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A Calming Yoga Sequence to Help You Slow Down

The poses in this slow-flow sequence help soothe tension by gently activating, stretching, and releasing the psoas muscle, a tissue where we often unconsciously store stress.

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Throughout the practice, take time to feel, welcome, and enjoy your inhalations and exhalations; this helps you stay more present in your transitions. Pause as often as you’d like along the way.

See also: The Importance of Slow-Flow Yoga in a Fast-Paced World

Props for Practice

  • Three blankets, folded into long rectangles
  • One short-rolled blanket
  • A chair, couch, or ottoman
  • Two yoga blocks
  • A pillow or two small towels
  • Optional: Extra blankets for warmth or for additional comfort under your body

Constructive Rest

Woman demonstrating constructive rest
Photo: Renee Choi

Lie on your back with your feet apart, knees bent and leaning against each other. Let your arms rest at your sides. Progressively scan your body for tension, letting go of parts that you are clenching. Release your weight into the ground. Let your breath arrive in your body as the ground holds you fully. Rest for 1–5 minutes.

Ardha Apanasana (Half Knees-to-Chest Pose)

Woman demonstrating half-knees-to-chest pose
Photo: Renee Choi

From Constructive Rest, draw your left knee toward your belly and interlace your hands around the back of your thigh. Hold for 3 breaths. Bend your knee to a 90-degree angle. If you have lower-back issues, leave your right leg bent. If not, extend it out long, reaching actively through your right heel. Pull your right thigh toward you while pressing it into your hands. Hold for 5–10 breaths. Option for a deeper hip stretch: Interlace your hands around your right shin and hug your thigh toward your belly for another 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Sucirandhrasana (Eye-of-the-Needle Pose)

Woman demonstrating eye-of-the-needle pose
Photo: Renee Choi

From Constructive Rest, bring your feet and knees in line with your hips. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh, making sure that your left ankle bone clears your right thigh completely. Flex both feet, spreading your toes. For a deeper stretch, draw your right knee toward your chest and interlace your hands behind your right hamstring. Hold for 5–10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Woman demonstrating child's pose
Photo: Renee Choi

Come to Tabletop. Sit back on your heels and fold forward. Rest your belly on your thighs or on a folded blanket or a pillow placed in your lap. Place your forehead on a block or the floor. Release your weight into the floor or props. Allow your back muscles to soften. Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Pose)

Woman demonstrating cat-cow pose
Photo: Renee Choi

Come to Tabletop. For Bitilasana (Cow Pose), inhale and lift your tailbone up as you softly arch your back and open your chest. For Marjaryasana (Cat Pose), exhale, tuck your chin, curve your back, and lift your navel in and up. Press into your hands and feel some space between your shoulder blades as your upper spine rounds. Move smoothly between these shapes for 5-10 breaths.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Woman demonstrating downward-facing dog pose
Photo: Renee Choi

From Tabletop, step your legs back and press the balls of your feet into the ground. Push into your hands and feet as you draw your navel in and up. Lift your hips toward the sky, creating an upside-down V shape. Lengthen your legs, spread your toes, and explore how it feels to lift onto the balls of your feet. (Bend your knees if that’s more comfortable.) Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

Woman demonstrating low lunge
Photo: Renee Choi

From Tabletop, step your right foot between your hands, stacking your knee over your ankle. Bring your hands to blocks placed shoulder-width apart. Lift your torso, and press the ball of your left foot into your mat. Firm your seat and your back thigh. Sink your hips toward the ground while keeping your torso light. Hold for 5–10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Tadasana, Variation (Mountain Pose)

Woman demonstrating mountain pose variation
Photo: Renee Choi

Come to Mountain Pose. Place one palm on your belly and the other on your chest. Stay for 3–10 breaths. Then inhale and sweep your arms up until your palms meet above your head. Exhale, and twist your torso to your right as you release your arms by your sides in a T shape. Inhale, and sweep your arms back up to return to center. Exhale, and twist to the other side. Practice 5–10 cycles.

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

Woman demonstrating chair pose
Photo: Renee Choi

From Mountain Pose, inhale and exhale to lower your seat into an imaginary chair. Inhale, sweeping your arms up to the sky. Exhale, and return to Mountain Pose while releasing your arms back down to your sides. Repeat for 5-10 cycles.

Virabhadrasana II, Variation (Warrior Pose II)

Woman demonstrating warrior II pose
Photo: Renee Choi

Stand in Mountain Pose in the middle of your mat, facing its long edge. Extend your arms to the side in a T shape, palms down. Step your legs apart, bringing your ankles directly under your wrists. Turn your right toes out toward the short edge of your mat; angle your left toes to face the top left corner of your mat. Bend your right knee and stack it on top of or slightly behind your ankle. On your inhalation, straighten your legs as you sweep your arms up. Exhale, and return to Warrior Pose II. Repeat this flow 5–10 times. Repeat on the other side.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Woman demonstrating wide-legged forward bend
Photo: Renee Choi

From Warrior Pose II, straighten both legs and turn your feet to face the long edge of your mat. Bend your knees deeply, place your hands on your hips, and fold forward to place your hands on the floor—or bring your hands to blocks, as shown. Shift weight into the balls of your feet. With your spine elongated, straighten your legs or keep your knees bent. Hold for 5–10 breaths. To release, bend your knees, place your palms on your thighs, and slowly stand tall.

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Woman demonstrating hero pose
Photo: Renee Choi

Come down to Tabletop, stacking one or more blocks between your feet. Shift your hips and body back to sit tall on the props. Hold for 5–10 breaths.

For the following poses, make any adjustments you need to ensure you are comfortable and settled. Then, release all effort in your body and let your breath help you drop your full weight into the ground.

Surfboard Pose

Woman demonstrating surfboard pose
Photo: Renee Choi

Place your blanket stack vertically, in the center of your mat with a rolled blanket across the bottom width. Begin on all fours over the props. Lower your belly down so the blankets support your head, torso, pelvis, and the tops of your thighs. Bring the tops of your feet to the rolled blanket. Lie face-down with your chin slightly tucked, or rest on one cheek. Relax for 5–10 minutes, turning to lie on the other cheek as needed.

Viparita Karani, Variation (Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose)

Woman demonstrating legs-up-the-wall pose variation
Photo: Renee Choi

From seated, slowly lower down to your right side, then roll onto your back as you bring your calves to rest on the chair’s seat. Make sure your legs are supported from the backs of your knees to your heels. Place a pillow, blanket, or rolled towel under your neck and head for support. Stay for 5–15 minutes. Hug your knees in toward your belly. Roll to your side, resting here for a moment before sitting up.

Sukhasana (Easy Pose)

Woman demonstrating easy pose
Photo: Renee Choi

Stack three folded blankets against a wall, and sit cross-legged on top of them. Place a block under each knee for support and a blanket on top of your thighs to rest your forearms on. Focus on your breath for 3–10 minutes or try an Hourglass Meditation.

Hourglass Meditation

As you sit in Sukhasana (Easy Pose), try this meditation to deepen your relaxation.

Bring to mind the image of an hourglass that was just turned upside down, the sand inside of it emptying from top to bottom. Inhale. Exhale, and let heaviness (the sand) empty from your head, neck, and shoulders.

Inhale. Exhale, and feel the weight drain from your shoulders down to your pelvis. Inhale, expanding. Exhale, and allow all of the sand to drain down into your legs and feet. Feel your inhalation lighten up your torso as you let your body ground completely. Stay anchored for the next few minutes as your breath flows in and out of your body.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Woman demonstrating corpse pose
Photo: Renee Choi

Set up two blocks on their lowest height, side by side toward the foot of your mat. Place your short-roll blanket on top of them. Sit and hook the backs of your knees over the roll. Slowly lie down. Place a pillow under your head and neck. Rest your hands comfortably. Relax here for 5–20 minutes.

See also:

Yoga Poses to Keep You Grounded

A 6-Step Yoga Sequence to Prepare You for a Nap