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Calming Yoga Poses for Stress Relief

Is stress having a noticeable impact on your ability to enjoy life? The past few months have been super stressful as the whole world grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic. I’ve noticed the effects of isolation, the worry about getting sick or loved ones getting sick, seeing the reports daily as people struggle with this virus, confusing information about how to best take care of yourself and your family…it has seeped into our everyday lives. At my house, we’ve been very lucky as we haven’t had anyone super close to us who has been sick with the virus. On the other hand, we also have never had QUITE this much time at home together. It’s a lot. (I mean, can we get his and hers Netflix remotes? Is that a thing? I will research this some more. It’s the little things.) I’m also still on high alert after the Great Toilet Paper Scare of March 2020. I stay well stocked now just in case. Well stocked. Not knowing what on EARTH is going to happen, though, is truly difficult. This feeling that ends up staying with us is reminiscent of always looking for the other shoe to drop. WHAT NEXT?! Routine and predictability are comforting. It’s human nature - our natural self-protection to go with what we know is safe. When we experience little changes, it’s easy to pivot and reroute. Big changes, though, can throw us for a loop and have us questioning our capability, our strengths, our very place in this world.

In this season of roller coaster unpredictability, I find myself reaching for every tool I have to stay grounded. The first and most important tool I’ve found is self-awareness. Notice when you are beginning to feel stressed. Where does it show up for you? Do you feel it in your chest? Your belly? Does your jaw clench or your hands ball up into fists? Are your shoulders crunched up into your ears? When you know what your patterns are, you can see when you start to enter the “fight, flight, or freeze” zone when it isn’t necessary, and you can start to implement tools of calm. This way, you are building nervous system resilience – making adapting to changes a little bit easier. Like a cat who can go from relaxing on a windowsill to dashing out of the room, you can learn to access calm when you need it and activate action when needed.

Here are some yoga poses that are particularly grounding and restorative. A little can go a long way to calm and soothe the nervous system and help send that message to the brain that you are safe – that it’s safe to relax. Try this short sequence of poses whenever you start to notice the effects of stress showing up for you.

1. Child’s Pose

Come to hands and knees. Bring your knees out wide, your toes to touch, and sink the hips back to the heels. To make it extra calming, grab a pillow and put it under your head. Curl the shoulders forward and let your hands rest next to your feet. Hold for 5 breaths.

2. Bridge Pose

Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor – hip width apart. Bring arms to the side of your body, palms down. Press your feet into the floor, inhale and lift your hips keeping the knees hip width apart. Press into your arms and shoulders to lift the chest and engage the legs to lift your hips higher. Hold for 4 breaths then lower down on an exhale.

3. Legs Up the Wall Pose

Sit with your hips up against a wall. Roll onto your back and bring your legs up the wall. Press the glutes as close to the wall as possible. If toes begin to tingle, bend the knees and bring feet down a little.

4. Dolphin Pose

Come back on all fours. Lower down onto your forearms, curl the toes under and lift the hips up high. Have your hands shoulder width apart with your fingers spread wide. Let your head and shoulders hang down in space. Hold for 2 breaths and come back to all fours.

5. Seated Forward Fold

Grab a pillow for this one. Begin seated with your legs extended out long. Prop the pillow on your thighs (or 2 or 3 however many pillows you want). Inhale and lift the crown of the head so the spine is tall, then fold forward and lay your head on the pillow. Let the arms hang down on either side of your legs.

Always be Breathing

During all these poses, remember to bring your attention to the breath. Notice your breathing. You can even try a few breathing exercises as you allow yourself to rest into these restorative poses.

If you’d like to try an hour class, I have weekly live classes you can join online, as well as a growing video library with free short videos and some full classes you can purchase for download and access anytime that’s convenient for you. I design all of my classes with self-awareness and stress relief in mind to help you not only build strength and flexibility, but also helping build nervous system resilience.

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