Feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety can be overwhelming. However, we don't need to let these feelings consume our entire day. Taking a couple minutes for yourself to relax is a simple way to relieve stress. Try one, a couple, or all of these simple stretchesto help calm and ease your mind. Doing each stretch for just 30 seconds can make a world of difference, or if you have just 5 minutes to spare, try this stretch routine for 2 rounds.
1. Child's Pose
This pose is a great way to relax, calm the brain, and relieve stress. If you've slept the wrong way or feel tight, this pose can ease lower back pain and create a nice stretch in the spine, hips, pelvis, and thighs.
How to perform: 1. Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels. Spread your knees about hip-width apart. Those with very tight hips can keep the knees and thighs together. 2. Exhale, and bow forward, draping your torso between your thighs. Your chest should rest between or on top of your thighs. 3. Allow your head to come to the floor and extend your arms, palms facing down. 4. Rest here. Pay attention to any tension you feel- perhaps in your hips, shoulders, or neck. Take a deep breath and let that tension go.
These two poses done together will stretch and strengthen your spine. The cow stretch activates the tailbone, while the cat stretch releases the tension of the neck and back. This movement will also increase blood and spinal fluid circulation and gently massage the organs in the abdominal area.
How to perform: 1. Start on all fours. The top of your feet should be flat, shoulders directly over your wrists, and hips directly over your knees. 2. As you inhale, arch your back into a "U" shape keeping your shoulders rolled back and down. 3. Look slightly upward towards the ceiling. (This is Cow). 4. As you exhale, press your hands into the ground and round your back into a "n" shape. (This is Cat). 5. Continue moving, arching on your inhales and rounding on your exhales.
3. Butterfly Pose
This is a simple stretch that helps to calm your mind and stretches your hips and groin. This pose can even help reduce the pain of menstrual cramps.
How to perform: 1. Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet pressing into each other. 2. To deepen the intensity, move your feet closer in toward your hips. 3. Elongate and straighten your spine, ticking your chin in toward your chest. 4. With each inhale, lengthen your spine and with each exhale, sink a bit deeper into the stretch.
4. Downward Facing Dog
This total body movement is great as it is a mild inversion. It resets your nervous system, calms the brain, and energizes the body. This is a great pose to relieve back pain as well.
How to perform: 1. From all fours, push into your hands to raise your hips and straighten your arms and legs (like a mountain). You may want to inch your hands and feet slightly farther apart. Your heels do not need to touch the ground. This is a good place to bend your knees one at a time to gently open up the back of each leg. 2. As you exhale, press into your hands to roll your shoulders down and back into a push up position. Your body should be neutral here. 3. Repeat
5. Standing Forward Bend
This movement helps you feel calmer by relieving stress, fatigue, and anxiety. The kidneys, liver, and digestion are stimulated as well.
How to perform: 1. In a standing position, take a deep breath in while lifting your hands up and out above your head. 2. As you exhale, fold at your hip joints keeping your torso long and lifted. Keep your legs straight. You may place your hands anywhere that is comfortable for you such as your thighs, shins, ankles, feet, or the floor depending on your level of flexibility. 3. Keep your feet planted firmly with your hips over your heels. This is a great time to move your neck in circles, side to side, and up and down to relieve any tension in the neck. 4. Repeat
May is mental health awareness month, and it's important to keep our minds' balanced and healthy. Simple things like stretching, deep breathing, or taking a short walk can help rid feelings of stress and positively change our mood.