Treatment

10 Yoga Poses to Fight Stress

Amanda Page Jun 7th, 2013 (updated May 16th, 2014)
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Research suggests that hitting the mat at least once a week for two years or more slows the release of cytokine, a stress-triggered protein, which can cause bad moods and fatigue. Regular sessions also boost levels of the brain chemical GABA, which can lead to depression when levels are low. Here are some poses that can help you get good results.

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Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child’s pose is the classic resting pose and an easy way to achieve relaxation. It involves bending your legs under your body and pulling your head towards your knees, helping to comfort and soothe your busy mind. Try child's pose when you feel stressed, and remember to breathe deeply.  

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Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

Begin by lying in a neutral position on your stomach. Then, planting your palms on the ground next to your abdomen, lift your body slowly off the mat so the tops of your feet and your palms are the only parts contacting the mat. This pose creates a gentle, yet effective stretch through the body and can quickly release tension. 

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Corpse pose (savasana)
Corpse pose (savasana)

Lie on your back with your arms resting a few inches from your body and your palms facing up. Spread your legs about 15 to 20 inches apart, allowing your feet to fall open naturally. Shrug your shoulder blades down toward your lower back. Lengthen your spine while keeping your lower back relaxed against the floor.

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Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

Shift your weight onto your right foot and lift your left knee up to your chest. Next, cross your left leg in front of your right knee and bend both knees while wrapping your left toes around the back of your right calf. Cross your left elbow under your right elbow, bringing the fingertips of your left hand toward the base of your right palm before lifting your elbows upward.

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Headstand (salamba sirsasana)
Headstand (salamba sirsasana)

This inversion pose is for the more practiced yogis, however modified versions exist for beginners and are equally effective at stress relief. The headstand can conquer stress by reversing your body’s blood flow and forcing you to focus heavily on breathing and balance– pushing all other thoughts out of your mind. 

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Cat & Cow (Marjaryasana to Bitilasana)
Cat & Cow (Marjaryasana to Bitilasana)

For the cow pose, kneel on all fours, squaring your hips and knees. As you inhale, push your stomach towards the floor while lifting your head. Reverse this pose by lowering your head and rounding your back to achieve the cat pose.  This is an excellent move for relieving back stress and strengthening your spine and back muscles.

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Fish (matsyasana)
Fish (matsyasana)

The fish pose is recommended for fighting anxiety and fatigue, as well as providing gentle relief for your back and shoulders. Lie on your back with your arms at your side, round your back and lean as far back on the crown of the head as is comfortable, allowing your upper arms to be lifted off the mat. If you need back or neck support, use a towel or pillow. 

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Forward Fold (uttanasana)
Forward Fold (uttanasana)

Stand tall, inhale and reach your hands to the sky. As you exhale, engage your abs and fold your body forward while maintaining a straight back. Tuck in your chin, and relax your shoulders. Shift your weight forward onto your toes while straightening the legs. Rest your hands on the ground with your fingertips in alignment with your toes.  

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Supported shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana)
Supported shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana)

By turning your perspective upside down, you are freeing your mind of its current focus and eliminating stressful thoughts. Start by lying on your back and slowly bring your legs upward, lifting your abdominals off the floor, while supporting them with your elbows.

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Half moon pose (ardha chandrasana)
Half moon pose (ardha chandrasana)

This pose may look simple, but it requires intense focus and a quiet mind to hold balance, which is precisely why this a good pose for stress relief. The attention and focus needed to balance with one leg raised 90 degrees with one hand on the floor acts as a form of meditation by freeing your mind.