I've been working out regularly for years, but it wasn't until early 2012 that I made a commitment to start practicing yoga regularly. It's been instrumental in helping me both physically (anyone, in my opinion, who does high intensity cardio should be balancing it out with yoga) and mentally, because it helps teach you that simply breathing can make any difficult situation better.
It's not an easy task to take a step back and calm down when you're anxious, but practicing asanas is a great tool. Amanda Murdock, who teaches at Pure Yoga and SLT, has agreed to show us five poses we can do anytime we're looking to ease stress.
Legs Up the Wall
This pose allows your nervous system to relax and reroutes blood and lymphatic circulation. It also grounds you and brings you back to the present. Often called the fountain of youth pose, it can be done by beginners or experts.
How to do it: Lie flat on your back with your arms laying at the side and your palms down or open the arms with your palms up to open the heart even more. Rest your legs against the wall to hold this pose longer comfortably or for more advanced practices, lift up your lower back and rest the bottom on the hands.
This opening expands the ribcage giving lungs more room to breathe, which allows you to take deeper, longer breaths. This pose also stretches the chest and shoulder muscles.
How to do it: While sitting, place a medium-height block behind you vertically beneath where your shoulder blades will lay and place another block behind that one vertically to use as a pillow for your head (use lower blocks if this height doesn’t feel great on your back). Allow your body to gently rest on the blocks, adjusting their placement until you’re comfortable, with arms resting on either side.
Supported twists stretch out the lower back, outer hip, chest and hip flexors. With each exhale, picture yourself wringing out like a sponge, getting rid of what you don’t want or need in your body or mind.
How to do it: Lying on the ground, hug your right knee into your chest, “T” your arms out to either side and allow your right knee to fall to the left. You can stay with a neutral neck or, if it feels good, look to the right. You can also take your left hand to your right thigh to allow the weight of your hand to ground your twisted leg. Stay here for at least five deep breaths, and then repeat on the other side. (This can also be done with a block as seen in the lower two images.)
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
This pose stretches your inner thigh and groin muscles. It can help relieve the symptoms of stress, mild depression, PMS and menopause because it moves and frees energy in your pelvic area and it relaxes your mind and central nervous system. It also aids in digestion.
How to do it: Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet pressed together and your feet as close to your body as you can comfortably get them. Then lower your upper body to the floor and put your arms out to your sides with your palms facing up. (This can also be done with a block as seen in the lower image.)
A resting position, this is a gentle low back, hip, quad and shoulder stretch.
How to do it: On bended knees, lean forward with the forehead to the mat. Lay arms at the sides of the body with palms up next to the feet or palms down stretched over the head. Breathe deeply, focusing on the breath with your eyes closed. It can also be a good pose for insomnia: lay in this position with a pillow under your face and between your abdominal and thighs, arms along your side for sleep.
Images taken at Pure Yoga by Sharon Feiereisen