You might have heard that May is mental health awareness month. This gives us a great opportunity to focus on our mental health and look at any challenges we might be facing.
The number of people facing stress, anxiety and burnout has been increasing over the past years, and seems to have only increased at a faster rate during the pandemic. This makes it important for us to be able to recognize the early signs of stress and have tools at your fingertips to support you in being more resilient to stress.
Yoga, breathing, and meditation are all useful techniques to use for observing the early signs of stress in our bodies, helping to manage stress relief, and improving our overall wellbeing.
Want to jump right into a guided practice? You can practice along with Irene’s 15 minute hatha yoga for stress relief on YouTube.
How does yoga relieve stress?
The attitude and intention that we bring to our yoga practice can help us use yoga as a tool for relieve stress. By tuning your focus inwards towards your body and breath you can help shift your mental state away from worrying about the past and the future and instead bring your awareness to the present moment.
"I've had many worries in my life, most of which never happened." - Mark Twain
You can start by moving your body slowly in a way that feels comfortable for your body and linked to the pace of your breath. This will help you to use your yoga practice to relax your body, breath, and mind.
5 Yoga Poses for Stress Relief
Try out the following five yoga poses with a focus on allowing your body to soften and breath to guide your practice.
1) Seated Meditation with Closed Eyes
You can come to a comfortable seated position and close your eyes. Taking a moment to tune into your posture. Letting your hips and legs be heavy and spine be long.
From here take a few minutes to observe your breath. Doing your best to keep noticing each inhale and exhale.
2) Seated Side Bends in Easy Pose
In this seated side bend stretch we’ll move fluidly from side to side with the breath. You can use the inhale to lengthen through your spine and exhale as you lean to one side.
See if you can focus on linking the pace of your movement with the pace of your breath.
3) Cat / Cow Pose
When we’re feeling stressed we might feel tension in our neck and shoulders. By moving our spine and head in the cat / cow pose it can help release tightness from our muscles. You can continue to keep your awareness on your breathing, opening out and arching your spine on the inhale, and rounding on the exhale.
4) Yoga Squat, the Garland Pose
Our hips are another area that can build up tightness. You can ease your hips into the yoga squat and rock your hips from side to side. If it doesn’t feel accessible to have your hips low you can experiment with keeping the hips a bit higher than your knees or see how it feels to place some support (like a block or rolled up mat) under your heels.
5) Cow Face Pose Variation with Side Bend
Finally we’ll move into a variation of the cow face pose where we focus on opening the side of our torso.
You could experiment with closing your eyes in this position to help you really keep focused on your immediate experience of body sensations and breathing in the pose.
I hope you find these tips helpful and can try using this hatha yoga practice and focal points to help relieve stress.
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