Get Stretched Out Not Stressed Out

Written by | Fitness, Wellness

When life gets too loud, these yoga poses provide a pleasant escape.

This spring felt different. April showers brought May flowers, but most of us were too distracted to genuinely appreciate their beauty. Let’s face it… social distancing measures, while completely necessary, have added unfamiliar pressures to our lives. Home and work balance became blurred as soon as our kitchen tables were converted into “shared” office spaces. Employed parents involuntarily added the new position of “schoolteacher” to their resumes after classrooms closed at the top of the year. Americans residing in metropolitan areas like New York City will attest that the walls feel like they are closing in a little tighter each day. Emotions are running high. It is just… A LOT.

One of the best ways to tackle stress is by engaging in physical activity, but many may be asking the question, “how can I be active when I’m constantly being reminded to stay home?” Yogis already know the secret, and now Metrosource readers will too.

A yoga teacher said something in a class several years ago that stuck with me – “The borders of your mat will provide all of the space that you need.” A standard yoga mat measures 68 inches long and 24 inches wide. Within that rectangle, one can begin to balance their body, mind, and soul. And if that sounds too “crunchy,” the space between can at least provide enough room to enjoy a deep satisfying stretch.

Feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or exhausted?  You are not alone. These stress-busting yoga poses are here whenever you require a reset button. As we are all forced to adopt a very “one day at a time” mindset, so will these postures help reinforce that notion.

Sukhasana (easy pose with forward bend)

Sukhasana is a strong base for meditation or for simply taking a moment to reconnect with your breath. Take a cross legged position and sit with a tall spine, allowing the crown of the head to reach toward the ceiling. For a deeper hip and side body stretch, lift the arms up and overhead and then bow the torso over the legs, sending the fingertips toward the front of the mat. If the head is hanging, place a pillow or block underneath for support. Breathe here for eight to 10 breaths. When finished, walk the hands back toward the legs and roll up slowly until the skull floats above the spinal column.

Uttanasana (standing forward bend)

This gentle inversion is the perfect midday “pick me up.” Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Draw the arms up and overhead, and then take a gentle swan dive motion to send the torso over the hips and forward for all the head, neck, arms, and upper back to dangle. Reach for opposite elbows and sway back and forth for eight long inhalations and exhalations. Then release the arms and gradually come to a standing position by rolling up one vertebra at a time. You should feel alert, focused, and ready to revisit the tasks ahead.

Anjaneyasana (low lunge)

This pose has it all! From a forward bend position, place your fingertips on the mat and send your left foot toward the back of the mat. Drop the left knee. The right foot will remain in between the hands with the knee stacked on top. Press through your right sole of your foot and the top of your left foot, zip the thighs together and bring the hands to rest on top of your right thigh. Use two or three breaths to create a firm base. Then lift the arms up and incorporate a backbend from the center of the spine, allowing the head and neck to drop back in space. Breathe here for three to five breaths. Release the hands to frame your right foot, and then step the left foot up to meet the right at the top of your mat, returning to a forward fold. Repeat on the opposite side.

Vrksasana (tree pose)

There are few yoga postures more grounding than Vrksasana, also known as tree pose. By challenging the body’s ability to balance on one leg, yogis can become more centered, focused, and confident. Stand with the feet together and arms to the side. Pick a drishti (yogic gaze) point on which to focus. This should be a stationary object that does not move. Next, externally rotate the right hip so the toes face out to the right side of the mat (think like a ballerina here). Slide the right heel above the ankle with the ball of the foot on the ground. Stay here or continue to slide the foot up the calf or place the foot on the thigh above the knee (and never directly on the knee). Wherever the foot lands, continue to press the sole firmly into the opposite leg. This traction will help open the hip. Next, let your tree grow by lifting the arms up and overhead. Reach for opposite elbows to create extra space in the heart and upper back. Continue to focus on your drishti point, breathing in through the nostrils and out for at least eight breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

Halasana (plow pose)

This inversion calms the nerves, balances the brain, and can be achieved starting from a position on your back. Begin by lying flat on the mat. Bring the arms alongside the body with the palms facing down. Draw the knees in toward the forehead and then send the toes overhead, so they tap the floor. (It is okay if they hover. Stacking pillows behind the head can bring the ground closer to you.) Keep the gaze at the belly button throughout this pose to support the neck. Begin to roll the shoulders underneath the body to find a sturdy foundation at the top of the back. Be aware, this pose is not ideal for people with prior neck or back injuries. An alternative would be to lie on the back, draw the knees in, and then send the heels toward the ceiling, with the toes flexed down toward the face. The hands can come to the back of the thighs to provide added support. Spend up to 15 deep breaths in either posture. To release, roll out slowly using your hands as brakes. Take a few minutes lying flat on your back in Shavansana (corpse pose) after this one to absorb the benefits of this posture.

People doing yoga at the park

Last modified: June 20, 2020