of the legs, lengthening the gluteals and hamstrings, muscles that spend most of their day in a contracted position. Why this version of a forward fold works: By sending your hips back and reaching your chest forward, you work the back of the legs. Pulling your chest forward in this manner, using the support of blocks, allows for a traction in the spine (feeling taller anyone?). Though in this picture my face is looking up, you can also let the weight of the head pull and traction the back further, perhaps by bending the arms. Whenever my clients experience head congestion, I always encourage a good forward fold (even using the bent legs as a support for the upper body). After a forward fold, much of that congestion clears.
Lastly, I love restorative bridge. With feet flat on the floor, you press the hips up and place a block under the sacrum area. Any level of the block works, but I recommend starting with the lowest, then moving the block around to see what feels best (I usually use the middle dimension). The block under the sacrum allows the lower back to both be supported while allowing the pull of gravity to decompress the spine. This restorative bridge also works to open the chest, ribs and lungs, making it easier to breath deeply (restorative bridge is often recommended for those who have trouble breathing i.e. those with asthma). Note: if you don’t have a block, you can always use robust pillows or stack blankets.
Thanks so much, Rachel!
Feature image borrowed from Rachel’s blogLeave a Comment