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Everyone—yes, including you!—deserves time to unwind. Whether you’ve been stressed at work or dealing with family drama or are just feeling tense after nearly two years of pandemic life, we can use a little more relaxation in our lives. Yet, relaxing is way easier said than done. The stressors of modern day life, including your seemingly never-ending to-do list, make it difficult for many people to truly slow down and rest. Luckily, yoga poses for relaxation can help by making you feel more at ease, less tense, and better overall.
The benefits of relaxation
Of course, you probably already know that relaxation is good for you. But its benefits go well beyond soothing stress and anxiety and allowing your body (and mind) space to rest and recover. Relaxation can positively impact your physical and mental health, and prime you for busy days ahead. Here are some of the noted benefits of consistent relaxation:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing your heart rate and breathing
- Improving digestion
- Easing muscle pain and soreness
- Reducing chronic pain
- Increasing energy levels
- Improving sleep duration and quality
- Increasing overall feelings of emotional and physical well-being
See also: Is Your Relaxation Accessible?
Why yoga helps with relaxation
You walk into your yoga class brimming with stress and anxiety. You’re mad at the world. And then, suddenly, after an hour in class, you come out of the room (or Zoom session) feeling a little less cynical—and a little less stressed. Why?
Yoga helps relieve stress and anxiety by turning on your body’s relaxation state. At a scientific level, this state occurs through activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The slow, mindful breathing that’s integral to your yoga practice serves as the catalyst for activating this system. Additionally, when activated, the parasympathetic nervous system sends signals to your heart and nerves—telling them to relax. Suddenly, your whole body is in a state of relaxation. Revel in it!
See also: How Yoga Can Help Ease Anxiety
7 yoga poses for relaxation
This pose promotes relaxation throughout your entire body—from calming your brain to releasing tension in your legs. When you move into this forward bend, you’ll release physical and mental stress. If touching your feet is difficult, you can modify this pose by using a strap.
Yoga teachers Elizabeth Winter and Barbara Benagh advise that yogis completely surrender into this pose, which may require the use of additional props. They suggest releasing your belly toward your upper legs, giving your head the space to rest on your shins. These subtle (yet important) movements will allow you to relax deeper into the posture.
Is your mental and emotional stress turning into physical tension? Release it through Garland Pose. This pose stretches your hips, eases back pain, and releases your chest, allowing you to open your body and move into a state of relaxation.
Yoga teacher Abbie Mood says this grounding pose is particularly helpful for those experiencing anxiety, as it draws your energy downward. This recalibration will allow you to release any tension or stress stored in your head—making it an ideal yoga pose for relaxation.
You may elect to return to this pose frequently during your practice—and, let’s be honest, in your daily life—as it often serves as a “home base.” There’s a reason for that. Balasana (Child’s Pose) helps relieve stress, fatigue, as well as physical pain in your back and hips.
Yoga teacher Sarah Herrington explains that one of the reasons why Child’s Pose feels so relaxing is its ability to stretch the muscles alongside the backside of your body—the ones that become tense easily. While the stress or tension you’re experiencing may be in your head, you may be feeling some physical pain as a result. This restorative posture will help you relax, easing some of that tightness and tension. And if Child’s Pose doesn’t feel relaxing to you? Add props or try a variation to make it more comfortable.
See also: Why Is Child’s Pose So Insanely Calming?
Move into this pose—and you’ll immediately be sighing of relief. This posture is a great way to release tension, ease stress and help you unwind. If you’re trying to find relaxation before heading to bed, practice this pose to prepare your physical body (and your mind) for a peaceful night of sleep.
Yoga teacher Cyndi Lee says this posture helps boost blood circulation through your head and upper body, allowing you to feel realigned after hours of sitting or standing. She adds that in addition to promoting relaxation, this pose can help alleviate headaches and soothe back pain.
You may be familiar with Easy Pose as a common meditation posture. However, it’s also a great yoga pose for relaxation. This pose simultaneously activates your body’s relaxation response (your parasympathetic nervous system) and deactivates your stress response (sympathetic nervous system), making it a calm-inducing posture.
Yoga teacher Ingrid Sturgis suggests adding a bolster or cushion under your seat in this posture to ground your hips. While in this pose, make sure to focus on your breath. Sturgis advises moving through a breath pattern consisting of a breath in for four counts and a breath out for six counts.
This pose opens up your entire upper body—giving you the space to release unwanted tension and (finally!) relax. Not ready to move into the full posture? No problem. Add blankets and blocks to this backbend to make it work for your body’s needs.
Yoga teacher Jillian Pransky says that as a chest-opening posture, Fish Pose gives you space to breathe—and expand through your heart center. If you’re feeling particularly stressed or tense, this pose will enable you to feel free and relaxed, giving you the physical and emotional space your body craves.
Move into the ultimate state of relaxation (if there is such a thing) in Corpse Pose. This posture allows you to let go—easing the physical tension and mental stress you’re holding onto throughout your entire body. You’ll calm (and quiet) your brain and move into a place focused on your breath—and nothing else.
Yoga teacher Abbie Mood says in this pose, it’s necessary for your body to be in a neutral position. She advises making sure your legs and feet are evenly angled—and that your lower back is softened. Even though this restorative pose allows you to completely release, don’t forget to continue your breath.