If you ask yogis why they practice yoga, you’ll probably find the majority mention yoga for stress relief as at least one reason. Many of us come to the practice to manage stress or deal with anxiety. There’s a good reason for this. Yoga has many tools to calm the mind and balance the nervous system.
Yoga for Stress Relief: Three Ways to Practice
There are three ways to practice yoga for stress relief. Ideally, you’ll design a practice that incorporates all of them.
1. Practice poses that relax the body and calm the mind.
There are many poses that offer this benefit. The two that probably come to your mind first are child’s pose and savasana. But other, more active poses also help release tension in the body.
Try these poses for stress relief:
- Downward dog
- Three-legged dog
- Standing forward bend
- Tree pose
- Eagle pose
- Happy baby
Are you surprised to see balancing poses (tree and eagle) in the list? If you think about it, these poses help relax the body because you need to be still and focused to do them!
In addition to the type of pose you do, the way you practice is important. When you practice yoga for stress relief, move slowly and with awareness. A slow flow is ideal, as it is a moving meditation. Gentle hatha yoga is also ideal yoga for stress relief. Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra are two other styles that offer stress-relieving benefits.
2. Practice pranayama (yogic breathing).
Several yogic breathing practices work directly to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is responsible for relaxing the body when you are under stress.
Try these breathing practices to relieve stress:
- Simply take slow, deep breaths. Try to make your exhales longer than your inhales.
- Practice ujayii breathing. That is, breath in and out through the nose with a slight constriction in the throat. This is sometimes called “ocean sounding breath” because of the sound it makes.
- Do a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing to balance the nervous system. To do this, close off the right nostril and breathe in, then out through the left nostril. Then close off the left nostril and breath in, then out through the right nostril. Continue at a comfortable pace.
- Try “one-two” breathing. Breathe in for four counts and out for eight, or do any combination in which your exhales are twice the length of your inhales.
3. Meditate to calm the mind.
The final part of yoga for stress relief is meditation. A regular meditation practice can help you manage stress and face challenges with a calmer state of mind. The most effective type of meditation for stress relief is one that helps silence the chatter that is going on in your head.
A few meditation options include:
- One-pointed meditation, in which you focus on an object.
- Mantra meditation, in which you repeat a calming mantra, such as “om,” “sat nam,” or “peace.”
Next time you’re feeling stressed, you can turn to the “Yoga for Stress Relief” program on the Track Yoga app. You’ll find a number of short classes you can do to calm the mind and body.