The lazy days of summer are drawing to a close, and as things start amping back up at work and school, it’s easy to get a little bit overwhelmed and very stressed out. No matter what your source of anxiety, these yoga moves will help you relax, refocus, and release some of that pent up tension.
1. Controlled Breathing
This is a great way to start your practice. Sit in a seated, cross-legged position. Lengthen your spine as you inhale, and as you exhale place your hands on your knees, palms facing up. Take a moment to think about the intention of your practice and relax into the seated position.
On your next inhale, breathe in deeply to a slow count of four, but don’t exhale just yet. Hold your breath for four counts, then exhale for a slow count of eight. Repeat this controlled breathing for up to a full minute to calm your mind.
2. Downward Facing Dog
Come onto your hands and knees, and on your next inhale, straighten your legs, so your body forms an inverted V. Let gravity pull your heels toward the ground, and leave your neck in a neutral position.
Relax into this posture, letting gravity release built up tension in your neck and the backs of your legs. You can hold downward dog for 10 deep breaths or up to five minutes! Start out with what’s comfortable for you, and work up to holding the pose for a bit longer as you practice more.
3. Extended Puppy
Move back to all fours, then walk your hands out in front of you and lower your chest toward the floor with your bottom still in the air. Rest your forehead on the floor, breathe, and relax. Feel the muscles lengthening along your spine and in your neck. Hold this for 10-15 deep breaths.
4. Standing Forward Bend
Another good pose for releasing tension in your back, neck, and shoulders, standing forward bend also helps you clear your mind. Stand up straight with your feet hip width apart and arms by your sides. As you inhale, raise your arms over your head, then “swan dive” forward, bending at the waist, until your body is folded in half.
Either place your hands on the floor or grasp your opposite elbows, and hang out here taking slow, deep breaths for up to a minute.
To come out of forward bend, roll your spine up, one vertebra at a time, lifting your head up last.
5. Half Moon Pose
Balancing is an excellent way to get anxious thoughts out of your head. As you find balance in your body, your mind will balance, too!
Start out with your legs about four feet apart. Place your left hand on your left hip, then bend to the right. Place your right palm on the floor a foot or two away from your right foot.
Now, slowly bring your left leg off of the floor and straighten your left arm toward the sky. You should now be balanced on your right arm and leg, with your left leg parallel to the floor and your left arm reaching toward the sky. Hold this posture for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the left side.
Here’s a good photo of Half Moon, in case you’re having a hard time visualizing this posture.
6. Easy Pose
Sit on the floor with your legs crossed, resting your hands on your knees with the palms facing up. If you like, you can let your thumbs touch your pointer fingers or just leave your fingers neutral.
Sit with your back straight and breathe, focusing on deep inhalations and exhalations. You can stay in easy pose for as long as you like. If you’re feeling extra tension, try adding some neck and shoulder rolls to this posture.
7. Seated Forward Bend
Sit up straight on the floor with your legs out in front of you, feet touching. Flex your feet, pulling your toes toward your body and your heels off of the floor. Inhale, and raise your arms over your head, then exhale and stretch forward with your arms.
Grab on wherever you can reach — thighs, knees, calves, or feet — and rest in that position for 10-12 deep breaths. Let your head relax and feel the tension release from your neck.
8. Camel Pose
This backward bend helps release tension in the front of your body. Begin sitting on your knees, then lift your bottom off of your heels, so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor.
Place your palms on your lower back for support, then slowly bend backward, starting with your spine and finally releasing your head back. If you’re comfortable here, you can release your hands from your back and grab on to your heels to deepen the stretch.
To come out of the pose, place your hands back on your back, and slowly straighten your spine, lifting your head last.
9. Bridge Pose
To practice this simple inversion, start out on your back, drawing your feet toward your bottom, but keeping your heels on the floor. Grab on to your feet, then lift your bottom off of the floor.
The idea here is to have a straight line from your knees to your neck. Squeeze your bottom to lift up higher off of the floor. Hold this for 10 deep breaths, and then release.
10. Reclining Hero Pose
Start out seated on your knees, and gently move your knees and feet apart, so you can place your bottom on the floor. If you’re not able to do that, your body might not be ready for this pose. Respect your knees: don’t push it if it hurts!
If you can get into this position, slowly lean backward, coming on to your elbows. If you’re comfortable there, lower your body down. The deepest version of this posture is when your back is resting on the floor. Relax here for up to one minute, taking deep breaths.
11. Salutation Seal
Come to a seated, cross-legged position once again, with your back straight. Imagine a string going up your spine, pulling your head toward the sky. Now, bring your palms together into prayer position, and relax.
You can hold this pose for as long as you like. Try to clear your mind and focus on your breath.
12. Corpse Pose
Whether you did all of the poses above or just a few, this posture lets your body soak in the benefits from your practice.
Lay on your back with your feet hip distance apart and your arms by your sides. Focus your attention on your toes, imagining them letting go of any tension. Then, shift your focus to your feet and ankles, releasing any stress you’re holding there. Allow your awareness to move up your body, relaxing each part, ending by relaxing your neck, your face, and the top of your head. Stay here, enjoying total relaxation, for as long as you like. No one will judge if you happen to doze off for a bit!