Feeling stressed? Reaching for that bottle of wine? Before you do (or while you do?), try these five easy, stress-relieving at-home yoga poses.
Amber Barry, founder of Westside Yoga, walks us step-by-step through each position with benefits including calming the mind, releasing tension in the hips, lengthening muscles, cooling down the body, improving sleep, opening up your heart and improving circulation.
1. Standing Forward Fold
Begin standing with feet a little wider than hips’ distance apart. All 10 toes should point forward.
Rotate the thighs internally to lengthen the spine, and protect the low back. Fold forward and grab your elbows.
As you close your eyes and gaze inward, push away any thoughts that are not related to the sound of the breath, or the sensation in the body. Breathe with your mouth closed, and visualize the breath entering and leaving your body.
With an awareness of your feet supporting your body in the pose, tuck your chin to your chest and imagine the top of the head drawing closer to the floor.
Engage your belly slightly, drawing it inward and up to the ribs. Be still and hang for 1-3 minutes.
Roll back up to standing and rest with the hands at the side of the body, palms facing forward.
2. Puppy Pose
Move to your hands and knees with the shoulders stacked over the wrists and hips over the knees.
Walk your hands forward, keeping them shoulders’ distance apart, and lower your forehead to the floor.
Activate your arms by pressing the hands into the floor and lifting the forearms and elbows away from the mat. Draw the shoulder blades down the back, and away from each other.
Closing your eyes may enhance the benefits of the pose.
Breathe through your nose only. Remain in puppy pose for 10-20 full breaths.
Walk your hands back toward the knees, until you can bring your seat to your heels, and rest with the hands on the knees, palms facing upward.
Repeat three times.
3. Camel Pose
Move to your hands and knees, and then lift your upper body.
Bring your hands to your low back for support.
Draw elbows toward each other and move the shoulders down the back. Broaden the collarbones.
As you inhale, look up and lift your heart. As you exhale, lean back slightly, until you feel a slight backbend. Do not push the hips forward, instead keep the hips aligned with the knees.
Hold for 10-20 breaths. Repeat 3 times.
4. Seated Twist
Come to a seated position with the legs crossed. If it is difficult to straighten the spine while seated on the floor without support, you may sit on a pillow, folded blanket or block.
Sit tall, gaze at the tip of your nose, and bring the right hand to the left knee.
Turn to look back over your left shoulder, using the right hand to deepen the twist. Come to the first point of resistance, not your deepest twist and breathe through your nose continuously.
Maintain length in the spine as you twist, and take the twist deeper after a few breaths, if it seems like your body wants to go further.
Remain for 1-3 minutes, and then switch to the other side, by bringing your left hand to your right knee. Repeat, twisting in the opposite direction.
5. Legs Up The Wall
Lie down with your seat as close to a wall as possible, allowing the legs to extend up, and the backs of the legs to rest on the wall.
Keep the low back and shoulders grounded.
Legs remain together, and you may rest your arms at the sides of the body.
Hold for 3-5 minutes to maximize benefits.
Now all you need is a yoga mat. Here's one I use from Gaiam that has a nice thickness and doesn't slip.
Did you know proper alignment might be more important for your workout than focusing on your "core"? See what a Pilates expert has to say about that here.