Yoga Poses to Help You Relax

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Yoga Poses to Help You Relax

yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Almost every type of Yoga teacher training covers some form of relaxation. Therefore, a traditional Yoga school should have a relaxation segment at the end of class. Sometimes, Yoga instructors teach relaxation at the beginning and end of class. Depending on one’s personality, there are times when we create stress when there is nothing to worry about. With that said, relaxation should be practiced by most of us at least once per day.

All Yoga techniques have a positive impact on stress, but some poses are especially effective. As with anything, you get what you put into the practice. The following poses (asanas) are powerful stress relievers and may be mixed and matched to create a Yoga training routine that is perfectly tailored to your individual needs.

Mountain Pose

Stand with feet together and arms at the sides, palms open and facing forward. Lift each foot individually and fan the toes; enjoy the feeling of the stretch. Place feet back together. Lift the pelvis upward, toward the navel. While keeping the ribcage still, bring the shoulder blades closer together and lift the sternum. Raise the head and allow the neck to lengthen. Stretch all of your fingers, and your thumbs, down toward the floor. Press the heels into the floor, and then lift the thighs and calves upward, towards the ceiling. Do not lock your knees.

Breathe, and hold the stretch for 5 to 7 breaths, never tensing, just holding. Envision your breath, coming up from the ground, from which you are rooted – from the heels, through your legs, and all the way up to your lungs. Feel the connection between your feet and the floor. After 5 to 7 breaths, inhale and lift the arms above the head; hold this position for 5 to 7 breaths. Imagine the stress leaving your body with each exhale and life force (prana) entering your body with each inhalation.

Bridge Pose

Lay down with the back flat against the floor; knees bent. The feet are hip width apart. The heels should be reasonably close to the buttocks, as close as possible, and the hands should be at your sides, palms down. Raise and lower the tailbone slowly, a few times, to warm up, and then when it feels right, slowly lift into the bridge by raising the tailbone and rooting into the floor with the heels of the feet. Rise up slowly, feeling the spine stretch one vertebra at a time, until the back is in a straight line or completely arched. Breathe in deeply and feel the stretch increase. Bring the hands together under the shadow of the bridge, created by the lifted back, and press against the floor. Hold for a count of 5 to 7 breaths, and then slowly lower the back down.

Standing Forward Bend

Begin in Mountain pose. Inhale, while raising the arms overhead. Exhale and bend at the hip, bringing the arms down, until they are reaching toward the floor. Hold this stretch for 5 to 7 breaths, feeling the spine lengthen with each exhalation. When coming up, out of the pose, do so slowly, focusing on the sensation of each individual vertebra. Keep the head hanging until the very end.

Corpse Pose

This Yoga posture is deceptively simple, yet so effective. Lay down with the feet slightly apart and the palms turned upwards. Shut your eyes and take as many deep, slow breaths as desired. Now, focus on the feeling of sinking down into the ground, merging and becoming rooted with the floor. Starting at the feet, draw your attention to separate areas of the body, forcing them to relax. Mentally scan upward, within the body, until you reach the crown of the head. Stay in this highly relaxed state for about 10 minutes. If you are going through a guided relaxation with a Yoga instructor, do your best to avoid sleeping. If you are at home, this practice is also wonderful to perform during bedtime. Feel free to drift off to sleep once the entire body has been relaxed.

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