Yoga has been scientifically proven to help you relax and unwind. Getting into yoga can feel intimidating, especially when you look at some of the more complex poses and twists that yoga can involve. If you’re intimidated don’t fear: some of the gentler poses are easy to do, are relaxing, and can even help you improve your sleep. Here are some simpler poses that you can use to relax and unwind at the end of a stressful day.
Before You Start
You can do all or a few of these poses. A good goal is to dedicate 5-10 minutes for stretching to reset the body after your time at work. Hold each pose for a few breaths, or longer if you feel comfortable with them. Focus on your breath more than how deeply you can bend. Playing relaxing music can also help you feel more relaxed while you stretch. If you need to modify stretches with pillows or adjustments, you should do so to avoid injury and to get the most from your experiences.
If you have any injuries, especially to the neck, back, or knees, be sure to consult a doctor or instructor to make sure you have proper form. If you are just starting yoga, remember that you’re allowed to modify the poses to make them easier. Avoid forcing a pose to keep from injuring yourself.
This is actually two poses cycled. First, get onto your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your knees should be under your hips. When you inhale, drop your belly toward the floor and lift your chin and chest to the ceiling. This is the “cow” pose. To do the cat pose, exhale and curve your spine toward the ceiling, letting your head move gently to the floor. Cycling through these movements for 5 to 10 breaths is a good start to any stretching or other physical activity.
Start in table pose (on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Lower your hips to the top of your heels. Exhale and let your forehead touch the floor. There are a few ways to use your hands here—you can stretch your arms in front, stack your fists under your forehead, or place your hands along the sides of your body. Place them in the space that feels the most comfortable for you.
Legs on the Wall
This pose is what the name suggests. Lie down with your hips close to a wall and your legs on the wall, stretching to the ceiling. You can move your pelvis away from the wall if you feel too much tightness. This pose is especially good if you spend a lot of time on your feet, since the pose drains fluid away from your legs and reduces swelling.
Lie on your back with your knees toward your chest. Then, stretch your arms out like you’re making the letter “T”. Lower your knees over your right side to the floor while keeping your left shoulder blade on the floor. Try to have your left hip and left shoulder stretch into opposite directions. Hold this for a few breaths, and then switch sides to focus on your right hip and shoulder.
Wide Angle Fold
Sit upright, with your legs spread into a “V” shape. Inhale as you lengthen the spine upwards. As you exhale, slowly fold yourself into the “V” –think one vertebra at a time. You can also use a pillow in the center of your legs to rest your head on.
Supported Corpse Pose
This is often the final pose in any yoga practice. For this pose, lie on your back with your hands at your sides. You can put a pillow under your knees for additional support. As you allow your body to feel heavy, turn your attention inward and focus on how your body physically feels. Use slow, controlled breathing throughout.
These are some of the more basic and essential yoga poses for any practice. You can use these poses as a start to a new practice, or simply use them to unwind when you want to relax before going to sleep.