Yoga is a great way to relax and release both physical and emotional tension. Practicing yoga a few times a week can reduce stress and increase flexibility. These three poses can help get you started on the road to feeling more relaxed in your mind and body.
This pose requires some upper body and core strength to hold, but is a great stress buster nonetheless. It stretches out both arms and legs, and brings a great deal of flexibility to the hamstrings.
1) Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Inhale, then exhale as you straighten your legs, lifting your hips and buttocks.
2) While maintaining even breathing, stretch up through your arms and lift out of your armpits. Continue to lift your hips as you release your head down.
3) Release your heels towards the floor, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings. Continue to hold the pose for as long as you feel comfortable, breathing deeply and evenly to release tension.
4) Return to all fours and repeat if desired.
Triangle pose stretches the legs and torso while challenging the body to remain in alignment. Balance and focus are required to hold this pose.
1) Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Turn your right foot so that your toes point to the right. Raise your arms to shoulder level and stretch towards your fingertips.
2) Shift your hips to the left and drop your right hand down to rest on your shin or your ankle, depending on your degree of flexibility.
3) Stretch your left arm towards the ceiling and look up at your hand. Lift your lower right ribs away from your thigh as you breathe.
4) Look down at your right hand and slowly straighten up. Return to center and repeat on the other side.
Head to Knee Pose
Another great hamstring stretcher, head to knee pose also stretches out the lower back and improves overall flexibility. The concentration required to properly hold the pose focuses the mind and forces you to pay attention to both body and breath.
1) Begin in a seated position with your legs straight out in front of you. Press your thighs down on the floor and stretch through your heels, arms at your sides.
2) Bend your right knee and place the sole of your right foot against your left thigh. Focus on pressing both thighs down as you continue with the pose.
3) Inhale, then exhale as you reach forward and grab your left foot with both hands. Inhale again, stretching up through your spine, then exhale as you gently fold forward. Release any tension in your neck and shoulders.
4) Pay attention to how your left hamstring feels as you breathe. If you can, stretch your spine further as you exhale.
5) Inhale and gently come up from the stretch. Return your right leg to center and repeat the pose on the opposite side.
By practicing these and other traditional yoga poses, you’ll begin to find that inner tension decreases as physical fitness and flexibility increase. Don’t hesitate to take your practice to the next level by investing in an at-home yoga workout DVD or finding a local gym or wellness center where you can attend classes.