Stress, left unchecked, can lead to feeling run down and out of balance. Read on to learn the best yoga postures for stress relief that you can do anytime, anywhere.
by James Han
We’re bombarded by stress on a daily basis. Though our bodies are equipped to handle small amounts of it, stress can slowly wreak havoc on your mental and physical well-being if left unchecked.
In fact, a study by the American Institute of Stress reported that 73% of people deal with a level of stress that negatively impacts their mental health, with 77% also experiencing physical symptoms such as tense muscles, body aches and nervous shaking.
Though there are many ways you can naturally manage your stress, research indicates that ancient techniques like yoga and Ayurvedic essential oils can help considerably. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed — and noticing that you’re holding yourself in a constant “nervous pose” — read on to learn a few simple yoga postures for stress relief and confidence.
How To Notice Stress in Your Body
Stress manifests in a number of ways. Though it can impact digestion, breathing, libido and more, your body’s most common response is muscle tension — its way of protecting itself against injury and pain. When you’re under chronic stress, your musculoskeletal system operates in a state of constant guardedness, leaving your muscles wound and taut.
For many people, this appears as tightness in the shoulder and neck area, and often yields in headaches. Over time, this holding pattern in the body can lead you to even bigger issues, ranging from atrophied muscles to deep feelings of insecurity and anxiety.
Yoga Postures for Stress Relief and Confidence
The following yoga postures can help relax your muscles and promote greater feelings of calmness and confidence. Many of them can be done anytime, anywhere, making them perfect for a gentle nighttime routine or right before a meeting at work.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
In a yoga set, child’s pose is typically a restful interlude between more challenging poses (or asanas). It can help release tension in the shoulders, chest and back; improve circulation; and stretch the hips, thighs and ankles.
Simply kneel on a yoga mat (or a soft floor) with your legs together, and sit on your heels. Lean forward until your forehead touches the mat and your chest rests on top of your thighs. Your hands should be lengthened back, with your hands beside your feet. Sink into the floor, relax your entire body and breathe until the stress dissipates.
2. Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)
Cat-cow is a gentle stretching exercise that can relieve tension from the spine and neck as well as give you a boost of energy and confidence. Start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be aligned beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Inhale and enter cow by lifting your tailbone and stretching your neck to bring your gaze to the ceiling. Hold your breath here and, as you exhale, gently move into cat by tucking your tailbone in (pushing your pelvis forward), dropping your head and looking at your navel. Check out a video tutorial here.
3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Standing forward fold can help calm the brain, relieve stress and stretch the hamstrings, calves and hips. Start by standing in mountain pose with your feet together and hands on your hips. As you exhale, bend at your hips (not your waist!), extending your torso and folding your body so that your fingertips rest alongside your toes. We recommend that you bend your knees slightly as well. Let your head hang in a relaxed manner. As you inhale, lift and lengthen the torso slightly; as you exhale, release more fully into the forward bend.
4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra is another great pose for both stress and confidence. By opening the heart center and stretching the muscles of the shoulders, chest and abs, cobra can help you release nervousness and anxiousness.
Begin by lying flat on your stomach. With your palms directly under your shoulders and elbows bent and pressed into your sides, inhale as you slowly lift your chest off the floor, roll your shoulders back and breathe. You can keep your forearms on the mat, if you like.
5. Rabbit Pose (Sasangasana)
Rabbit pose opens up the spine and melts away tightness in the shoulders, neck and back. Starting in child’s pose, grab the heels with your hands and, with your forehead pressed against the mat, pull your head slowly toward your knees. Inhale and raise the hips toward the ceiling, pulling the forehead as close to the knees as possible. Slowly breathe in and out at least four to eight times before sliding back into child’s pose.
CBD and Essential Oils for Stress Relief
While yoga postures for stress can have a powerful impact on your body’s stress response, there are ways you can elevate their effects. For instance, essential oils such as sweet fennel, basil and orange can help you find calmness, comfort and balance, while cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system to keep you relaxed.
For an all-in-one tincture that combines essential oils and amplifies them with CBD, we recommend taking a dropperful of our SLOW tincture when you’re feeling your “nervous pose” set in. Our REWIND muscle rub can also help you melt any muscle tension away.
James Han is a writer, editor and content strategist based in Los Angeles. When he’s not deep in a Google Doc, you can find him reading, watching films and taking long walks.
The American Institute of Stress - What Is Stress?
WebMD - Stress Symptoms
American Psychological Association - Stress Effects on the Body
Harvard Mental Health Letter - Yoga for Anxiety and Depression
Yoga Journal - Child’s Pose
CNY Healing Arts - The Health Benefits of Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Ventuno Yoga - Beginners Yoga: How To Do Balasana - Child's Pose
Yoga Journal - Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Sportskool Plus - How To Do a Standing Forward Bend Yoga Pose With Nancy Goodstein
Yoga Outlet - How To Do Mountain Pose in Yoga
CNY Healing Arts - The Health Benefits of Cat-Cow Stretch
Verywell Fit - How To Do Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) in Yoga
Arogya Yoga School - 10 Health Benefits of Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Yoga Basics - Rabbit Pose (Sasangasana) Instructions & Photos
Abi Carver - Yoga: How To Do Rabbit Pose