6 Yoga Poses to De-Stress and Relax

By Anika Nayak

2020 was a stressful year, to say the least. From the prolonging coronavirus pandemic to economic tensions, it’s hard not to feel anxious or stressed. Understand that you’re not alone and that your feelings are completely valid. 

On the bright side, there are steps you can take to reduce stress and improve your mental well-being. Yoga, a mind and body practice which has roots dating back to over 5,000 years ago, has been proven to promote relaxation and stress management, according to studies. Mimi Ghandour, the founder of Mimi Yoga, provides her recommendations on easy, stress-relieving yoga poses you can do from the comfort of your home. Here are 6 poses that will help you stay calm and relaxed:

Cat Pose and Cow Pose

Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. Center your head in a neutral position, eyes looking at the floor. As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in position. Release your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest. Inhale, coming back to the neutral “tabletop” position on your hands and knees.

Downward Facing Dog

From Table position, tuck the toes under, press into the hands and begin to lift the hips up towards the ceiling. Spread the fingers wide apart with the middle finger facing forward, and the palms shoulder width apart. Press the out through the fingers and edges of the hands. Using straight (but not locked) arms, press the hips up and back reaching the chest towards the thighs. Lift up through the tailbone to keep the spine straight and long. Have the feet are hip’s width apart with the toes facing forward. Press the heels into the floor feeling a stretch in the back of the legs. The legs are straight, or you can have a small bend at the knees to keep the back flat. Let the head and neck hang freely from the shoulders or look up at the belly button.

Camel Pose

Begin kneeling with your thighs perpendicular to the floor and your knees and feet hip-distance apart. Extend your big toes straight back, pressing down with all 10 toenails and firming your outer ankles into your midline. Spin your inner thighs back, and gently release the flesh of your buttocks toward the backs of your knees. Your pelvis is neutral, neither spilling forward nor spilling back, and stacks directly over your knees. Root down from the tops of your feet to your knees; rebound up with your chest. Bring your palms together in front of your sternum, and drop your chin toward your sternum. Take an inhalation to emphasize the lift of your chest, then create Savasana (Corpse Pose) arms (palms facing forward). With the next exhalation, keeping your chin dropping and your pelvis over your knees, take your hands to your heels. Immediately press your shoulder blades forward and up, and coil your thoracic spine to lift your chest any amount more. Having created more space/extension in your upper back, your head can now drop back and hang freely. Continue pressing down with your feet and lower legs in order to lift up with your thoracic spine and chest. Hold for 5–10 breaths, then, leading with your sternum, use an inhalation to come up (head is the last part of the body to exit).

Seated Forward Fold

Bring your arms straight out to the sides and up over your head, reaching toward the ceiling. Inhale and draw your spine up long. As you exhale, begin to come forward, hinging at your hips. On each inhale, lengthen your spine. On each exhale, deepen into your forward bend.

Forward Fold

Stand with your feet together. Place your hands next to your feet or on the ground in front of you. Inhale and extend your chest to lengthen your spine. … Exhale and gently press both legs toward straight. On an exhalation, extend your torso down without rounding your back.