Ease anxiety and naturally lower cortisol levels with these soothing restorative yoga poses.
When you get stressed out, your body’s fight-or-flight response is activated, causing a release of the hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands. Once this high-alert state is activated, your body is ready for action, and without a physical release (like running from a large, scary animal, for example), cortisol levels build up in the bloodstream. In modern society, our stress is caused by things like a work deadline or an inbox overloaded with emails. We usually don’t have an outlet for cortisol, which leaves it building up in the body.
When cortisol is released, there is a shutdown of important bodily functions, including your digestive and reproductive systems, your immune system, and growth processes. If your stress levels remain high for an extended period of time, high cortisol levels can cause:
- Belly fat
- Diminished bone density
- Unbalanced blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Breakdown of muscle tissue
Restorative yoga can help to lower stress before it has a chance to take its toll on your body. These poses encourage you to relax, slow down your breathing, and focus on the present moment. This helps to shift the body from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation (rest and digest) response.
Relaxing poses help to lower breathing and heart rate, decrease blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, increase the release of happy hormones like serotonin and endorphins, and increase blood flow to the intestines and vital organs.
Restorative Yoga Poses to Naturally Lower Cortisol
Use these restorative yoga poses daily to fight high cortisol causing stress. You’ll need a pillow or bolster and a yoga mat or towel.
Supported Child’s Pose | 3 min
This pose helps to foster a deep sense of relaxation, which will help to decrease stress and high cortisol levels.
- Place a pillow or bolster vertically up and down your mat. Kneel down in a tabletop position over your pillow.
- Bring your knees out wide to the edges of your mat and your big toes to touch. Then, sit your hips back onto your heels.
- Walk your hands forward to lower your belly, chest, and one cheek onto the pillow. Relax your arms on the mat alongside your pillow. Close your eyes and relax here for 3 minutes, switching to the other cheek halfway through.
Supported Butterfly | 2 min
This restorative pose helps to calm the mind and relieves tension in the hips to help unleash stored stress.
- Start seated on your mat.
- Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall outwards to a butterfly position.
- Place a pillow or bolster on top of your legs and place a yoga block or rolled-up towel on top of the bolster. Then, walk your hands forward to lower your belly and chest onto the pillow. Place the block underneath your forehead so that your neck is long. Rest your hands on top of the pillow and allow your shoulders to relax. Close your eyes and hold for 2 minutes.
Supported Wide-Legged Forward Fold | 2 min
Forward folds help to calm the nervous system and relax the mind and body. This restorative fold helps to relieve stress even further by releasing tension in the hips, hamstrings, and inner thighs.
- Begin seated on your mat with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Separate your legs outward to come into a straddle position. Keep your toes and knees pointing up towards the sky. Place your pillow between your legs.
- Walk your hands forward and lower your chest down. Stack your palms on top of the pillow and lower your forehead down onto the backs of your hands. If the pillow feels too low and your back is really rounded, place a yoga block or folded-up towel underneath your hands for more height.
- Close your eyes and allow the props to support you. Hold for 2 minutes.
Supported Spinal Twists | 2 min per side
This supported twist releases tension around the spine and hips, relieving stress and anxiety.
- To begin, place your long pillow vertically up and down your mat.
- Sit in front of the pillow facing sideways, with your right hip next the pillow. Bend your knees so that they are pointing to the right.
- Twist your torso to face the pillow and place your hands down to frame it. Walk your hands towards the top of the mat to bring your torso to rest on the pillow. Rest your right cheek down and relax your arms down next to the pillow. Close your eyes, hold for 2 minutes, and then switch sides.
** Note: If it feels uncomfortable in your neck, place your block or towel under your cheek.
Supported Fish | 3 min
Stress causes tension in the chest, neck, and shoulders. You’ll feel your tension melt away as this relaxing pose gently opens up the front of the body.
- Begin by placing your pillow going vertically up and down your mat. Sit in front of it, facing away, with your legs bent and your feet on the ground.
- Keep your hips on the ground and use your hands to lower your back, shoulders, and head onto the pillow. Make sure that the bolster is supporting your head.
- Bring your arms out to the sides and turn your palms to face up. You can keep your knees bent or straighten your legs down the mat. Close your eyes and relax for 3 minutes.
Legs Up the Wall | 3-5 min
This calming pose helps to awaken and re-energize systems of the body that can be shut down by excess cortisol. This pose will leave you feeling energized, refreshed, and stress-free.
- Begin with your pillow off to one side and sit next to the wall with your legs parallel to the wall. Roll back and slide your legs up the wall.
- Bend your knees and press your feet into the wall to lift your hips. Slide the pillow underneath your sacrum.
- Extend your legs straight up the wall. Spread your arms out wide by your sides with your palms facing up. Close your eyes and find a natural breath. Allow the muscles of your face to relax and the pillow and ground to support you. Hold for 3-5 minutes.
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