Article and photos by Devakar Sandhu
Exercise is one of the top ways to relieve stress, but many forms of exercise increase tension. Running and lifting weights, for example, can lead to tighter muscles and musculoskeletal imbalances – especially if you are exercising while out of alignment.
Yoga, however, helps to relieve tension. Under the guidance of a good yoga instructor, you can learn how to align your posture, move well and breathe properly. These core aspects of yoga relieve tension, physically and emotionally.
Here are four yoga asanas (poses) to reduce tensions and release pent-up stress in the body.
Big Toe Pose (Padangusthasana)
This pose stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles while strengthening the thigh muscles. It removes tensions in the core of the body.
Method: Start from standing position with the feet placed six inches apart.
- Keep your legs straight and flex your thigh muscles, so your knees lift up.
- Bend your torso forward to your knee. Move your head with your torso.
- Bring your hands down to the legs and hold the big toe (hence the name) with the index and thumb of your hand.
- Take a deep breath. Now, raise your torso to the upright standing position.
- Exhale and bend forward again to grab hold of your big toe.
- Repeat 5-6 times.
- Come to a standing position and relax.
Avoid if you have injuries in the back or leg. Also, avoid if you have pain or injuries in the neck.
Boat Pose (ParipurnaNavasana)
This pose strengthens the deep hip flexor and the abs. It makes your spine supple and strong.
Method: Start from sitting position on the floor.
- Press on the floor with your hands and strengthen it.
- Make your legs stiff and point with your toes in front of you. Raise the legs together until they make forty-five degrees with the floor.
- Raise your hands straight out in front of you to balance your body. Tighten your core muscles and open your shoulder blades. Lengthen your spine.
- Hold the pose for a count of ten and then come back to sitting position. Repeat the cycle 5-6 times.
Avoid if you have injuries to the back. Also, avoid if you have low blood pressure, diarrhoea, or asthma.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
In this yoga asana, your spine becomes curved like that of the fetus. It helps your body release tensions instantly.
Method: Start from a kneeling or sitting position on the floor.
- Kneel on the floor with the big toes touching each other. Sit on your heels.
- Bring your hands apart as wide as your hips.
- Exhale and lay your torso between your hands.
- Bring your hands down on the floor down beside you. Put them palm upward so that they rest completely on the floor.
- Bend your torso forward until your forehead rests on the floor. Turn your face sideways so you can rest comfortably.
- Release the front of your shoulders to the floor completely.
- Inhale and raise the tailbone up, lift your torso from your thighs. Lengthen the front torso and press the tailbone into the pelvis.
- Come to kneeling position and relax. Repeat the cycle 5-6 times.
Avoid if you are pregnant or have diarrhoea. Also, avoid if you have any knee injuries.
Dolphin Plank Pose (MakaraAdhoMukhaSvanasana)
This pose strengthens the muscles of the arms and thighs. It adds strength to the core and tones the abdominal muscles. It calms the brain and relieves the stress. It reduces the incidence of osteoporosis.
Method: Start from the tabletop position on all fours.
- Raise your buttocks up in the air.
- Move your legs back by slowly walking them.
- Drop your torso by bending your hands at the elbows. Rest your body weight on this.
- Raise your body off the floor and make your legs straight. Rest on your toes.
- Pull your core muscles inward and press the tailbone toward your pubis. Make the shoulder blades broad.
- Press the front thighs to the ceiling. Lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
- Keep your gaze soft. Hold the pose and count ten. Then relax and come to a prone position on the yoga mat.
- Repeat the exercise from the tabletop position.
Avoid if you have shoulder injuries or neck injuries. Give some forehead support if needed.
Note that it is better to do the asanas when your stomach is empty. Also, stop doing the exercise if you feel any pain and consult your yoga guru before you take any further action.
Devakar Sandhu is Founder of Ekam Yogashala, a Yoga Alliance, USA accredited school of yoga teacher training in India. The school is recognized for achieving the highest standardized yoga teaching methods worldwide. EKam Yogashala offers 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in India (Rishikesh, Kerala, Nepal and Dharamsala).