Stress and anxiety manifest as tension in the body. Many of us experience this tension in the shoulders, lower back, and hips.
Because of its slow and relaxing nature, yin yoga can be calming for both the body and mind.
These specific yin yoga poses soothe the nervous system and target the areas of the body where we typically hold tension caused by stress.
Practice these poses whenever you feel anxious or if you know that you will be going into a stressful situation. They are also great before bedtime to help you get ready for a good night’s sleep. You’ll need a mat and one yoga bolster or pillow.
Viparita Karani | 3 min
Also known as “legs up the wall”, this yin yoga pose brings the body into a gentle inversion to reverse blood flow towards the brain and to calm the nervous system.
- Begin seated facing a wall with your bolster off to one side.
- Lie down on your back and bend your knees to place your feet on the wall. Press into your feet and lift your hips up to slide the bolster underneath you, then lower your hips down onto it.
- Straighten your legs up the wall and extend your arms straight out to the sides. Close your eyes and focus on lightly breathing in and out of your nose for 3 minutes.
Bananasana | 3 min per side
Anxiety can cause us to physically round forward in a subconscious effort to protect ourselves. This pose releases the tension from the chest, shoulders, lats, and intercostal muscles.
- Start by lying down facing up on a mat with your legs straight out in front of you. Bring your right foot to the right edge of the mat and cross your left ankle over your right.
- Catch your left wrist with your right hand and pull it up and over to the top right edge of your mat. Your body should be in the shape of a banana. Close your eyes and hold here for 3 minutes, focusing on lightly breathing in and out of your nose.
- Switch sides.
Caterpillar | 3 min
Release tension from the shoulders, back, and hips, and calm the nervous system with this yin yoga pose.
- Sit down with your legs straight out in front of you. Sit up tall and reach your arms straight forward, bringing a small bend into your knees.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale to reach for your feet, resting your belly on your thighs.
- Place the palms on the floor, framing your calves, and let your shoulders and head relax. If you need more support, slide a pillow under your forehead. Close your eyes and focus on your breath here for 3 minutes.
Melting Heart | 3 min
Open up the chest and shoulders, which become tight and rounded when we feel anxious.
- Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees.
- Keep your hips stacked over your knees and walk your hands forward, melting your chest down towards the floor. Rest your forehead on the floor and continue walking your hands forward until your arms are straight.
- Close your eyes and breathe here for 3 minutes.
Butterfly | 3 min per side
Release tension in the hips and lower back with this calming pose.
- Begin seated with your knees bent. Bring the soles of your feet together to touch and “butterfly” your knees out wide.
- Take an inhale to sit up tall and lengthen your spine, then exhale to walk your hands forward as far as you can while keeping a straight back.
- Allow your arms, head, and shoulders to relax. Close your eyes and focus on breathing in and out of your nose. Hold for 3 minutes.
Half Butterfly | 3 min per side
This calming butterfly variation helps to loosen up the hamstrings.
- Begin seated in your butterfly position. Straighten your right leg out, bringing the foot to the top right edge of the mat.
- Take an inhale to sit up tall and lengthen your spine, then exhale to walk your hands forward to come into a fold. If you need extra support on your neck, place a pillow under your forehead. Otherwise, just let your head hang.
- Hold for 3 minutes, then switch legs.
Sleeping Swan | 3 min per side
Get deep into the hips to release any stored up tension.
- Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Pick up your right knee and bring the shin forward, placing your right knee behind your right wrist. Flex the foot.
- Straighten your left leg back behind you and point the toes.
- You should feel a stretch through your outer right hip. You should not feel any pain or pinching in your knee. If this feels intense, stay up on your palms. Otherwise, lower down to your forearms. Hold for 3 minutes, focusing on your breath and releasing tension from your hips. Then, switch sides.
Child’s Pose | 3 min
Bring the nervous system into a calm, rest-and-digest state, while also relieving hip and lower back tension.
- Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Separate your knees out wide to the edges of your mat and bring your toes to touch.
- Sit your hips back on your heels and then crawl your hands towards the top of the mat, resting your forehead down.
- Relax your arms and shoulders and hold for 3 minutes, allowing your body and mind to relax.
Square Pose | 3 minutes per side
Release anxious tension from the outer hips and lower back.
- Sit cross-legged with your right in front of your left leg. If your hips are tight, prop them up on a pillow or bolster. If this feels intense, keep your legs like this, and keep your chest upright or slowly fold forward.
- If you can add on, pick up your right foot and place the ankle on top of your right thigh. Scoot your left foot slightly forward so that your shins are stacked. Flex both feet.
- Stay upright, or if your shins are close to touching, fold forward over your shins. Hold whichever position you choose for 3 minutes. Switch sides.
Reclining Twist | 3 min per side
Loosen up the muscles surrounding the spine as it calms the nervous system.
- Lie down on your back and hug both knees into your chest.
- Keep your feet lifted and parallel your shins to the mat as you extend your arms out to the sides and bend the elbows to 90 degrees.
- Inhale, then exhale to slowly lower your knees to the left to come into a twist. Keep your head straight or turn it to the right to look over your right shoulder. Close your eyes and focus on your breath as you relax for 3 minutes. Switch sides.
Stirrup | 3 min
This hip-opening yin pose also releases the lower back and hamstrings.
- Lie down on your back and hug your knees up towards your shoulders.
- Bring your upper arms inside of your knees and catch hold of your ankles or feet with your hands. Keep your entire lower back on the floor, as well as your head and shoulders.
- You can stay here with the knees bent at about 45-degrees or open the knees to create 90-degree angles and deepen the stretch. Hold for 3 minutes while focusing on your breath.
Savasana | 5 min
The ultimate calming pose. Ending your practice with savasana brings you into the rest and digest state to fully surrender and relax.
- Lie down facing up. Separate your feet out wide to the edges of your mat, allowing your toes to open outward.
- Extend your arms down by your sides with your palms facing up and bring your shoulder blades slightly together to feel your chest opening.
- Close your eyes and find a natural breath. Allow your entire body to relax. Hold for 5 minutes.
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