Step by step guide to yoga relaxation
By Melanie Catches
Illustrations By Katelyn Bailey
Every student experiences some form of stress, but not every student knows how to relieve this stress. Exercise can be a big help when it comes to stress reduction, and yoga is a great exercise to achieve this. The deep breathing, meditation and rhythmic exercises create a tranquil state for relaxation and mindfulness. Fitting the following poses into your life can reduce everyday stress and boost your energy and mood.
No matter where you are or what you are wearing, you can stop everything and do these five poses. It may not change what is happening around you, but it will leave you with a refreshed point of view and a better attitude.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
The cobra pose opens up the shoulders and neck, improves blood circulation and reduces fatigue and stress. It’s a very useful pose for people diagnosed with any respiratory disorders, such as asthma.
Place your hands palms down on the ground beneath your shoulders. Lift your chest up off the ground by straightening your arms. Gaze upwards, and keep your abdominals engaged. For Cobra Pose, lie down on your abdomen, and point your feet behind you.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a resting position that quiets the mind, easing stress and anxiety, while gently stretching your back.
Begin with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your hips stacked over your knees and the tops of your feet relaxed down on the mat (tabletop position). Center your breath, and begin to let your thoughts slow down. Rest your buttocks on your heels. Sit up straight, and lengthen your spine.
On an exhalation, bend forward, leading with your chest and draping your torso between your thighs. Allow your forehead to rest on the floor. You can keep your arms long and extended overhead on the floor or place them alongside your thighs with your palms facing up.
Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Resting your legs up the wall pose is incredibly helpful for stress reduction. The pose renews blood and lymph drainage back towards the heart.
Begin the pose by sitting with your left side against the wall. Gently turn your body to the left, and bring your legs up onto the wall. Use your hands for balance as you shift your weight. Lower your back to the floor and lie down. Rest your shoulders and head on the floor.
Shift your weight from side-to-side, and scoot your buttocks close to the wall. Let your arms rest open at your sides, palms facing up. Let the heads of your thigh bones (the part of the bone that connects in the hip socket) release and relax, dropping toward the back of your pelvis. Close your eyes, breathing into the stretch.
Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) to Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
The cat and cow poses alleviate lower back stress.
Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips and your wrists are under your shoulders. Begin in a neutral spine position with your back flat, and your abs engaged. Inhale a deep breath.
On the exhale, round your spine up towards the ceiling, and imagine you’re pulling your belly button up towards your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin towards your chest, letting your neck release. This is your cat-like shape.
On your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax and go loose. Lift your head and tailbone up towards the sky without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck. This is the Cow portion of the pose. Continue flowing back and forth from Cat Pose to Cow Pose, and connect your breath to each movement — inhale for Cow Pose, and exhale on Cat Pose.
Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
A variation of child’s pose, this mild inversion allows you to counter the tendency to crouch and slouch your shoulders while studying or stressed.
Begin in tabletop position. Walk your hands out in front of you, lowering your chest down toward the ground. Keep your hips over your knees and your arms shoulder distance apart. Gently release your forehead down to the ground.
Activate your arms by pressing into the palms of your hands and lifting your elbows and forearms away from the ground. Draw your shoulder blades into your back, and reach your hips up high toward the ceiling. Invite your neck to relax and breathe into your back, lengthening your spine in both directions.