Even though I know Monday will be just fine (at least, after I have my coffee), it never fails: Every Sunday, I get a little anxious about work and a little too stressed to fully enjoy my Sunday night. And I’m not alone: The American Institute of Stress found that workplace stress is one of the biggest causes of anxiety nationally.
Meg Townsend, a Philadelphia-based Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, Reiki Master Teacher, and retreat curator for Real Living Yoga, agrees: “I love doing a practice on Sunday night that is more restorative and breath-oriented to soothe my mind and fill my energy tank up for the week ahead,” she says. “I also like to create a calming playlist, with each song the length of time that I'll be holding one pose, so I don't have to think about the time or look at a clock. When the song changes, I change poses.”
Like Townsend, I’ve started cultivating my own Sunday night yoga practice on a regular basis, in an effort to beat back my Sunday night scaries once and for all. (I even made a playlist!)
To help you do the same, I reached out to teachers around the country to ask them for the uplifting yoga poses they practice to help lift their spirits, get grounded for the week ahead, and sneak in just a little more rejuvenation before bed. Here’s hoping they help you get centered this Sunday night.
“When I am feeling down, anxious, or heavy, I usually feel like I need to move my energy before holding any one pose,” says Jennifer Brown, a nutritionist and yoga instructor in Arizona. “I like a simple cat and cow stretch to link my breath with the movement of my body. Cat and cow takes our spine through its full range of motion to the rhythm of the breath. Linking the breath with movement like this can be so meditative and it is accessible to most everyone.”
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A twist is a great way to wring yourself out before the week ahead. “I am always joking (kind of) that I sleep in yoga poses,” says Danielle Degroot, a yoga teacher and dietician in Chicago. “Doing some restorative poses before bed definitely helps me wind down and feel really good, soI can let go of those Sunday scaries.’ One of my favorite poses before bed is supine twist. It calms me and lets my body release tension.”
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Townsend says this pose is extremely helpful for ditching anxiety. “Add a blanket or pillow to support the length of your spine and a blanket over the low abdomen for extra grounding energy,” she suggests. “Inhale and sense your breath moving down through your body, from your collarbones to your pelvic floor; exhale and imagine your breath moving out of your tailbone and down into the Earth, taking with it any stress or anxiety.”
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Molly Porth Cabrera, a birth doula and yoga teacher in Mexico City, says a reclined hip opener with a twist always helps calm her mind. “Lay on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor, knees pointing upward,” she says. “Cross your right ankle over your left, making a figure four shape with your legs. You can stay here, or if you want to go deeper you can bring your legs closer to your chest, keeping the head and shoulders relaxed on the floor. Then, repeat on the other side.”
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This classic, deep pose is perfect for the grounding needed on Sunday nights. “Once I’ve moved with my breath, I love the grounding effects of pigeon pose,” says Jennifer Brown. “It’s a beautiful stretch for the hips, and the act of bowing forward has an introspective quality that allows me to tune into what I’m feeling and the root cause of those feelings. Then I can breathe deep into my hips and those yucky feelings, and invite them to release on the exhale. I love to approach this pose gently and often use props such as a block or a bolster under the forehead to allow those negative thoughts to drain away.”
Armstrong also does pigeon pose on Sundays. “This helps to detoxify the body, release any emotions of the weekend, and ground you into new intentions for the week.,” she says.
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This uplifting yoga pose is a surefire way to get grounded before your week ahead, says Kara Lydon, RD, yoga teacher and author of Nourish Your Namaste: How Nutrition and Yoga Can Support Digestion, Immunity, Energy and Relaxation. “Legs up the wall is my go-to pose to encourage a good night sleep,” she says.
Chelsea Fleming, a yoga instructor in Brigantine, New Jersey also practices legs-up-the-wall on Sunday nights:“I like to do this pose with two pillows, one under the hips where the low back connects with the ground, and one on top of my hips and belly to really get that grounded, weighted sense,” she says. Townsend agrees: “Whenever I'm feeling like life is too much, I just find a place to throw my legs up the wall and 15 minutes later, I feel like a new human with a new outlook on life,” she says. “It's a powerful pose we should all do often as required self-care.”
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Gina Tomaine is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor. She is currently Deputy Lifestyle Editor of Philadelphia magazine, and previously served as Associate Deputy Editor of Rodale’s Organic Life. Her work can be seen in Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Prevention and elsewhere. Learn more at ginatomaine.com.