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For the last couple of weeks, I have been feeling extremely stressed out and overwhelmed. When stress levels rise, I neglect self care practices. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. I know better, I know that yoga is actually most beneficial during these periods of life.
So I make time to get on my mat, and do this 6 pose sequence to help me relax and relieve anxiety. Roll out your mat and give it a try if you’re with me on the stress train.
The sequence starts with a forward fold, and the remainder of the practice is done laying down. If it’s the end of the day for you, you could opt to do this practice in bed.
Have two blocks handy, maybe put on some calming meditative music, get on your mat, and let everything else go.
1. Seated Forward Fold – Students choice here for this opening relaxing pose. Either opt to do a Straddle Fold with wide legs or Caterpillar Pose with legs straight together. Whichever one you think your body and mind would benefit from most at this moment. Hinge at the hips, tilt from the pelvis. As you fold forward, you can either let gravity do the work, as you dangle over the legs. Or you can use a block to support the head and neck. Lowering the block as your body opens up in to the pose. Relax your legs and arms, soften your jaw, draw your shoulders down away from the ears, close your eyes. When relieving stress, I suggest emphasizing the exhale as you breathe in this pose, making it longer than the inhale. For example, count to 4 on the inhale, then to 6 as you exhale. As you exhale, imagine the tension melting away from you. Allow yourself softness, and be present. As with all yin poses, hold for 3-5 minutes. When the time has come, gently ease out of the pose. Bring strength back in to the arms as you walk the palms in slowly. Use your hands to carefully bend the knees.
2. Laying Spinal Twist – Lower all the way down on to the back. Open arms out in to a T. Bend your knees and bring the soles of the feet to the mat. Push in to the feet to lift your hips and shift them over to the right side of the mat, then set them back down. Lower both knees to the left. Your thighs can either stack, have a block between them, or wrap the right thigh over the left. Keep your chest facing up. Either choose to keep the gaze facing towards the ceiling, or turn the head so you are looking towards your right shoulder. In this grounding pose, breathe naturally. As you lay here, if you find your mind is drifting, come back to your body. All you need to be doing in this moment is this pose, feeling the sensations, everything else can wait. After a few moments here, carefully lift your knees back to center, unravel the legs, shift hips to the left, and drop knees to the right. Taking the twist on the other side.
3. Reclined Pigeon – Have your knees bent and soles of the feet on the mat. Lift your right foot and cross the ankle over your left thigh/knee. Flex your right foot in order to protect the knee. You can choose to stay here. Or take it a step further placing a block under the left foot. Or go further still by reaching through with the hands, interlacing fingers behind the left thigh or front of shin, and hug your legs in. Don’t let your right knee buckle in, rather try to push it up and out. Really getting in to your outer hip and glutes. Remember that your hands are only keeping the legs in place, not forcefully pulling them further in. Drop your shoulders to the mat, and let your head be heavy. Soften your facial muscles. Evenly distribute weight between the left and right sides, particularly in the hips and shoulders. Truly rest in the pose. When a few minutes has passed, carefully set your left foot back down, uncross the legs, and straighten your right leg out to stretch for a few seconds. Then set yourself up on the other side.
4. Banana Pose – Keep the feet flat on the mat and knees bent, as you once again shift the hips over to the right side of the mat. As you straighten your legs out, walk your feet over as far to the left as you can. Then bring your head and shoulders over to the left as well. Your right hip will want to lift up, push it down. You want to keep your entire front body facing up, the stretch is in the side body. To intensify further, you can take your arms overhead. Maybe grabbing hold of opposite elbows. You may also choose to cross your right ankle over the left. It should be comfortable enough to just hold here and rest. Close your eyes and release tension. This should be one of the easiest yin poses to relax in to completely. When the time is up, shift the hips to the left to repeat on the other side.
5. Waterfall – Laying on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, grab hold of one block and place it under your hips. Extend your legs straight up. Keeping a bend in the knees if needed. Or if you are near a wall you might choose to do legs up the wall instead. This is a great pose in high periods of stress, or if you have been standing on your feet all day. Giving your legs the opportunity to be weightless, and reversing the blood flow. Relax your arms by your sides and close your eyes. When you are ready to exit the pose, bend your knees and lower your feet to the floor. Lift your hips and shift the block out of the way as you lower the hips back down.
6. Savasana – For the final resting pose, take up lots of space. Extend the legs long. Lower arms down to the sides, turning palms up to the sky. Fully surrender to this practice for a few more moments. Accept that whatever is going on shall pass. If only for this moment, find serenity, peace and comfort. As you feel ready to move forward with your day, start to awaken your body, wiggling the fingers and toes, maybe taking a full body stretch, turning on to your side and slowly pushing up to a seat.
If you would find it easier to be guided through the practice by my voice, practice along with the video below.
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