When an opportunity for a vacation arises, we get all giddy and excited, especially those of us who need it more than others. We all need to give our minds a break once in awhile, whether it may be that we planned a destination millions of miles away from home or even just in our own backyard. We all need to take time off from the city life to appreciate nature and all it has to offer, while it is still in tact. We all need to relax.
Truth is, not everyone knows how to relax. Isn’t that insane? We lose our chance to regain our sanity when we aren’t fully focused on renewing ourselves.
But don’t we just need sleep and to laze around all day to feel “relaxed”? Not really. Surprisingly, they can also make you feel sluggish at times. If you are super stressed and you suddenly go on a vacation, chances are you will be too busy thinking about all the work you need to accomplish the next day.
The good news is that sleeping and lazing around aren’t the only two things you can do to feel refreshed. Exercise is one of the most efficient ways to make you feel fresh inside and out. You can do any kind of exercise you want, but yoga is the best for keeping you stress-free. These poses are not limited to whenever you need to de-stress, you can also do these to heal your aching body, mind, or soul.
1. Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana)
This pose looks like a modified version of the Indian sit. Whenever we feel threatened, we tend to bind in the pelvis, although this feeling can become exhausting. Aside from targetting the pelvis, this pose is just as perfect for the release of the hips, knees, thighs, and groin. Hold the pose for as long as 5-10 minutes. Be careful when attempting this pose if you suffer from high blood pressure or any cardiac problems. This asana should be avoided in case of groin or knee injury, and if you are a woman on your monthly cycle.
2. Corpse (Savasana)
Usually done at the end of a workout, this is a restorative pose. Lay flat on your back and keep your feet and legs close together. Let your feet fall out to the sides. Keep your palms facing upward and have your eyes closed. Use this time to concentrate on relaxing your entire body. Don’t think about anything else. It works your whole body.
3. Pond (Tadagasana)
Another result of panic is when we bind in the diaphragm. Lie on your back, lengthen both legs, and sink your thighs down into the floor. Extend your arms overhead. Reach as far as you can until you feel a suction in your belly. This is the “pond”. Doing this stretch lengthens and loosens the abdominal cavity. It also opens up the chest so that the diaphragm can move easily. You will feel a greater ease of breath after holding this pose for at least 5 minutes, since your nervous system will be calmed.
4. Bridge (Setu Bandha)
First, lay on your back. Bring up your knees bent. Place your feet on the floor. Bring your heels close to your butt. Tuck your chin into your neck. Close your eyes for a full relaxation. Interlace your fingers together under your back. You will be stretching your vertebral column, thorax, lower back, and neck. This is one of the trickier poses in the book, so just be careful when attempting it.
5. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
You’ve probably seen this pose before, because it is one of the most common poses. It is a powerful pose which awakens upper-body strength. It offers a wonderful stretch for the chest and abdomen. Even if you’re a professional, check back on your form once in a while to make sure you prevent injury.
6. Twist (Matsyendrasana)
Do the twist! Cross your legs and twist the torso while simultaneously locking your arm onto your bent knees. This is one of the most fascinating stretches, since it aims to hit most of your most prominent upper body muscles — the latissimus dorsi, the triceps, the deltoids, the obliques, the neck, and the pectorals.
7. Lion (Simhasana)
You may not realize that the jaw joint is one of the most overused joints in our body. We eat three meals a day, sometimes even more. Also known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), it is very strong and tends to lock when we try to hold back impulse. It is an uncomfortable position to be in when the jaw is locked. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue to its fall extension while exhaling. This will release tension in the jaw. Just don’t do this pose around your friends who might capture a funny picture of you.
8. Seated Forward Bend (Pascimottanasana)
Sit with your legs stretched straight out in front. Flex your toes back towards you. Press your sitting bones into the mat then lift your spine taller. Inhale the arms up into the sky, then exhale and bend forward reaching the hands towards the toes. You can reach past the feet if you want. Keep your chin towards your chest and lengthen the back of your neck. Move your shoulders away from the ears. This pose will take time to learn, as flexibility is not learned overnight.
9. Head to Knee (Janusirsasana)
Sitting with your legs straight in front, tuck your right heel into your groin, and uncurl the toes out from the left thigh. Lift your hands all the way to the sky and inhale the arms up above the head, then exhale and bend forward to touch the toes of the left foot. Let your forehead near towards the shin. Do this on both sides. Don’t be pressured if you can’t do this pose right away, or if your head won’t touch your knee. It takes time getting flexible. As long as you do this everyday, your body will learn to develop the skill.
10. Pyramid (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
Release your hamstrings and quadriceps with this loosening stretch. Step your feet to 4 feet apart. Rest your hands on your hips, then slowly bring them up to your back. Let your face touch the front leg. Make a praying position with your hands on your back. Make sure that you breathe throughout the stretch.
11. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Bring your feet together so that your big toes touch, but keep the heels slightly apart. As you allow the spine to bend forward, tuck your tailbone under. Tuck the chin gently in towards the chest. Lengthen the back of the neck. Gently work the palms towards the earth, fingertips in line with the heels. This intense stretch is usually done after you’ve done an excruciating workout. You can even practice it if your hips, hamstrings, or calves hurt. Bonus: this stretch will strengthen your knees and thighs.
12. Downward-Facing Dog (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Begin on your hands and knees. From there, stretch your elbows and relax your upper back. Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles. Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis. This will release your shoulders, hands, hamstrings, calves, and even the arches of the foot.
13. Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
Holding up your head everyday is a huge job, since the human head weighs an average of 8–10 pounds. In this pose, you are forced to line up the head with the body. The benefits of a headstand show improvements in the alignment of the whole body, while strengthening the neck muscles. Turning yourself upside down is obviously tricky, so this pose encourages you to forget everything and focus in the moment. You might even be able to apply this concept in your day to day life, but let’s not think about that now.
14. Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)
This pose reverses the bloodflow in your body and brings your attention to your breath — just what you need! By going upside down, you’re literally changing your perspective. In addition, it naturally evokes a sense of calmness and happiness. Practicing regularly can actually relieve anxiety and depression.
15. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
If you need an instant mood boost, the camel pose is a beautiful position to try. It will strengthen your painful back from too much sitting down in front of the computer. It opens up multiple body parts such as your shoulders, abdomen, thorax, throat, ankle, groin, chest, and even quadriceps. Take it slow when doing this move because you might collapse in your neck area if you’re not careful. That could cause serious damage.
16. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Lying face down with your legs straight out behind you, un-tuck your toes. Place your hands on the floor, just under your armpits, spreading your fingers. Inhale and begin to straighten your arms, but your elbows can stay bent. Stretch your chest forward and bring your torso up. It helps to concentrate on firming your shoulder blades against your back and lifting your sternum. Do not confuse this pose with the Upward-Facing Dog. They may look similar, but the difference lies in the arms and legs. In the Cobra Pose, the legs aren’t off the ground, unlike in the Upward-Facing Dog. The arms absorb less pressure too here, really aiming to lift the sternum.
17. Wild Thing (Camatkarasana)
Are you ready to go on a more intermediate level? Try this deep back bend! Beginning in a Downward-Facing Dog, bring your right leg up, and bend the knee. Reach the right foot behind you until the ball of the foot comes to the earth. Lift your hips up and open the center of your chest toward the sky. Reach the right arm up and open the chest a little more, coming into a deep back bend. Stay here for a few breaths. Repeat this on the other side. Take note that it is a good idea to warm the body with a few mild backbends before attempting this position.
18. Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Another back bend type of asana! This will stretch the throat, navel, front of the neck, and muscles between the ribs while it strengthens the muscles of the upper back and the back of the neck. Begin on your back, legs extended, with your hands palms down, under your hips. Inhale and press into your elbows and forearms to arch your upper back and gently place the crown of your head on the floor. Be careful not to rest too much weight on the head. Remain in the pose for just a few breaths. When you release, give your knees a hug, all the way into your chest. Level is intermediate so just take precautions before attempting the pose.
19. Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)
Arguably the most popular hip opener in yoga, the Pigeon Pose is both challenging and rewarding. Not only is it great at stretching the hip flexors and relieving sciatic discomfort, it also melts away tension, both physically and mentally. It encourages us to let go of everything, to simply embrace the discomforts of challenge and life alone ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼and move beyond it. There are different variations of the Pigeon Pose, and the picture above is one out of two of these forms.
20. Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
The dolphin pose is a modified version of shoulder stand. It has all the same benefits without going completely upside down. We suggest that you do this pose until you build enough physical strength and confidence to try the forearm stand.