Yoga Poses for Stress

Practicing yoga can help to reduce stress, according to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publications. People who practice yoga tend to have less intense physical responses to stress, including lower heart rates, respiration and blood pressure. Any form of yoga that combines meditative movements with deliberate breathing can be beneficial for stress, but some yoga poses also seem to have positive effects.

Eagle Pose

According to Sara Ivanhoe, a yoga instructor and contributing editor for “Health” magazine, the eagle pose is one of the best postures for relieving stress. This pose relieves neck tension, opens up your shoulders and engages your core to drain stress from your body, Ivanhoe says. Because the pose can be done in three increasingly complex stages, the eagle is good for experienced yoga practitioners as well as people who are new to the discipline.

In the eagle pose, stand straight with your right arm in an L shape in front of you. Wrap your left arm around your right arm, pressing your palms together. Lift your arms straight up so that your palms are above your head.

More advanced yoga practitioners can lower themselves into an imaginary chair, bending their legs and keeping their feet together. Experienced yoga practitioners can wrap their left leg around their right leg, balancing on one leg, then switching legs and repeating the balancing act.

Shoulder Stand

Inversion exercises like shoulder stands are good for reducing stress, according to an article in “Yoga Journal” magazine by Timothy McCall, M.D. McCall says that stress is associated with high vata—or air element—levels in the body, and shoulder stands and other inversion poses help re-ground you, reducing vata and stress. Move into a shoulder stand by kneeling on the floor with your head and forearms on the floor in front of you and your hands clasped around the back of your head. Slowly raise your legs, keeping your weight on your forearms, until your legs are in the air and your body forms a straight line. Mastering this can be easier if you have an instructor to guide you into the correct position.

Extended Puppy Pose

If your knees are in good shape, the University of Michigan Healthwise information service recommends the extended puppy pose for stress. The extended puppy stretches your spine. Because it’s an easy pose to accomplish, it’s especially good for beginners. The extended puppy pose starts on all fours, with your palms flat on the floor. Slowly stretch your arms forward, keeping them straight in front of you, until your face is touching the floor.

About this Author

Holly Roberts is an award-winning health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in health, lifestyle and fitness magazines. Roberts has also worked as an editor for health association publications and medical journals. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in literature.