5 Yoga Stretches That Help With Stress & Anxiety

5 Yoga Stretches That Help With Stress & Anxiety

"Yoga doesn’t just enhance muscular strength and body flexibility; it also improves cardiovascular and respiratory function and significantly reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 
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You don't need to be a full-fledged yogi to reap the mind and body benefits of yoga stretches. The practice of yoga combines meditation, breathing exercises, and physical movements to challenge the body and mind. Studies show that yoga doesn’t just enhance muscular strength and body flexibility; it also improves cardiovascular and respiratory function and significantly reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.1 If you are new to yoga, there’s no reason to think you need to do the splits or balance on your head to benefit from the practice. The following five yoga stretches are suitable for any level and can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. 

Child's Pose

Duration: Up to 10 minutes

A simple relaxation position that can be held for extended periods of time, child’s pose is known to improve circulation, reduce pain, and promote sleep, enhancing one’s overall quality of life.2, 3, 4 Easy to practice anywhere, this pose will help you feel grounded, rested, and at ease without demanding that you do anything at all but breathe. To perform a child's pose:

  • Kneel on your yoga mat (or a folded towel or blanket) with your feet together and your knees spread apart as wide as your mat.
  • Bend forward at the waist and rest your forehead on the mat (or a pillow if you prefer).
  • Extend your arms forward alongside your torso, palms down flat on the mat.
  • Breathe slowly as you rest in this position for as long as you like. 

Cat/Cow Flow

Duration: One to two minutes

A perfect morning pose for those who spend too much time sitting down, the cat/cow is a simple movement series that stretches your spine and helps you match movement with breath. Cat/cow is a classic pose in hatha yoga, which is a type of practice that pairs poses with breathing techniques. A 2016 study found that hatha yoga helped reduce anxiety, especially for those prone to panic attacks.5 For this yoga move:

  • Start on all fours with knees directly below your hips and hands below your shoulders. Your fingers should point to the top of your mat.
  • As you inhale deeply, you'll slowly and purposefully move into cow position. Drop your stomach down toward the mat, look at the ceiling, and lift your chin and chest forward while pushing shoulder blades apart, away from your ears.
  • Next, exhale and shift into cat position. Arch your back and round your spine. Gently drop your head down toward the mat. 
  • Continue fluidly moving through these positions in rhythm with your breath for one to two minutes or five to 10 breaths.

Happy Baby Pose

Duration: 30-60 seconds

With this pose, you'll provide a gentle self-massage to your back and experience a profound opening of the hips while mimicking a joyful infant. Some researchers, like neuroscientist Dr. Candace Pert, purport that unexpressed emotions can become lodged in the body.6 The hips tend to hold stress, tension, and emotional trauma, making hip openers like happy baby a powerful pose for letting go. To practice happy baby pose, follow these steps:

  • Lay on your back on your mat.
  • Bend your knees toward your chest. 
  • Expand your knees outward and grasp the outsides of your feet. Face the soles up to the ceiling.
  • Extend your spine and take three to five deep breaths, staying in the position for around 30-60 seconds..
  • Rocking from side to side can enhance this position as you massage your back on the mat.

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Forward Bend

Duration: Up to 2 minutes

Fire up your hamstrings while soothing your mind in a standing forward bend. According to Mara Olney, yoga teacher and founder of  LÜM Health Studio, forward bending postures create a calming effect through the central nervous system by improving circulation along the spinal cord.7 Here's how to do it:

  • Stand up straight on your mat with your feet together. 
  • Fold forward at the hips (not the lower back) on an exhale, pressing your chest toward your knees. Place your hands on your legs or on the mat for balance, bending knees slightly if necessary. You can also place your hand on a block or grab opposite elbows to hang in a ragdoll position.
  • As you inhale, lengthen your spine by looking up and then gently and slowly fold deeper.
  • Hold the fold for three deep breaths.
  • Come out of the pose by rising up with an inhale and taking a deep exhale in standing position. 
  • Repeat the pose several times,  moving deliberately and carefully to avoid becoming lightheaded.

Sphinx Pose

Duration: Up to five minutes

Lay back down on the mat for this sphinx-inspired yoga position. If you tend to hold stress and tension in your back, this pose will help by strengthening and lengthening the spine. It even stimulates the thyroid, which is connected to stress and anxiety, if you raise your head up to the ceiling. To do this pose:

  • Lay on your belly with your legs together.
  • Press your tailbone down to lengthen your spine and gently roll your thighs outward to protect your back.
  • Point your toes and stretch your legs, actively engaging your thigh muscles.
  • Place your forearms on the mat with your elbows at a 90-degree angle right under your shoulders.
  • As you inhale, bend your lower back as you lift your head and torso gently toward the ceiling.
  • Hold the sphinx pose for five to 10 breaths, then release to the mat on an exhale. Repeat once or twice for up to five minutes.

Because they require you to slow down and pay attention to your breath, these yoga poses are powerful mindfulness practices that can help reduce stress and anxiety, especially when practiced on a regular basis. Try them any time of day when you feel triggered or before bed to help you unwind and sleep better. Practicing mindfulness is one of the 5 pillars of the Brillia program to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and irritability, along with eating healthy food, getting adequate sleep, and controlling screen time. If you need extra help to reduce stress and anxiety, consider Brillia, a non-prescription medication that uniquely combines antibody science with homeopathy to reduce symptoms of anxiety without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the brain-specific S100B protein, which plays a crucial role in mood regulation and neuroplasticity. By targeting and attaching to the S100B protein, Brillia prevents irritability, low mood, and excitability at the very source of symptoms. Find out more about how Brillia works and visit the Brillia blog to explore other mindfulness practices.

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References: 1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/, 2https://www.proquest.com/openview/557b56052ab978c628c5dec22bda8a4a/1, 3https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/18/10/1864/3737820, 4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3757292/, 5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5116432/, 6https://www.healthline.com/health/mind-body/the-powerful-connection-between-your-hips-and-your-emotions#stress-the-body, 7https://www.wellandgood.com/forward-fold-benefits/
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