Stretching for stress relief
Stretching has a multitude of health benefits. At the top of the list is that it reduces stress and anxiety. Amy Hopkins, food and managing editor of Women’s Health demonstrates the top 4 stretches to help you relax.
Pose 1: Child’s Pose
Knees to the edge of the mat, toes to touch, hips towards heels. Extend your arms out in front of you, lifting elbows off the matt. Forehead on the mat, gently rolling from left to right.
Benefits: Stretches hips, thighs and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. Gently relaxes muscles on the front of the body while softly stretching muscles at the back.
Pose 2: Shoulder Stand to Ear Pressure Pose
Begin lying down and then use your core to lift your legs. Place your elbows firmly on the mat, hands to your bra strap line to assist with holding the lift with a straight spine. Straighten legs. Hold for one minute before bending knees. Gently press the inside of the knee area into the ears on each side of your heading, blocking out sound.
Benefits: Shoulder stand pose helps to improve circulation, calm headaches and relax the mind. Ear pressure pose (aka deaf man’s pose) helps calm the mind by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. It also removes excess stimuli.
Pose 3: Forward Bend
To start, inhale as you lift your hands towards the ceiling for High Mountain pose. Exhale Forward Bend, hinging from the hips (bend your knees as much as you need to). While in a Forward Bend pose, you can straighten your legs, pedalling out one at a time, stretching your hamstrings. Grab opposite elbows and hang out in a ragdoll-like pose. Sway gently grom left to right before slowly coming up.
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips while reducing anxiety, relieving stress and calming the mind. Creates a calming effect on the brain.
Pose 4: Corpse Pose
Start by lying down on the mat, feet and hands to the edges of the mat, hands facing upwards in a gesture of openness. Close your eyes and focus on your breath as you settle into a state of meditation. Try to remain as still as possible. Option 2: Bring your feet to touch and let your knees drop out towards the sides. Stay in this position for 10 minutes without moving. No fidgeting, no scratching.
Benefits: sensory stimulation and external distractions are minimised to help the body completely relax. With a grounded body, mental energy can be channelled inwards and the mind can start to explore the body from the inside. This posture increases self-awareness and introspection, which has been linked to decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Pose 4: Legs Up The Wall Pose
Any wall surface will do. The trick is to get your bum as close to the wall as possible. It might feel uncomfortable initially, but soon your body will relax into the pose. Focus on slow, steady breath and stay in the posture for 10 minutes.
Benefits: Deep relaxation, soothes swollen legs and feet stretches hamstrings and lower back while relieving tension on the lower back (practise while experiencing period pain). This is a great pose to do before setting up for your nighttime routine as it helps to calm the mind.