When you’re feeling stressed, theres a chemical culprit at work. It has accomplices like Adrenaline, but the main stress hormone is Cortisol.
Cortisol is elevated in times of stress – short term and particularly long term stress. Chronically elevated cortisol indicates that you are under the influence of your Sympathetic Nervous System.
This is the ‘get out of danger’ branch of your Autonomic Nervous System, designed to save your hide from an immediate threat. Cortisol is the hormone which drives this response to get us out of danger.
Long term stress through elevated Cortisol can be deleterious to the structure and function of your cells, organs and tissues. It also leaves you feeling burnt out, dazed, anxious, depressed with blunted focus and memory. This doesn’t sound like a desirable quality of life.
Thankfully, we are able to bring ourselves down from stress by reducing the activation of the Sympathetic response and shifting to a state of restorative calm. This is known as the Parasympathetic response. This allows us to rest, digest our food, regroup mentally and take it easy.
Yoga, combined with fluid breath enables you to enter into a state of calm and restoration.
Yoga For Stress Reduction
10 Minutes is all it takes. Give a few extra minutes if you’re digging it. You can even do two sequences if you want a greater sense of relaxation.
A few tips to carry through the practice
- DEEP breathing, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Calm, focused breaths people.
- Take each breath down to the stomach. Feel it pushing out and coming back in. Put your hands on your stomach to get used to the feeling in the first pose.
- With each inhale look to gain extension in the pose you are in. Take it a little further if you feel comfortable. On the exhale, sink deeper into the pose.
- Perform each pose for 1 minute. Use a timer if it helps or drift through each pose at your own pace.
This is a short sequence designed to take the edge off when you need quick relief from stress. When the needs for stress reduction are greater, consider increasing the duration of your practice and increase the depth and focus of your breath.
Seated Pose – Sukhasana
Sit cross legged, bring your chest up and pelvis forward to bring some length and openness to the spine. Place your hands on your knees. This pose is a great starting point to tap into the rhythm of your breathing and starts to calm the mind.
Set a timer on your phone for 1 minute. Close your eyes and tap into your breath. Visualise the air entering and leaving the body. Breath in and out through your nose. Aim for slow, deep breaths, pushing the stomach out and then back in.
Half Spinal Twist – Ardha Matsyendrasana
Slide your left foot under your right leg to take it to the outside of your right hip. Place your left arm over your right knee and rotate to the right on a deep inhale. Keep your back straight and your head up. Whenever you wish to go deeper, do so on an inhale and sink into the pose on the exhale.
Perform deep breaths for 1 minute. Switch sides, repeat for another minute.
Seated Forward Bend – Paschimottana
Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched. Inhale, lengthen the spine, bringing your arms overhead to the sky. Slowly bring your hands down to the floor as you exhale. Take another inhale, lean forward from the hip joints and grasp your toes, the side of your feet or wherever you feel the stretch that best suits you.
Continue breathing in this pose for 1 minute, feeling the stretch with each breath, sinking a little deeper if you can. This pose is especially good for calming an anxious mind, helping to relieve stress and tension.
Upward Salute – Urdhva Hastasana
Stand with your arms by your sides. With a big inhale sweep your arms out to the sides and up to the sky. Interlace your fingers and stretch backwards from your shoulders bringing the chest forward.
This pose stretches the shoulders and the armpits, harnessing deep breaths that help to reduce mild anxiety. You can keep your heels planted on the ground or come to your toes.
Triangle Pose – Utthita Trikonasana
Jump your feet apart, about 3-4 feet. Rotate your left foot 90 degrees. Ensure the instep of your right food is aligned with the heel of your left. Bring your arms parallel to your shoulders. On an inhale, Slowly bend down towards your left foot, with your left hand placed on your left shin. Exhale and bring your right arm to the sky. Stack your hands inline with your shoulders. Turn gaze upwards.
This is a therapeutic strength pose for anxiety and helps to relieves stress too. Ensure deep, slow breaths throughout. Aim for 1 minute and switch sides.
Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana
Start standing, bend forward from the hips. Keep your knees bent as you move downwards. Bring your hands to the floor or wrap them around your ankles. Lengthen the spine as you bend forward so you are not contracting but long. Inhale and look up with hands on the floor to gain a little more length, then dip back in. Bring the crown of your head to the floor and look back through your legs.
Breath for 1 minute, maintaining length and depth within the pose. This pose is great for anxiety, helps to relive stress and calms the mind.
Cat – Marjaryasana
Start on your hands and knees with fluid breath. As you exhale, arch the spine making sure your hands, shoulders, knees and hips are aligned with one another.
Cow – Bitilasana
Start on your hands and knees, checking the alignment of your hips, knees, shoulders and hands. As you inhale deeply let your belly sink to the floor as you point your gaze forwards.
These two poses can be performed back to back for 1 minute, flowing from one into the next.
Fish Pose – Matsyasana
Lie on your back with your hands by your sides. Slide your hands under your buttocks keeping your forearms and elbows close to your torso. Inhale, pressing your forearms and elbows to the floor, bringing your head and upper torso away from the floor, exhale. Maintain this pose for a minute ensuring deep, flowing respiration, keep your back arched and chest to the ceiling.
Fish pose is especially therapeutic for anxiety.
Childs Pose – Balasana
Kneel on the floor bringing your big toes together. Sit on your heels and separate your knees. Exhale, bringing your arms out in front of you and chest to the matt. Aim for length here, gaining a little more with each inhale and setting it in on the exhale. Feel the breath flowing through your body. You can stay in child’s pose for as long as you need, maintaining a steady breath.
Finish in child’s pose, a restorative and resting pose great for harnessing deep breath and calming the mind, relieving stress.