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3 Yoga Poses to Help Relieve Stress

One effective tool to relieve stress is yoga. As we gear up for the launch of HarmonizePMD, Richmond health coach Lindsey Patton introduces three simple yoga poses you can try to relieve stress.

Looking for more personalized instruction on how to use yoga to relieve stress? PartnerMD members will have exclusive access to HarmonizePMD Yoga & Meditation, our newest wellness program coming soon. A four-week yoga and meditation course taught by Lindsey and Owings Mills health coach Yvonne Bull, HarmonizePMD Yoga & Meditation teaches you how to use meditation and yoga to alleviate stress. Learn more here and stay tuned for more info. 

Forward Fold

The first one I'll show you is a forward fold. You can do this seated or standing. I'm going to demonstrate seated. You'll just come down to the floor, extend your legs out in front of you, and gently lean forward so you're hinging at the waist so that you're not putting any stress on the disc of your back.

Creating a forward fold helps to relax the body. It makes us focus on introspection and it allows you to compress the abdominal organs to help relieve stress through the belly and where we hold tension through our stomachs. To add a layer of making this even more comfortable, you are welcome to use a bolster or pillow to cushion the fold forward.

This just makes it more restorative to where you're resting on the prop and you're using less of your muscles, more focused on just breathing into this posture to help relax.

A question I am asked often as a yoga teacher is how long should I hold this pose? I recommend focusing on the number of breaths versus the amount of time because if we have a timer going a lot of times we'll just watch that and not focus on our breathing. A good rule of thumb is at least five to 10 breaths per posture.

So a nice, full inhale, you'll feel your belly against the prop and then exhale it out. Start with that one.

You can also do this standing, so if I had this, you can even use a prop between your belly and your thigh to where you're bending forward and just holding the prop between the belly and thigh. Try not to hold tension in your neck if you're doing this one. Just let everything hang heavy, even hold onto your elbows so let everything, all the tension, drip out of the crown of your head. Make sure your jaw is relaxed as well. So that's the first one, any sort of forward bend helps to relieve stress.

Hip Opener

Your second one is a hip opener. So this is called pigeon pose and I'll demonstrate how to get into it. I'll show you the first variation, then I'll show you a modification if you have any knee sensitivity.

You'll start by coming on to your seat and I'm going to bend one knee in towards me. Right now I'm on my right hip, my right knee is bent. I'm going to place both my hands on either side of my right leg so that I can shift my hips up and reach my left foot back.

I'm feeling a pretty deep stretch in my right hip, this is the front leg that is bent. And to make it more relaxing you can lower down to the floor.

If you have any sort of knee discomfort or if there's anything torn or sensitive through the knee, it's not going to feel like the best pose in that position. I would recommend just rolling onto your back and whichever leg you're stretching you'll cross the ankle to the thigh, so my right ankle to my left thigh. Then you'll pull the legs in.

You can thread your hands to grab the opposite thigh, or you can even cradle the top leg. So whatever works for you is the best choice. Notice if you have any pain, back off. Discomfort is normal especially through the hips, this is where we hold a ton of tension in the body. Staying with the tension and breathing through the discomfort is a great way to release physically through the body to make you feel more mentally at peace.

Legs-Up-the-Wall

Our third post today is my favorite, it's called legs-up-the -wall. You will come down to the floor and I have a wall behind me. I'm just going to bring my hips as close as I can. And then you will swing the legs up and lie on your back.

So my feet are up the wall. It is certainly okay if the knees bend slightly. And if you have really tight hamstrings, you can also bring your legs up a couch or an ottoman so that the knee crease is resting comfortably on a surface. So imagine that there's a table or a couch underneath my legs here, that is even more relaxing.

This helps to restore circulation and blood flow for our lower extremities to come down into our belly and internal organs through the abdomen. You can stay in that position for five to 10 minutes. I highly recommend it if you're on your feet all day, or as we start to travel more and we're on planes. That's a great pose to do after flying because it helps reduce any swelling or accumulation of fluid in our feet and calves to come back to the internal organs in our stomach.

Coming Soon: HarmonizePMD — A Stress and Sleep Program

Because stress and sleep impact almost every facet of your health, learning how to manage both pays dividends in all areas of your life. HarmonizePMD, a stress and sleep program coming in May exclusively for PartnerMD members, teaches you how to integrate your mind and body so you can reduce your stress, sleep better, and live healthier. Learn more here and stay tuned for more info.