Have you ever been so stressed and overwhelmed with tasks that you just… can't... even? Trust me, we’ve all been there. Maybe you’re starting out with a fresh semester at school or undertaking a new job, and you suddenly find yourself loaded with more responsibilities than you anticipated. Or maybe you agreed to help with something without thinking, and now you realize that you already have a full plate of projects. The key with countering stress is learning how to balance. Remember, new changes can also be a positive thing because it helps us grow in different areas of our life. The best way to cope is to take some time for yourself to relax. Just take things one step at a time and focus on one task at a time. Exercising with methods like yoga and stretching out are helpful ways to deal when you're feeling overwhelmed. Not only will you be able to boost your productivity and be able to concentrate longer, but you'll feel way better too. Contrary to popular belief, yoga isn't about being able to do the splits, an impressive hollow back or even touching your toes. A gentle, restorative pose can be a lifesaver when you’re feeling totally frazzled. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you'll need to work on flexibility at least 2 to 3 times per week in order to see results, meaning that now is simply the best time to start! Remember to speak to your physician before starting an exercise program. We’ve collected some of the best stretches you can use to rejuvenate yourself and do that thing that normal, non-busy people do… relax.
16 Child's pose
Say Ohm… Also called Balasana, Child’s pose is simply the go-to pose if you're ever in need of a little time to chillax. Start on all fours with your hands stacked over your wrists. Curl your toes under and sit back on your heels, reaching your arms forward. You have the option of letting your forehead rest on your mat, or on the back of your hands. For modifications, try moving your knees further apart for a deeper stretch. Yoga Journal recommends staying in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. You can always come back to this pose when things get too intense during a yoga class, or even if you need a minute just to clear your head. We all need a break sometimes, whether it’s from our computer screen, our sibling or just our ever growing to-do list. Think of Child’s Pose as a getaway vacation from your day to day woes. Remember, the most important start of a journey begins with a single step.
15 Downward-Facing Dog
Downward-Facing dog is a quintessential yoga pose, a foundational yoga movement often weaved into many types of yoga practices. There are various ways to get into the pose, which may depend on your teacher’s methodology, but you can start on all fours. Push back and curl your toes under, lifting your hips into the air. You should make sure your arms are about shoulder width apart. If it's too much on your neck, keep your gaze downward about halfway towards your feet. If you’re just starting your practice, slowly warm up the body by pedaling your feet one at a time. This helps warm up your joints and prime your body for your practice. Also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, the pose is affectionately known as downward dog in most Yoga classes. Yoga Journal calls this one of the traditional poses found in a Sun Salutation sequence, and you can stay in the pose between one to three minutes, depending on how you feel. If you already practice yoga, you'll definitely be familiar with this one. Remember to stay mindful of your posture in this pose. If it's too intense to look down at your feet, look halfway between your arms and hands to relieve pressure on your neck. Also, remember to keep your core engaged throughout the pose in order to avoid arching the back and straining the spine. If you want another variation, try doing three legged dog pose. Lift one leg into the air. Keep here, or bend the knee and allow your hip to open. This is a great way to stretch out the hips. Repeat on the opposite leg to make sure everything is equal.
14 Forward Fold Pose
If you find yourself chair-bound throughout the day, you've probably felt lower body soreness, especially in your hips and psoas. Standing Forward Bend or Forward Fold pose are common transitions found in a traditional Sun Salutation sequence. There are tons of amazing health benefits from trying this pose, which stretches out your hamstrings, calves, and hips. It's also known to help with digestion and relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety or headaches.
Usually, yogis will start in Tadasana, or standing mountain pose, and are instructed to bend forward towards the ground into Uttanasana, or forward fold pose. You should remember to bend forward from the hips, like a hinge. To ease into the pose, you can bend your knees slightly and place your palms on the floor. If you'd like, try using a prop like a yoga block here. You can press into the yoga block with your legs straightened and really engage your muscles. Be mindful of your breathing on each inhalation and exhalation. The next transition is usually a half forward fold bend and then downward-facing dog. If you need more instruction, be sure to check out the details of this pose over at Yoga Outlet. Remember to focus on the present moment and not worry about getting your head to your knees, or even touching your toes. The focus should be simply on the stretch and the breathing patterns, and not getting caught up in high expectations for yourself. The fact that you chose to get on your mat and put forth effort is worth celebrating.
13 Cat and Cow Pose
According to recent research from The American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain. That’s not even including statistics about lower back pain from around the globe. Lower back pain is a common ailment that many people suffer with on a daily basis. For a quick and easy way to combat the discomfort, try these two yoga poses called cat pose and cow pose. Cat and cow poses are a great choice for warming up or loosening the spine. Transitioning between the two gives your back and shoulders a nice, easy stretch.
Cat pose also called Marjaryasana, helps stretch out your back muscles. Depending on your teacher, you may get different breathing instructions, but for now, we'll work with the patterns from Yoga Journal. Start by being on all fours, with your hands and knees about shoulder width apart. Take a deep inhale in this neutral position and imagine you're making a tabletop with your back. Exhale and begin to round your back, just like a kitty. Inhale, and perform the same movement in reverse, arching your back and letting your head tilt upward. This is also called cow pose, or bitilasana. Repeat slowly several times to warm up the body and prepare for movement. The idea is to really open up the chest and the back area, specifically by taking your time and linking the breath to each movement. Clear your mind and let go of all your worries with this simple set of poses.
12 Thread The Needle Pose
If you work at a computer in an office setting for hours on end, you're certainly no stranger to stiff hamstrings and glutes. Take charge of the situation and give everything a nice, relaxing stretch with Thread the Needle pose. To get started, lie flat on your back with both legs extended. Bring your right leg inward and place your foot on the floor with the knee pointing up. Next, take your left ankle and place it on your right kneecap. Grasp your hands behind your hamstring and keep a relaxed breathing pattern. for an even deeper stretch, try grabbing behind your shin to target the muscles more. Take four our five breaths or more here, and be sure to make complete inhalations and exhalations. Repeat on the opposite leg to make sure you stretch out both sides. If it's too intense simply bring both legs in at your chest and breathe in and out. Some teaching methods refer to another type of “Thread the Needle Pose” as an upper body stretch, which is an awesome way to relieve shoulder stiffness. For example, Yoga Basics shows the benefits of this stretch for your upper body, especially your shoulders, upper back muscles and neck muscles.
11 Doorway Chest Stretch
Headed out to run errands? You might think it's a little much, but you might want to stretch it out first. This chest opener is really helpful if you're going to be lifting or carrying heavy things. After this one, you'll be able to handle all kinds of shopping bags, no questions asked. Try doing this simple Doorway Chest Stretch when you’re at home. Stand next to a wall and extend one arm alongside it. Slowly turn in the opposite direction until you feel resistance. This stretch targets your chest muscles, called the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor of your upper body. It's really helpful for when you know you're going to be lifting things. If you’re anything like me, you may have a crazy habit of trying to carry way too many bags at once in order to save time. In the past, I’ve learned the hard way after aggravating my chest muscle. One whole side of my upper body was sore, and I felt a lot of tightness around my chest. Doing this stretch regularly really loosened things up and helped relieve the discomfort.
10 Neck Rotation Stretch
Neck muscles can get seriously neglected if you're constantly on the go. From looking at computer monitors, projections at school or television screens at home, we rely on our strong neck muscles for so many everyday activities. If you’re prone to working long hours while staring at a screen, you should definitely try out these stretches. Start with this Neck Rotation Stretch by looking straight ahead with your neck in a neutral position. Slowly tilt your head towards your shoulder. If you’ve got stiff neck muscles, you'll quickly feel the stretch, so just go until you feel a slight sensation. Bring your hand to the opposite side of your head and apply a gentle resistance to really engage the muscles and feel the stretch. For a variation, try looking downward and cradling the back of your neck with your hands. Again, gently push into your hands for added resistance. If you need more, take a break from your screen time after using the computer for around 20 min. Start with your head in a neutral position, then slowly make a small circle. Repeat 10 times and then rotate your head in the other direction for a nice, gentle neck stretch. please be careful to go slowly and not hurt yourself. You can also do another traditional variation of these stretches by standing in a neutral position with your head facing straight ahead. Turn your head to your right shoulder and stare at the wall, holding the position for around 30 seconds. Repeat for the left side to help loosen up the tension stored in your neck.
9 Wrist Stretches
Between texting, typing, and shopping, we use our wrist muscles for practically everything. Prolonged strain on the wrist can have unfortunate consequences, like wrist tendonitis or repetitive strain injury. If you don't take action soon, the chronic pain could even develop into carpal tunnel syndrome or more dire consequences. Take charge of your health by trying out some of these simple techniques. My go-to wrist stretch is to make small circles with each wrist, gently making the rotations bigger and bigger. I'll usually repeat about 10-15 times on each hand to release some of the built-up tension. Try out some of these easy wrist stretches provided by Harvard Medical School. The hand/finger tendon glide seems like a very helpful stretch, where you simply start with an open palm and then slowly curl your fingers downward into a fist. Whether you're a student, a freelancer or simply a computer junkie, you may have encountered some wrist troubles from constantly typing. You also might want to look into replacing your current keyboard and mouse for a more streamlined design, along with making your workspace more ergonomic as a whole.
8 Warrior I and Warrior II
This pose is often seen as one of the foundational poses for a yoga practice. Also known as Virabhadrasana I, this pose targets muscles from both the upper and lower body. When you incorporate your arms, you'll stretch out your chest, shoulders, and neck, and when you focus on your technique, you'll engage your leg muscles like your hamstrings and quadriceps in your thighs. Warrior I is known to be a metaphorically empowering pose. The pose is very commonly used in yoga classes, and it can be easy to forget about your form and just go on autopilot. Try to focus on putting your weight on your feet, especially pushing down through the front heel and the ball of the back foot. This will help you stay balanced in the pose.
The same goes for Warrior 2, or Virabhadrasana II. Make sure to keep your front leg straight and have a 90-degree angle to avoid any injury. If either of these poses seem too challenging, you can always modify them to be less intense. Try putting your hands at your waist to help you balance. This will decrease the intensity and allow you to spend more time focusing on your physical technique.
7 Warrior III
Also known as Virabhadrasana III, Warrior III is a challenging pose that’ll leave you feeling energized and ready to take on anything and everything. This pose is a great stretch if you're looking to work on strength and flexibility. Warrior III tests your balance and especially will help if you're prone to slouching. To set up, enter a lunge position and make sure your right knee is at a right angle. Reach up and stretch your arms towards the sky. Slowly transition into Warrior III by imagining a straight line with your arms and back leg. Navigating the waters between falling and being stable is tough, and it actually makes you engage the muscles in your legs, back and shoulders in order to stay upright. If you're just starting out, you can prep for the pose by using props. Try putting a chain in front of you, and gently grab hold on top part of the chair. As you get more comfortable in the pose, you can gradually move the chair away from you. If a chair is too tough to use, you could also use a yoga block as a prop. Rest your hand flat on the yoga block and gently press your weight into it as your raise your back leg.
6 Triangle Pose
Also known as Trikonasana, Triangle pose is a stretch that'll give you a wonderful stretch for your core and lower body. If you're prone to having tight hamstrings from sitting at a desk all day, you'll love this stretch. First, start off in a low lunge and then turn facing sideways. Turn one foot about 45 degrees and then remember to keep the other at about 90 degrees Slowly straighten the legs, and bend forward at your hips. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged like you're wrapping them together to keep your core working. For some, this might be enough, and if you’d like to modify it, try lowering one hand to the ground, inside of your leg. Raise the opposite arm up towards the sky. Take nice, full breaths and release any worries from your mind. This pose is rejuvenating and also works on muscular endurance. It resembles a tree, rooting down towards the ground but also stretching up towards the sky with your opposite arm. you should feel a nice release of any stiffness in your hamstrings
If you've ever experienced back pain, you know how uncomfortable and downright painful everyday movement can be. Pigeon pose, which is known as a hip opener, can be a great way to help alleviate some of your pain. Stiff hip flexor muscles can be the culprit for back pain, compressing your vertebrae and causing discomfort. Taking some time to stretch in Pigeon can help release some of that stiffness. One way to enter the pose is from downward-facing dog. Start by bringing one leg into the air and then tucking your knee towards your chest. Gently lower down and place your bent knee on the floor, and slowly lower your back leg. You want to make sure that your back leg is neutral and flush against the floor, and not rotating outward. When you're here, if your outer hip doesn't rest on the floor, you can use a blanket as added padding. This is a supportive prop that will help you relax into the pose and avoid any injury due to uneven hip placement. Keep your hands on the floor at your sides and remember to try to maintain a straight line with your torso. If this is enough and you feel the stretch, stay here and hold the pose, remembering to focus on your breath. To increase intensity, gently move your hands forward and begin to lower yourself down. A major warning, if you feel any pain or sharp sensations in your opposite knee, please gently exit the pose and return to Child's Pose to take rest. Some teachers recommend not doing this pose first thing in the morning, as your body will need to take time to warm up first.
4 Chair pose
Also known as Utkatasana, chair pose will work both sides of your body, top to bottom. Start by standing upright in Mountain Pose, or Tadasana. Bend your knees and lift your arms up overhead. Try to keep your spine straight instead of rounded or curved. Remember to keep your weight back in your heels as you continue in this pose. If you need modifications, try putting your hands on your hips to keep you stable. Focus on making deep inhalations and exhalations as you hold the pose. If you need help getting started, go near a wall. With your back against the wall, step forward about a few inches away so you're not completely touching the wall. Then, bend your knees and come into a squat position. Using a wall for support is a great way to get used to your form before trying it on your mat. The benefits of chair pose include strengthening your legs and lengthening your spine, as well as giving your chest a nice, easy stretch.
3 Half Lord of the Fishes
A great stretch for your spine, shoulders and general upper body, the Half Lord of the Fishes pose is a rejuvenating twist. Pay close attention to your form in order to get the full benefit of this stretch. First, start off by putting one foot underneath your opposite leg. Your other foot will come toward the front and your knee will point upward, and you're going to want to turn in the opposite direction. Take an inhale and gently turn to the opposite side for a relaxing spinal stretch. This pose is very helpful for stretching out your shoulders, hip flexors, and muscles in your neck. The twisting motion also stretches out your spine, and it's a good option if your muscles are feeling particularly stiff. At first, your muscles might seem tense from trying a new pose, but if you tune into your breathing and relax, it should get easier. This twist is really good to practice if you spend a lot of time on the computer or at a desk. After holding this pose for a few breaths, you should feel some of your upper body tension begin to melt away.
2 Easy Pose
If the previous stretch was a little too intense, keep things low key with this easy pose. You'll love this simple yet refreshing posture. Start in a seated position with a neutral gaze. You don't want to accidentally strain any neck muscles, so keep things easy by looking slightly down. With your hands by your sides or resting on your knees, take a deep inhalation. You’ll really want to take your time here, so make sure to breathe in and out very slowly. If you need additional support, try putting a blanket underneath your pelvis for a padded seat. Relax everything, from your feet to your hands. You have the option of putting your hands in your lap or laying them gently on your knees. Remember to keep your spine lengthening towards the ceiling and to gently roll the shoulder blades back. In order to improve your posture and knock off the bad habit of rounded shoulders, try sitting with your back against a wall. Have a partner place a yoga block between your shoulder blades and where the wall meets. Try different positions with your shoulders and see what's the ideal way to keep the block in place without it moving. This exercise will help strengthen the muscles in your back, along with giving you a nice, calm stretch to help you relax as a whole.
1 Corpse Pose
Take a chill pill. When it comes to keeping things relaxed, it definitely doesn't get much more chill than this. We often practice Corpse pose, or Savasana, at the end of a yoga practice. Sure, it may not seem like you're actually doing anything, but that's the whole point. Being in corpse pose isn't about physically doing something, but instead, a time to relax and reflect. If you just wrapped up a Vinyasa class or a strength training session at the gym, corpse pose is a great way to reward yourself. Close your eyes and release any pent up tension you might be storing. While you're here, soften your facial muscles, especially the area between the eyebrows. Sometimes when we're tense all day, we can unconsciously tighten our muscles and feel stiffness there. When you feel like you're ready, gently roll to one side so you're in a fetal position. Press your hands against the floor and gently lift your torso upward for the safest way to get up from Corpse Pose. Congratulate yourself on a job well-done, and remember to take some time out of your day to relax a little! Don't forget to smile!