Round Out Your Practice: Stress-Relief

1. PRATYAHARA (Sense Withdrawal): The fifth limb of Patanjali‘s classic eightfold path of yoga, this practice teaches you how to cultivate a sense of calm even in the midst of overstimulating situations.

  • Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  • Let your breathing remain natural.
  • Relax the root of your tongue and let it drop down.
  • Release tension around the eyes by imagining them falling toward the back of the eye sockets; allow the space between them to widen and soften.
  • Listen to any sounds that come up and let them fade away.
  • Feel the air on your skin and notice your breath under your nose.
  • Taste your own mouth.
  • Stay steady and quiet within the changing sensory display of the world.
  • 2. FEATURED SEQUENCE: Do this stress-relieving sequence at least once on both sides.

    3. VIPARITA KARANI (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose):

  • Lie down on your back with a folded blanket under your sacrum and your legs up the wall.
  • Place an eye pillow on your eyes and one in each open palm; this gives a sense of grounding and safety.
  • Stay here for at least five minutes.
  • As you exhale, feel the entire front of the body—the belly, diaphragm, and
    rib cage—soften and release into the back of the body.
  • Then imagine the back of the rib cage spreading and melting into the floor.
  • Allow yourself to feel supported by the earth beneath you.
  • 4. SAVasana (Corpse Pose): Stay here for at least 10 minutes.

    5. SEATED MEDITATION Sit and meditate for five to 10 minutes—but before you begin your meditation, create the most comfortable seat possible. If the idea of sitting down makes you wince, you probably won’t look forward to meditating! So mindfully prepare your seat as if it were your throne. To do this, you’ll need to round up some pillows and cushions. If you’re sitting cross-legged, I recommend sitting on at least two blankets or a cushion. If your knees need support, place pillows or folded blankets underneath them. If sitting cross-legged hurts your knees, try sitting on your shins in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose). You can also try Virasana (Hero Pose) or sitting in a chair. Then close your eyes, smile inwardly, and begin.

    Cyndi Lee is the founder of OM yoga center in New York City. She is a longtime practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and has been teaching yoga for over 20 years. Cyndi is the author of OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice and Yoga Body, Buddha Mind.