The overwhelming question I get when my patients or peers find out that I am a yoga teacher as well as a physician is, “what can I do to relax or have less stress in my life?”
There are a lot of things that one can do to relieve stress, the first of which is trying to do less and to find satisfaction in your life with less. While you are on your journey of finding peace and calm in your every day life, there are a few yoga poses accessible to all level of yogis (from beginners to experts) that can help bring some calm and relaxation into your life. Side note, I highly recommend meditation, if you are looking to find a way to bring some calm and rest to your busy life and your busy mind.
I chose the poses below because they are all known for their calming effects on the mind and the nervous system. Cat/cow poses is a dynamic pose that will help relieve tension and stress in your lower back and the rest of the poses will help you breathe space into your back and vertebrate by counter acting the poses that most of us are in all day—the sitting pose.
The most important part with these poses, is that they should be comfortable and easy. If you are supposed to be touching the floor, but you can’t touch the floor (either with your forehead or your hands) bring the floor closer to you by using blocks or blankets or an upside down chair as your new “floor”. Unlike other sports or exercises, you do not want to feel a burn or pain when doing these yoga poses. You should feel calm, peace and relaxation once you are done with the five pose flow.
Cat and Cow Pose
Start on all fours with your arms shoulder width apart and your legs, hip width apart.
To start with cow pose, lift your chin and chest and drop your belly down in order to make a dip in your lower back. Your pelvis is tilted forward and your seat is high in the air.
To transition to cat pose, drop your chin to your chest and arch your back. Your arms are straight in both poses. Flow between cat and cow pose for 2 minutes with slow inhales and exhales with each pose.
Start by kneeling on your mat with your knees hip width apart. Rest your forehead on your mat.
If it does not comfortably rest on your mat, roll a blanket or towel or place a block under your forehead.
Rest your arms behind your back to rest and relax your shoulders. Your seat should be resting on your heels (big toes touching, heels apart). If you feel tightness in your groin or the top of your thighs, roll a blanket or towel and place it between your torso and top of your thighs.
Stay here for at least 2 minutes.
Wide Bent Leg Forward Fold
Stand along the long edge of your mat with your legs hip distance apart. Bend your legs and rest your torso on your thighs. Place your hands flat on your mat.
If you cannot reach the floor, place a block under each hand or bend your legs deeper. After taking a few breaths, add a little movement to the pose, by swaying your hips, gently, from side to side. You can also frame your head by folding your arms and grabbing your elbows.
Stay in for two minutes where you can alternate from hands on the mat to folded arms framing face and swaying back and forth.
Lay down on your mat. Bend both legs and place your feet hip distance apart or as wide as your mat. Let your knees fall in to one another. Cross your arms over your chest, like you are giving yourself a hug. Close your eyes.
This is a great pose to do a short mediation. With each inhale, say the word peace and with each exhale say the love. Or lay here and do nothing. I like to stay in constructive rest for at least 5 minutes. If it is hard for you to lie still, then you should stay in this pose for 10 minutes :)
By Melynda Barnes, M.D. - Co-Founder, Facial Plastic Surgeon, and Yogi
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