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3 Yin Yoga Poses for Stress
In our busy world, physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion are common complaints. Many of us are overworked and overwhelmed by the daily stresses of our hyperactive environment – emails that haunt us even after working hours, performance pressure in the office and at school, tightly scheduled days for ourselves and our children, and so on. It is no surprise more people than ever before look to the ancient practice of yoga for health, happiness, and release of tension.
We all feel stressed from time to time, but continuous or chronic stress sustained over long periods of time can have serious health consequences ranging from sleep and digestive issues to diabetes, depression, and heart disease. Even if your stress is less severe, you may still be impacted by increased feelings of sadness, anger and irritability.
Although many symptoms of stress can be mitigated with medications, to address the root causes of our ailments, we must listen carefully to our bodies and minds. We can all manage our stress with exercise and relaxation. Although yoga should not replace the advice of a health professional, it combines the physical benefits of exercise with the mental benefits of meditation and self-awareness, and is therefore an effective and accessible method for reducing stress.
By bringing the body, mind, and spirit into harmony, Yin Yoga activates our capacity for self-healing. It helps us find the serenity we lack in our busy lives, and facilitates the self-reflection we need to look inwards and interpret our body’s various signals. Yin Yoga’s long, deep stretches, which are held for minutes without any muscular tension and put focus on observing our gentle breathing, create a calm that allows buried conflicts and emotions to emerge.
If we relax and align our bodies and minds, then we can identify what is causing us stress, accept it, process it, and ultimately let it go.
Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
Sit on the mat, place the soles of your feet together, and pull the feet towards the pelvis. Let the knees drop gently outwards, or support the outsides of the legs with two blocks if this stretch is too intense for you. You can also sit on a blanket or a cushion. Relax the back, let your upper body sink forward passively, and place your arms where it is comfortable for you.
Rainbow Bridge (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
This position mobilizes the thoracic spine, opens the heart chamber, and stretches the shoulders and insides of the arms.
Place a yoga bolster and a rolled-up blanket straight across the mat. Then lie down with your back on the bolster, which supports your pelvis and lumbar spine. Your shoulder blades are on the blanket, and your arms are placed alongside your head. If you would like to intensify the stretch, you can extend out your legs, or for a gentler variant, leave your feet placed on the floor.
Stay in Rainbow Bridge for three to five minutes. Then either sit up again with activated pelvic floor muscles, or roll to one side out of the position. Relax into a supine position.
Twisted Roots (Jathara Parivartanasana)
Lie on your back, pull your knees up to your chest, and let your bent legs sink onto the floor to the left. You can place your arms to the side at shoulder height, or stretch them out on the floor above you. Look towards your right hand if you want to include a rotation in the cervical spine. Give all your weight to the floor and breathe into your stomach to intensify the massaging effect on your stomach organs.
If you want to intensify the stretch, you can try the following versions. Start by lying on your back, place your feet hip-width apart on the mat, and let your knees fall to the side as described above. Now release the lower foot from the floor and place it on the outside of the upper leg or on the knee.
Besides the rotation, with Twisted Roots you can also intensify the rotation. To do this, lying on your back, stretch out the left leg and place the right foot on leg. From here, let your right knee sink left to the floor, with a prop underneath if required. You feel the effect even more intensively if you place your left hand on the right thigh. Stay in the selected position for three to five minutes. Then come back to the center, grip your knees and press them briefly to your chest, rock to and fro a few times, and then change sides.
Poses excerpted from “Be Healthy with Yin Yoga:The Gentle Way to Free Your Body of Everyday Ailments and Emotional Stresses” by Stefanie Arend (She Writes Press, August 2019). Photo credit: Forster & Martin Fotografie, Munich
Stephanie Arend is a renowned Yin Yoga instructor, holistic health coach, nutritionist, and energy worker. She is the author of six books, including the classic bestseller, “Yin Yoga: The Gentle Path to the Inner Center” (2011) and “Surya Namaskar: The Sun Salutation” (2014), both of which were named Best Yoga Book of the Year in German-speaking countries. Be Healthy with Yin Yoga is her first English language book. For more information visit: https://www.yinyoga.de/en https://www.youtube.com/user/Stefanie1a/videos