Let’s face it, life can be stressful and it is important to calve out some time to relax and be calm. Like meditation and practising mindfulness, yoga is another great way to calm the nervous system. So, why not use this guide of five yoga poses and stretches to schedule in a mini home yoga workout to help you unwind?
When it comes to your health, relaxing is just as important as exercising. If you are working long hours, looking after family, and fitting in regular gym sessions, then you also need to make time to rest your body and calm your mind to keep yourself in balance.
Yoga is one of the best ways to relax and restore your mind and body. It’s suitable for all levels of fitness, you don’t need any equipment, and you can practice at a time and place that works for you. The physical poses will help to relieve stress by releasing tension from your body, and deep yogic breathing helps to take your mind and body out of fight-or-flight mode and put them into rest-and-digest mode.
ALSO SEE: Our top 4 relaxing yoga poses
Focus on the now
When you practice yoga, you’re also practising mindfulness. Focusing on the present moment in each pose will help you to let go of worries and anxieties. You can then incorporate mindfulness into other areas of your life to carry your calmness with you off the yoga mat and into your day.
Creating a specific space for your moment of calm will help you to relax. You don’t need much room – just enough for a yoga mat, or for you to lie down in. Get some scented candles and a plant or some flowers, and turn the space into your own little sanctuary.
Incorporate the poses into your daily routine by setting aside 10 to 20 minutes at the same time every day, or if you don’t have a regular routine, then schedule your yoga time into your diary.
Explore the yoga poses in this calming routine slowly and gently, giving your body time to relax into them. Focus on taking long, deep breaths and, if any thoughts pop into your mind, just be aware of them and let them pass, before bringing your awareness back to your breath.
Try these 5 yoga poses and stretches for instant calm:
Melting heart pose
This is a gentle bend that is lovely to do after a long day at work, to release tension from your shoulders and spine, and calm any anxiety.
- Begin on all fours and walk your fingers forward as far as you can. Keep your hips stacked directly over your knees, allow your chest to sink toward the floor, and rest your forehead on the ground.
- Hold for 30 to 50 breaths (three to five minutes), channelling every inhale into any areas of tension. With each exhale, allow yourself to soften deeper into the pose as your muscles relax.
- Slowly shift your bottom to your heels, and wrap your arms around behind you with your palms to the sky. Rest here for a moment before rolling up into a seated position.
- Begin seated and bring the soles of your feet together with your heels about foot-distance away from your groin. Fold forward, allowing your spine to round. Gently keep hold of your toes, or rest your hands in front of you.
- Hold for 30 to 50 breaths (three to five minutes), focusing on relaxing the muscles in your hips and thighs by visualising your knees sinking closer to the floor.
- Exit the pose by rolling slowly back to sitting. Bring your hands to the outside of your thighs and bring your knees together.
Sleeping butterfly pose
This is a lovely follow-on pose to the Butterfly, and helps you find calmness in your body and mind.
- Either begin in Butterfly pose and lower yourself down onto your back, or begin lying down and bend your knees outwards to bring the soles of your feet together.
- Bring your hands to rest on your belly, and bring your awareness to your breathing. Relax here for 30 to 50 breaths (three to five minutes), feeling your belly rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale.
- Bring your hands to the outside of your thighs and use them to help bring your knees together. Hug your knees into your chest as a nice stretch afterwards.
Neck release yoga pose
We hold a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders from working at desks, looking at phone screens, and driving. Tight neck muscles are a common cause of headaches and migraines, so it’s vital to keep your neck mobile.
- Slowly lower your right ear toward your right shoulder.
- Bring your right hand to rest on the left side of your head to increase the stretch.
- Hold for 10 to 15 breaths (one to two minutes), and then repeat on the left side.
- Let your head drop forward, bringing your chin toward your chest.
- To increase the stretch, interlace your fingers and rest palms on the back of your head, elbows towards the floor.
- Hold for 10 to 15 breaths, then roll your head slowly back to centre.
- Let your head hang back, to stretch the front of your neck. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths.
Happy baby pose
This is a pose you often see newborns embracing. It helps your hips relax, stretches your hamstrings, and gives a release to your lower back.
- Lie down on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Take hold of the outside edges of your feet and bring your knees toward your armpits.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and release your tailbone toward the ground.
- Hold for 20 to 30 breaths (two to three minutes).
- Release your feet and stretch your legs out in front of you. Lie here for a couple of minutes, with your palms to the sky, to allow your body and mind to absorb the poses and leave you feeling relaxed, peaceful, and calm.
ALSO SEE: 5 face yoga moves for a youthful glow
Try live yoga classes online
If you love the community and sense of well-being you get from live yoga classes, many yoga studios are now offering live classes that you can do in the comfort of your own home. The Pai Tula Yoga Studio in Fourways, for instance, is hosting live classes everyday via Zoom, that you can join from anywhere in the country. They’re currently running a “21 Days Of You” special (R600 for unlimited classes for 21 days) that you can purchase online here.
How it works
Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced yogi, their yoga classes will allow you the chance to practice unlimited sessions, get involved in a core challenge and practice essential 5-minute meditations everyday to bring you back to a sense of calm. All you need is a yoga mat or even a towel, as the teachers give prop substitute ideas such as a book, towel, pillow, etc. All classes are easy to follow, so you don’t need to be a tech whizz to join!
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be added to a broadcast group on WhatsApp where you’ll receive the class ID’s to join, the meditations and more. There are currently six teachers, who all bring a unique and specific feel to the classes which are warm and welcoming.
For more free online yoga classes, check out YouTube’s Yoga Playlists.
By Nicola Jane Hobbs. Additional words: Tammy Jacks
Model: Katherine Comley
Photographer: Owen Bruce