Yoga Poses

7 Yoga Poses For Stress Relief

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Stress is something we all deal with on a daily basis especially in today’s fast paced world. Fortunately, there are a number of tools we can use to combat stress including yoga. Yoga relieves stress by improving the quality of our breath, calming our central nervous system, improving our mood, and also releasing tension in our muscles.

All yoga poses overall can reduce stress but certain specific poses have an amazing ability to significantly relieve stress almost instantly. Stress causes low energy in the body so it’s important to take it easy. Avoid high energy poses and focus more on grounding and restorative poses.

For even added stress relief, you can hold yoga poses for longer periods of time.

Here are 7 poses to help reduce your stress levels – please feel free to incorporate these poses into your lesson plans where it may help others.

1. Child

This restorative pose relieves sore and achy back muscles. It also helps to stretch the lower and upper back muscles.

Begin in a table top position, with your arms reaching out straight in front of you or by your sides. Sink your hips back towards your heels. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, and repeat as many times as needed to fully relax and stretch the lower back.

2. Easy

Easy pose helps to ground us and relax the body. Adding meditation or mantras are another great way to enhance this pose for relaxation. Breathing exercises or pranayama can also be practiced in Easy for stress relief.

To begin, sit upright and cross the legs comfortably. Root down into the sit bones evenly and lengthen up through the crown of the head. Keep the eyes open or closed and simply focus on your breathing. Stay in Easy for several breaths or for a few minutes.

3. Supine Twist

Twists are a great way to detox the body and relieve tension in our muscles. Because we are lying down on our backs in this particular twists, it creates an even deeper sense of relaxation in the body.

To begin, lie down on your back. Draw the knees into your chest and allow them to gently fall over the right side. Keep your shoulders pressed to the mat as you allow your head to gaze in the opposite direction as your knees. Stay here for several breaths before releasing. Switch sides.

4. Standing Forward Fold

Fold poses in yoga naturally help us to relax because it creates a sense of surrendering and peace in the body. Standing Forward Fold allows helps us relax by bringing more blood flow to our brains and stretching out tight muscles in the legs.

To begin, stand in Mountain. Begin to hinge forward at the hips and allow the fingers to reach towards the ground. Keep the knees slightly bent or straighten them. Let the head and neck be soft and keep length in the spine. Hold for several breaths before slowly releasing back up.

5. Wide Legged Forward Fold

Wide Legged Forward Fold is another great fold that helps to create a sense of peace and surrender in the body. It also helps to stretch the hips and legs, releasing tension in those muscles.

To begin, step the feet out wide about 3 to 5 feet apart. Bring your hands to your hips and begin to hinge forward at the hips. Allow the hands to reach for the ground, a block, your shins, ankles, or toes. Stay here for several breaths before slowly releasing back up.

6. Pigeon

Pigeon is an amazing pose for stress relief because it helps to ground ourselves and also deeply stretches tight hips.

To begin, start in Downward Facing Dog or a table-top position. Bring the right foot in and place it down on the mat behind the right wrist. Extend the left leg back on the mat with the top of the left foot resting on the mat. Stay here or to deepen the pose, begin to fold towards the mat keeping the spine lengthened. Hold for several deep breaths before slowly releasing back up. Switch sides.

7. Savasana

Savasana is the ultimate relaxation pose. Adding pillows, blankets, and aromatherapy are some great ways you can enhance Savasana for added stress relief benefits. You can also do Savasana for longer periods of time, for example up to 20-30 minutes to really relax your mind and body.

To begin, lie down on your back with your arms comfortably by your sides. Let the feet relax comfortably and close the eyes. Focus on your breathing and enjoy the stillness.


How To Do Dancer Pose: 7 Alignment Tips

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Dancer pose is a fun yet challenging balance and back bending pose that requires the combination of strength, flexibility, and stability. Dancer pose enables us to be more focused, calm, and can promote better balance in our lives. It also grounds us and keeps us rooted. With the opening of the chest and back bend, it is also invigorating and opens us up to new possibilities in our lives. It stretches our chest, shoulders, hamstrings, quads, spine, and hips. At the same time, it strengthens our ankles, shoulders, core, and larger leg muscles.

Due to so many working elements in this pose, it can be a very intimidating pose to attempt especially for newer students. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself in this pose. It is okay to fall from time to time when practicing Dancer pose. Be playful with the pose and get comfortable with getting outside of your comfort zone. Dancer pose will always look different from person to person so try to focus on how the pose feels in your body instead of how it looks. Your balance and flexibility with this pose will develop with patience and practice over time.

How To Do Dancer Pose

1. Begin in Mountain.
2. Begin to shift your weight onto your right foot.
3. Bend the left knee back behind you, allowing the left heel to come towards your left side glutes.
4. Reach your left hand back and grab your left foot inner ankle. If this is too difficult to reach, you can use a strap by bringing it around the top of your left foot and grabbing hold of it with your left hand.
5. Bring your opposite hand, right hand, up towards the ceiling.
6. Find a focus point to keep your gaze and balance.
7. Press into your grounded foot and activate your core to keep you balanced.
8. Begin to tilt your torso forward and at the same time begin to lift the right foot away from the body. Keep the chest open.
9. Bring the back foot up as high as is comfortable for you, working to get your back thigh parallel to the ground.
10. Hold for several breaths. To release, come out of the pose slowly. Lower your back foot down and come back to your Mountain pose.

Alignment Tips For Dancer Pose

1. Firm Your Foundation
Ground down and firm your standing leg without locking it. Engage the larger muscles in your legs – the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles to protect the knee and also increase your balance. To do this, imagine feeling the kneecap of your standing leg lifting upwards; this automatically activates your upper leg muscles. You can also prep for this by strengthening the muscles in your legs. By increasing our strength we also increase our balance. Try prep poses that tone the legs such as Chair, Goddess, High Lunge, Warrior 2, Warrior 3, or Warrior 1.

2. Root Down In Your Foot
Firm down through all four corners of your standing foot. Aim to feel the ‘lift’ of the natural arch in your foot. By doing so, it will keep you more balanced in this pose. This works because the weight distribution of our bodies will even out through our feet, ankles, and surrounding leg muscles.

3. Square The Hips
In this pose, there is a tendency to want to want to rotate the body towards the side of our lifted back leg. This can take us off balance and can injury our lower back, knees, and hips. Work to get your pelvic and hip area squared to the front short edge of your mat. This will give you a better foundation and allow you to balance better on your standing leg.

4. Open The Chest
As you lean forward and come into the back bend of Dancer pose, one way we can avoid compressing the spine is by broadening out through the chest. Keep the chest lifted upwards and draw your shoulders down and away from the ears.

5. Draw The Lower Belly & Ribs In
As you lean forwards in this pose, draw lower belly in and also knit the ribs in. This will keep your torso from falling too far forward and also increase your balance.

6. Focus On A ‘U’ Shape In Your Back Bend
You want to think of creating a soft ‘U’ shape with your back bend instead of a sharp ‘V’ shape. This will help you to avoid compression of your spine. If you ever feel any sort of pain or pinching, ease out of the pose gently. All parts of our bodies are connected so a way we can deepen our back bend is working on stretching the surrounding areas; the abdominal and pelvic area. Some good prep poses you could practice to increase your flexibility in these areas are Camel, Bridge, Upward Salute with a slight back bend, and Wheel.

7. Be Patient & Ease Into It
Keep in mind, try to not focus on how the pose looks and avoid comparing how your Dancer pose looks to others. Be mindful and always work within the limits of your own body. With time and patience, you will be able to achieve whatever expression of the pose you wish. If you move too quickly in and out of the pose, you could run the risk of injuring your knees, hips, and spine.

More Tips For Beginners
If you find you have trouble balancing on one leg, you can try using a wall or chair for support. Work on just lifting your back leg up and grabbing the foot without leaning forward or coming into a back bend (think of just a simple standing quad stretch). As you work to gain flexibility in your quads and balance in your foundation, you can ease into the pose slowly.

If you find you have have difficult grabbing your back foot with your hand, you can also try using a strap for assistance. To do this, loop one end of a strap around the top of the back foot and the other end in your same side hand. Increase your shoulder and arm flexibility will also aid you in being able to grab your back foot with your hand. Try prep poses that stretch the shoulders and arms such as Downward Facing Dog, Camel, Eagle, Child, Cat, and Cow pose.

Advancing The Pose
To advance the pose, you could try bringing both hands overhead and grabbing hold of the lifted foot with your hands. When grabbing hold with both hands, be mindful to keep both arms knitted into the body, with elbows close to the ears. Be mindful to keep your shoulders drawn down your back.


5 Yoga Poses For Core Strength

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Core focused sequences are often a favorite among yoga students because of the universal desire to have a flat and toned tummy. But strengthening the core has many health benefits too. The core is a central part in our body that helps to stabilize us and keep us balanced in our yoga practice. The teaching cue, ‘activate the core’ is used in virtually every balance pose. Keeping the core strong is also a good way to improve your yoga practice because it will help with your alignment and prevent injuries to your lower back. Strengthening the core also helps us in poses such as Chatarunga because it takes pressure off our shoulders and wrists.

Read on to learn 5 core focused yoga poses you can incorporate into your practice today!

1. Balancing Table

Balancing Table is a great core and balancing pose. Repeat up to 20 times for each side to activate your core.

To begin, start in a table top position. Engage the core to keep you balanced. Extend your left leg back, flexing the toes down. At the same time, extend the right arm forward. Keep a straight line through the arm, spine, and back extended leg. Hold for a breath before switching to the opposite leg and arm.

2. Boat

Boat is another good core focused pose that also helps us to improve our balance. Try to challenge yourself by holding this pose for longer periods of time – anywhere between 20 to 40 seconds or longer depending on your strength level.

Begin in a seated position with your knees bent in front of you. Engage your core muscles and begin to tilt back slightly. Grab on to the backs of your thighs and begin to lift the legs up so that the shins become close to being parallel to the mat. For beginners, keep your hands on the back of your thighs or on the mat behind you. To advance the pose, you can try to bring your arms directly in front of you so that they are parallel to the mat.

3. Side Plank

Side Plank helps us to strengthen our side obliques, another important part of our core. Try to stay in Side Plank for 20 seconds on each side or longer.

Begin in plank pose. Lift your left arm up towards the sky. Stack the feet or place the left foot directly in front of the right foot. If this is too much for you, come down on the right knee. Stack the shoulders and keep the neck in line with your head. Engage the core muscles and pull your obliques up towards the sky. Hold and switch sides.

4. Dolphin

Dolphin helps to strengthen our core and also our upper backs. Aim to hold this pose for 30 seconds or longer. Repeat several times.

Begin in a table top position. Lower your forearms to the mat so that they become flat and parallel to each other. Option to bring palms face down on the mat or clasp them together. Engage the core and the quads. Tuck the toes and begin to peel the hips up towards the ceiling, reaching up through the tailbone. Straighten the legs and press the heels towards the ground. Keep the spine long and broaden across the shoulder blades.

5. Plank

Plank isn’t known as a yoga pose but it is the beginning of the common Chaturanga pose. It is a great way to strengthen not only the core, but also our legs, upper back, and shoulders. Challenge yourself to stay in Plank for 30 seconds to a full minute at a time.

Start in a table top position with shoulders directly over the wrists. Extend your legs out straight so that you come up on the balls of your feet. Engage the quads and core muscles. Option to come down onto your forearms, if this is too much for your wrists. Keep the neck soft and the spine elongated.