INNER CALM OR INNER FIRE? WHICH YOGA POSES FOR STRESS RELIEF DO YOU NEED RIGHT NOW TO FEEL PEACEFUL AND JOYFUL?
Stress affects us differently at different times.
When we’re living life in the fast lane, perhaps in need of constant stimulation, it can be energising. We engage with opportunities and get things done. Problems are faced head on. But it may also be difficult to access inner calm.
When the going gets tough and we feel exhausted and depleted, we may choose to ‘let things go’ and withdraw. This can be a valuable protection mechanism. But what if it means sacrificing the inner fire that can make life worth living?
Both can lead to stress – our human response to which is characterised by the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mechanism.
A stressful situation or thought triggers an immediate response in the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is activated and hormones, such as cortisol, flood the body. Heart rate increases and senses are heightened as the body prepares to respond to the threat.
It is part of our survival mechanism.
“Stress is simply the adaptation of our bodies and minds to change.”Dr. Peter G. Hanson, Author of ‘The Joy of Stress’
Short term stress can be positive. However, when it becomes chronic or prolonged, we may start to struggle.
The parasympathetic nervous system (‘rest and digest’) is also crucial to healthy functioning. We may need to consciously invoke this at times of high stress.
Fortunately, our yoga practice can help us tune into our body and discover what we really need.
We’ve shared 6 yoga poses for stress relief with tips for each. What do you need to get back on an even keel?
6 YOGA POSES FOR STRESS RELIEF
1. Utthitta Balasana (Extended Childs Pose)
This resting posture will help calm an elevated heart rate.
For more efficient respiration, breathe into the back of the body. The rear of each lung has a greater capacity for oxygen uptake than the front.
3 Tips for Utthita Balasana:
- Keep the arms active as you reach forwards.
- Press the bottom back towards the heels and maintain length through the sides of the body.
- Rest the head on a block or cushion if it cannot release to the floor.
2. Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose) – Restorative Yin Version
Forward folds create a sense of safety as the front of the body is protected. They calm the mind and invoke a parasympathetic response in the nervous system. Janu Sirsasana can also relieve lower back tension.
3 Tips for Janu Sirsasana:
- Bring the bent leg heel to its own groin if that’s comfortable.
- Pad out the extended leg knee if it is likely to hyperextend.
- Focus on rotating forward from the pelvis to fold rather than rounding the back excessively.
3. Camatkarasana (Wild Thing)
Yoga poses for stress relief come in many shapes and sizes. When the goal is to shift our focus and energise the body, back arches open the chest and heart, and can have a joyful effect. Wild Thing is one such pose.
3 tips for Camatkarasana:
- Visualise length through the spine.
- Push down through the hands and feet to help lift the chest towards the sky.
- Remember to smile!
4. Parivrtta Balasana (Revolved Childs Pose)
Twists help us to ‘reset’. They bring us back to ourselves, help to calm the brain and relieve stress and fatigue.
3 tips for Parivrrta Balasana:
- Have the thighs vertical and maintain level hips – don’t let either side drop.
- Visualise the spine lengthening and space between the vertebrae. This will ensure energy can flow more freely.
- Use the pads of the fingers on the floor to ease your torso more deeply into the twist.
5. Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall Pose)
Inversions facilitate a downshift in the nervous system and have a quieting effect on the brain.
3 tips for Viparita Karani:
- Can be done with the pelvis resting on the floor or on a bolster.
- Check the legs are vertical – the weight should be directed down through the sacrum at the back of the pelvis.
- Relax the upper body to release tension in the muscles at the back of the neck.
6. Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Yoga balances require our focus and attention. Tree pose helps to develop concentration, stability, balance and poise.
3 Tips for Vrksasana:
- Make sure the standing foot is grounded and the toes spread before you start.
- Engage through the gluteus muscles of the outer hips for stability.
- Focus the gaze on a fixed point ahead of you if you feel wobbly. Relax the face.
Excessive stress can take its toll, so be sure to invest time and energy to manage symptoms, especially at busy times of year. We hope you’ll agree that our selection of yoga poses for stress relief provides a variety of options.
Aim for a balance of inner calm and inner fire… and whatever you do… remember to keep breathing!
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Author: Helen Krag. Helen is a health and wellness enthusiast; observer of human behavioural change; yoga teacher trainee; passionate traveller; and lover of the outdoors.