10 Yoga Poses for Stress Relief

'Tis the Season

For a lot of people, this time of year means lots of family time, festive music, sweet treats and acts of love. It’s a time of giving, appreciating and, for many, a time of worship and praise- no matter what universal power you believe in. It’s a great time to reflect on the past seasons of growth, hurdles, pain, success, and set personal goals for the coming year.

Now, let’s keep it real. This time of year can also mean many weeks of cold, short days with more darkness than light (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least). It might mean weakened immune systems, less self-control, more indulgence, financial hardship, and stress. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel over-worked and under-productive. We’ve been there, too!

Of course, we know that light will slowly start to outstay the darkness and flowers will replace the bare tree branches, eventually. But, in the meantime, let’s make a point to live in the moment, soak up the present and breathe when life starts to feel like a never-ending carousel ride.

For starters, we’ve compiled a list of ten yoga poses that can be especially beneficial during these times of stress, seasonal depression, and stiff joints. While no pose is an instant miracle worker, when done regularly over time, the following poses are known to be extremely beneficial in more ways than one. So, how about taking a few minutes out of your busy day to appreciate every inch of you and breathe in life and appreciation for all that you are? How lucky are we to have bodies that can bend, stretch, flow and carry the weight of our big hearts, beaming souls and (sometimes over-indulgent) bellies? The outside world sure seems a lot more bearable when our inside world is content. Stop being so hard on yourself. Take time to make your heart smile and ease your busy mind this holiday season.

So, here’s to you, yogi- wherever you may be, physically, mentally and spiritually. This is your little reminder to breathe peace in and breathe out stress. Notice how it feels. Hold onto that feeling for a little while.

10 Poses for Stress Relief

Childs Pose- Balasana


Child's pose can be done either with feet together and knees wide, or with both the feet and knees together. Entering this posture sends signals to the mind that your body is in a safe position. Placing the third eye on the ground is known to be grounding and calming for the mind. Child's pose with knees together is also great for digestion, as your knees are able to gently massage the intestines.


Puppy Pose- Uttana Shishosana


Similar to child's pose, placing the third-eye on the ground calms the mind. The deep shoulder and spinal stretch in puppy pose is known to relieve symptoms of chronic stress and tension held in the shoulders and back. 


Leg Up Wall Pose- Viparita Karani

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This restorative pose is great for both the back and legs. The partially supine position can relieve lower back tension while elevating the legs promotes drainage from excess fluid build up. This is a great posture when battling restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia or varicose veins.


Happy Baby- Ananda Balasana

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Happy baby reduces the arch in your lower back, helping ease low back and sacral pain. This carefree positioning provides for an instant mood boost. The infant-line pose opens the hips, releasing stress and calming the brain.


Standing Forward Fold- Uttanasana

Standing forward bends allow you to relax the upper body, while engaging the legs and abdomen. This is a great pose for relieving tension in the spine, neck, and back. The positioning of the upper body can relieve headaches, help with insomnia, reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, over time. It is also known to be therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, and sinusitis. 


Downward Facing Dog- Adho Mukha Svanasana


Downward facing dog is a naturally energizing pose that engages the majority of the body. It has been known to calm the brain, help with stress, depression and relieve symptoms of menopause. It is also a great pose for improving posture and relieving neck and back pain.


Bridge Pose- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana


Bridge pose provides an excellent back stretch, reducing back pain and minor headaches, and improving circulation. It can also calm the brain and improve symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, osteoporosis, and sinusitis.

Lotus Pose- Padmasana

Lotus pose is a deep hip opener. If full lotus is not in your practice, you may experience benefits from half lotus, as pictured above. In addition to opening the hips (where much of your emotions are stored), lotus is known to calm the mind, increase awareness/attentiveness and develop better posture.


Fire Log Pose- Agnistambhasana

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Fire log pose is another great hip opener. This pose is known to release built up emosion and tension from the hips, calm the mind, relieve anxiety, tension, and stress. 


Corpse Pose- Savasana

Rick Cummings

Rick Cummings

The king of all yoga poses: corpse pose is extremely calming and relaxing. This pose is known to lower blood pressure, reduce a headache and help combat insomnia. Although it is relaxing, when done correctly, corpse pose can also provide a boost of energy and reduce fatigue. 

Stay in the Groove: 8 Tips to Keep Motivated and Be Healthy

The holiday season tends to be a hectic time for most people as each weekend is full of parties, outings, dinners, and other plans. Usually a lot of traveling, cooking, baking, drinking, eating, and hanging around talking are involved. It’s a really great time of year to connect with friends and family and to express your love for them. Amidst all of the craziness, you might find it hard to express this love for yourself, as there’s just too much to get done, it seems. Similarly, if you live in area that gets very cold during the winter months, it can be tempting to snuggle up with hot chocolate and watch movies all day, versus sticking to your usual routines. Here are some tips to help keep you motivated to stay happy, healthy, and fit during the holiday season and cold, winter months.

1. Set Goals for Yourself

Setting realistic exercise goals can go a long way in keeping you on track. The workout goal may vary from your typical routine, but simply committing to a certain number of minutes a day or week of exercise will help you stay focused. Even 15 minutes of yoga poses in the morning can aid in getting you centered and present, circulating breath and fresh blood throughout your heart, lungs and veins, detoxifying your body, loosening up your muscles, and giving you a boost for the day. Maybe the goal is setting the alarm 15 – 30 minutes early and getting a practice in before the rush of the day starts, especially if you know you won’t have time for a full practice later in the day. Putting it on the calendar is a sure way to keep you honest. [wp_ad_camp_1]

2. Short Practices Throughout the Day

Though it’s not ideal, you can do yoga almost anywhere. Standing in line at the grocery store is a great time to explore some shoulder stretches. There are 1000s of way to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into your everyday life: forward folds in the shower, sitting mindfully in a hip opener (sukhasana, for example) and remembering to switch sides every few minutes, circulating energy with a few half or full sun salutations when waiting for food to finish cooking, or wrist, finger, and ankle stretches while watching a movie with the family are all ways to stay present, to keep fresh breath circulating, and to keep the energy flowing through the body while getting to tasks of the day done. Feel free to get creative but always be safe and mindful of what your body is telling you and of how open you are at any given time. Without proper warm-ups, your muscles won’t be as warm and you won’t be able to access poses as deeply as when in a full practice, so be aware of not pushing yourself too far here. The purpose is more of a mindfulness activity to stay aware of the body and stay present in the moment.

 3. Invite Family Members to Practice with You

Chances are you have family members that know nothing about yoga. They may not pursue it on their own but they might be interested in connecting with you in a different way than usual and on having you show them the benefits of yoga. Having a family yoga session can be incredibly fulfilling, as you’re sure to laugh together and share energy in new ways. Make an official or unofficial invitation, depending on the structure of your family, to join together for a group yoga session. You will be sharing a very valuable gift with your loved ones that they could take into their own lives moving forward. If you’re not a yoga teacher, there are many on-line yoga classes that are superb (like that you can use for the class. There are free sites as well. Throw some of your old mats into the car, round up the family, plug the computer into the television and broadcast the session for the whole family to enjoy.

4. Enlist a Workout Buddy

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Having a friend on the journey with you of staying healthy during the cold, holiday months is a great idea because, in addition to keeping one another honest, you will also enrich your relationship. It’s so much more fun to run on the treadmill alongside a friend or to accompany each other to a yoga class followed by a lunch date. You will be more likely to show up to the gym or studio if someone is meeting you there at a set time. Plus, it’s a great way to stay connected to your community, which will keep your mental and emotional health in tiptop shape.

5. Consider Booking a Yoga Retreat

If you live somewhere extremely cold and tend to get depressed from the lack of sunshine and outside time, consider booking a yoga retreat abroad in a tropical climate. You will be amazed at how good you will feel after a week in the sun, full of yoga and fun. You will go home recharged, ready to take on any challenges that come your way, and armed with new skills and techniques to staying healthy.

 6. Control Your Food and Alcohol Intake

This might seem obvious, but it takes a lot of effort for most of us to not binge eat during the holidays. It tends to be societally accepted and perhaps even expected that everyone stuff themselves during the holidays. Our families work hard to prepare lots of good food but the fact is it tends to be on the unhealthy side for most families during this time of year (not in all cases, of course!). Avoiding all the delectable treats of this season can seem like torture, especially if you have cravings for such foods. A great way to help you avoid things you don’t want to eat is by committing to it before you leave the house. As a vegan, it’s easy for me to avoid most unhealthy holiday foods and baked goods as I can’t eat them anyway, but before I was vegan, I had an extremely difficult time saying no to certain sweets, even if I wasn’t hungry. If you’re not vegan, pretend that you are and that you simply cannot eat most of the unhealthy crap, and it gets a lot easier to avoid. Eat a nutritious breakfast, drink a fresh juice or smoothie early in the morning to fill you up, and supplement with nuts and fresh fruits and veggies throughout the day so you’re not starving during the ominous mealtimes. Then look in the mirror and practice telling your mother, “No thanks Mom, none for me this year.”

7. Supplement with Vitamins, if Necessary

Let me preface this by saying loudly: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. Not even close, however, as a therapist, I know that lack of sunshine can cause deficiencies in vitamins, namely Vitamin D. These deficiencies not only impact our physical health but can leave us feeling depressed or melancholy as well. If you notice that you’re not getting enough sun and that it’s starting to affect your wellbeing, consider talking to your doctor about supplementing with vitamins during this time, and see what she or he recommends for you. You might even consider having a blood panel drawn up to see exactly what you need.

8. Bring Dishes that are Healthy and Filling

Take matters into your own hands and set examples for your friends and family by recreating traditional recipes in healthy and delicious ways and bringing them to the party. I never feel deprived as a vegan during Thanksgiving or Christmas if I ensure I bring some dishes I love, as literally every recipe can be made vegan (and usually tastes better, in my opinion). You can eat more because it’s not bogged down with filing animal fats and you won’t feel gross afterwards. Your family will try it and surely love it and you might have an impact on moving your whole family in a healthier direction. Just make sure to bring plenty so you’re not upset when they gobble up all your vegan green bean casserole!


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