Sometimes at the end of a bad day, I can hardly wait to hit my yoga mat to indulge in a few stretches to relieve stress that I've found to work well for me over the years. As soon as my legs hit the mat, I know I'm minutes away from being anxiety-free. Stretching is an often overlooked luxury we all have at our disposal. We tend to carry stress in our muscles and our lymph systems aren't able to move fluid thoroughly when this happens. When our lymph systems are clogged, and muscles become stiff, we need to get things flowing again. Try these 7 stretches to relieve stress, which will efficiently work-out your muscles to help move lymph along through your body for less pain and anxiety. Breathing is one of the best ways to lower your stress levels too, so incorporate slow breaths while practicing these.
1. Child's Pose
This is one of my all-time favorite stretches to relieve stress. Stress can mean a lot of different things for each of us. For me, it means carrying tightness in my hips and hamstrings. Anytime I'm stressed out, lying on the floor in this manner really helps my hips open up and hamstrings release. This always brings pleasure by relieving that muscle-stiff tension that comes along with high levels of anxiety. Child's pose is also excellent for calming down the breath.
2. Pigeon Pose
Another favorite move of mine to relieve stress is pigeon pose. Pigeon pose is a yoga pose designed to also open up the hips. By sitting in this posture, your entire body is aligned and you can feel the stretch in your back, legs and hips. This makes an excellent way to manage stress-induced pain, or to relax your lower body. For further stretching, lie the top part of your body down, over the bent leg for even more stress-relieving stretching.
3. Cat and Cow Pose
Stretching out your back is an excellent way to relieve stress. This move also works the shoulders and buttocks. Curl your back up and back down, as if you're curling your back up like a cat does and then lower like a cow does when grazing. The curling of your back in a repeated way is a wonderful way to center yourself. Repeat this motion slowly for 10 breaths.
4. Cobra Pose
Get on your torso on the floor and curl only your back up. You'll immediately feel stress and tension being pulled from your body as your upper body pulls up. This forces you to breathe slowly, which lowers your anxiety levels. I find this to be one of the most simple ways to unwind at the end of a workout or long day.
5. Seated Twist
Being stressed can really take a toll on your digestion and nervous system. Our digestion is directly affected by our nervous system, so when our stress levels are high, most of us notice it in our guts too. I personally suffer from indigestion, bloating and general nausea. The seated twist pose is one of my favorites for slowing down my breath and detoxing my digestive organs. This move relieves stress in your stomach by massaging all the digestive organs and stimulating blood flow to the stomach. This is essential for good digestion and regulating the nerves in your tummy. It also relieves back pain, which is an immediate relief when you're stressed.
6. Forward Bend
When I'm in need of an alternative perspective of things, I literally turn my head upside down. By doing a forward bend, your blood and lymph fluids move in a completely different direction as they normally would. This stimulates better blood flow, which creates a clarity effect on the brain. It relieves tension almost immediately. Do this stretch for 2 whole minutes for the full effect. I sometimes like to pull my arms up behind my back for an added stretch.
7. Legs on the Wall
I saved my absolute favorite for last. After I do any exercise or set of stretching, I always go to this pose to end my routine with. This pose is fantastic for relieving stress. I usually lie in this position for about 10-20 minutes and check emails on my phone, surf the net on my phone, which seems to help take my mind off my anxiety and my workday. My breath slows down and the tension in my legs is released immediately from being on my feet all day. This stretch can also get rid of a headache or help with bad digestion. It moves lymph along through the lower body, and helps blood flow reverse as well. This can provide great relief to your muscles and your stress levels. I highly recommend this simple stretch. I like to lie feet up on my bed, but you can also use a wall as your foot prop, as pictured.
Do you have any favorite stretches to relieve stress? Share them! I love getting new ideas for zoning out after a long day. Sometimes we just need to get out of our heads and into our bodies.