Yoga Practice For Stress Relief

Last Updated on: November 14, 2022

Modern day life is challenging and busy. Many aspects of life demand our time and energy such as our family, job , social life and so on. Additionally, from a young age we are encouraged to excel as an all-rounder in order to gain happiness. This means being on top of our physical, professional and social pursuits. However, this constant pressure to excel is stress. 

Stress is not always a bad thing. Stress can help us perform under pressure. Maybe you have felt manageable stress when preparing for an interview or reaching a deadline. Stress can help us get things done. But, constant stress on the mind and the body can have a negative effect on our well-being. It can lead to a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, anxiety and other such ailments. 

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” – Mahatma Gandhi

It is important then, no matter how busy we are, to make time for  self-care. When we manage our stress, we feeler calmer when it is time to rest and this will have a great impact on our well-being.  We will feel more energized, and feel excited about life.

How Yoga Helps with Stress

Stress can be overwhelming at times and we may handle it in a way that doesn't help us. Maybe we end up binge-watching a TV series, have too many glasses of wine, use drugs such as the over-the-counter kind which are far too easily accessible and available. These may be the go-to ways to unwind however while we may forget our worries for a short time, these are damaging to us over a long period of time.

Yet there are much more efficient ways to unwind and learn to control your stress before it starts to control you. One of those ways is a regular yoga practice.

Did you know there are many studies that show that regular practice of  yoga can have a positive impact on  the impact of chronic and stress as well as  relieve anxiety and depression.

It helps to understand what is happening in the body when we experience  stress. When in a stress state, the sympathetic nervous system automatically activates. We experience a “fight-or-flight” response and  the body temperature and heartbeat increase, muscles tighten to either fight or escape. 

A benefit of yoga is that it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the body’s “rest-and-digest” system. It is a beneficial state as the body can heal, recuperate and digest nourishment. The immune system and our  wellbeing great improves from being in such a state. 

Another benefit of yoga is that we feel an inner strength and calmness which helps us deal with the challenges of life.

How to Make Time for Yoga

Many of us have learned of the amazing benefits of yoga but just don't have the time.  To find an hour of an already jam-packed schedule is quite unrealistic. Well, what if you could find just 15 minutes a day for some selfcare using yoga? 

Yes, only 15 minutes a day of yoga can make all the difference! We can experience the benefits of yoga such as increased energy and better problem-solving capacity when dealing with challenges of the day. 

You owe it to yourself to find at least 15 minutes a day to do something good for your mind and body.

The following yoga sequence is based on the sequence of Swami Sivananda. Please take note that some poses from his sequence aren't included, and the duration of other poses has been decreased in order to fit a maximum amount of beneficial poses and exercises into 15 minutes. Rest assured, this is a simple sequence that can be practiced both by anyone whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner. The sequence covers:

  •  breathing
  •  warm-up
  •  inversion
  • forward bend
  •  back bend
  •  standing pose
  •  a short final relaxation

 A 15-minute Practice for Less Stress

1. Anulom Vilom – Alternate Nostril Breathing (2 minutes)

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a great way to preapre the body for yoga. This amazing breathing exercise balances the left and right side of the brain and calms the mind. It harmonizes the logical (left) and creative, emotional (right) side of the brain and brings clairty.

Anulom Vilom - Alternate Nostril Breathing

How to practice this form of Pranayama:

  • Sit in a comfortable position
  • Bring your left hand in Chin Mudra (touching the tip of your thumb and index finger) and your right hand in Vishnu Mudra (extend all fingers straight, then bend the index finger and middle finger)
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe in through your left nostril for 4 counts
  • Keep your right thumb on your right nostril and also close left nostril with right ring finger and little finger. Hold your breath for 8 counts
  • Release only your thumb, and breathe out through your right nostril for 8 counts
  • Breathe in through your right nostril for 4 counts
  • Close both nostrils again and hold your breath for 8 counts
  • Breathe out through your left nostril for 8 counts

This is one round.  You can practice this  breathing exercise for 2 minutes. Remember to keep your focus on your breath, following each inhalation and exhalation. This Pranayama activates the parasympathetic nervous system which slows down your heartbeat and breathing. This breathing exercise also allows the left and right hemispheres of the brain to receive an equal amount of oxygen as   you breathe in and out through each nostril for the same duration. The effect is that the hemispheres come into balance and the mind calms .

2. Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutation (3 minutes)

Now it is time to warm up the body especially , the spine. We can do this using  Sun Salutations, or Surya Namaskar. Try to sync your breath and your body as you move from one position to the next.

12 steps of the sun salutations

 These are the steps for Sun Salutation:

  • Breathe in, breathe out and bring your palms together at heart center
  • Breathe in, lift your arms up and back, gently press your pelvis forward
  • Breathe out, bend forward and place your hands next to your feet
  • Breathe in, and take a halfway lift, hands to shins or thighs
  • Breathe out and fold, plant your palms and step your feet back into plank pose
  • Breathe in at the top of your plank pose
  • Breathe out, lower your knees, chest, then forehead down to the mat
  • Breathe in, press your palms and legs into the mat and lift your chest into Cobra pose
  • Breathe out, tuck your toes and lift your hips up and back into Down Dog
  • Breathe in, step your right foot in between your hands
  • Breathe out, step your left foot up to meet the right
  • Breathe in, rise to standing and lift your arms overhead
  • Breathe out, bring your palms together

This is half a round of Sun Salutation. Do the same flow starting with the left leg, and then you have completed one full round. After 3 minutes, take a short Shavasana to allow your breath and heart rate to steady.

3. Sarvangasana – Shoulderstand (1 min.)

Shoulder stand is a great  pose for strengthening and balancing the thyroid gland. This gland  tajes care  metabolism and growth of the entire body. This pose calms the brain and helps reduce stress and mild depression.

Sarvangasana – Shoulderstand

How to come into Sarvangasana:

  • Lie on your back, feet together, arms by your side
  • For extra cushioning and to release strain from the neck, place a folded blanket under your shoulders (neck should remain free)
  • Lift your legs skyward, and place your hands on your hips. Begin to walk your hands up the back towards your shoulder blades
  • Try to bring your chest to your chin but keep the back of your head relaxed on the floor
  • Feet begin to extend beyond the head and remain relaxed
  • To come out of this pose, place your hands on the floor for support, bend your knees, and slowly roll down one vertebrae at a time

Keep your legs and feet relaxed while in the pose, keep your gaze toward the ceiling  and don’t move your neck. Your focus is on your thyroid gland, or Throat Chakra. This will allow the benefits of the pose to take hold in the mind and body.

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4. Ardha Setu Bandhasana – Half Bridge (30 seconds)

Half Bridge Pose opens the chest as well as  stretches the neck and spine. It is a helpful pose for fatigue, insomnia, depression and anxiety.

Ardha Setu Bandhasana – Half Bridge

How to come into Half Bridge:

  • Lie on your back, soles of the feet planted flat on the floor close to the buttocks. Arms are relaxed by your side, palms facing down
  • On an inhalation, press your palms into the floor and lift your pelvis as high as possible
  • Reach with your hands towards your heels and try to touch your chest to your chin
  • With each inhalation, try to lift your pelvis a little higher

5. Gomukhasana – Cow Face (30 sec. each side)

A regular practice of Cow Face Pose is very beneficial for people sitting in front of a screen all day. This pose improves posture and relieves tension from the neck and shoulders. It also opens the chest and also relieves emotional tension and irritability.

Gomukhasana – Cow Face

How to come into Cow Face:

  • Begin sitting on the mat and bend your right knee so the kneecap faces the front of your mat
  • Work to stack your left knee directly on top (or as close as you can comfortably get)
  • Wrap your right hand behind your back and reach it towards your shoulder blades as high as possible
  • Reach your left hand up towards the ceiling and then try to touch your fingers at the center of your back (if they don’t connect yet, use a strap or towel)
  • Keep reaching upward with your left elbow, and looking straight ahead, keep a tall and elongated spine
  • Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side

6. Paschimottanasana – Seated Forward Bend (30 sec.)

Seated Forward Bend is a beneficial pose that gives an internal massage to your organs. It stimulates all the organs, especially the liver and the spleen. Paschimottanasana is great for people suffering from constipation as it improves digestion. It also reduces fatigue and headaches.

Seated Forward Bend – Paschimottanasana

How to Practice a Seated Forward Bend:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you
  • Inhale and lift your arms overhead, making your spine long and tall
  • Exhale and bend forward, bringing your nose toward your toes
  • Keep your feet actively flexed back towards your face to help release the hamstrings
  • Drop the head completely and relax your arms and shoulders
  • Avoid using any muscular force to come deeper into the pose, but do try to use your breath to lengthen the spine and relax more into the stretch

7. Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose (30 sec.)

Another pose that stimulates the digestive system is Cobra Pose. It stretches the spine and strengthens the back muscles and shoulders. Cobra Pose also expands the ribcage and increases lung capacity, making it an ideal therapeutic pose for people with asthma or any other respiratory problems. Practice this pose regularly to improve your posture and reduce stress and fatigue.

Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana

How to Practice Cobra:

  • Lie on your belly, forehead on the mat, palms planted next to your chest, feet together
  • Breathe in, push your belly and hips into the floor and lift your chest off the floor
  • Look straight ahead, just beyond the front edge of your mat, and lift your palms off the floor for extra spinal strengthening

8. Dhanurasana – Bow Pose (30 sec.)

Practising Bow Pose gives your internal organs a massage, particularly the pancreas, liver and kidneys. It improves hunchback (rounded upper back) because it opens the shoulders and the neck. Dhanurasana also relieves menstrual discomforts and stimulates the reproductive organs.

Dhanurasana Bow PoseHow to Come into Bow Pose:

  • Lie down on your belly, forehead on the floor, bend your knees and reach back for your ankles
  • Breathe in and kick your feet into your hands so your knees and chest lift off the floor, keeping the knees hip-width apart
  • Open and expand through your chest, and send your gaze skyward
  • While you remain in the pose, focus on pressing down through your belly and lifting up through your chest

9. Tadasana – Mountain Pose (30 sec.)

Mountain Pose improves mental and physical balance. It increases awareness and calms the mind and breath. Practising Tadasana is great for relieving tension and aches throughout the body. It will leave you feeling great!

Mountain Pose – TadasanaHow to Practice Tadasana:

  • Standing straight, feet together, spine tall and reaching up through the crown of your head
  • Bring your palms together at the heart centre and on an inhalation, lift your arms overhead
  • Spiral your pinkies inward to engage your arms, option to lift your gaze skyward or look straight ahead (eyes open or closed)

20. Final Relaxation (5 min.)

Shavasana, the final relaxation pose, is very important at the end of every yoga practice. Depending on how much time you have, you can spend five to fifteen minutes in final relaxation. Shavasana helps you benefit from your practice and gives rest to your mind and body. You emerge balanced and refreshed. Take this pose in silence and stillness, allowing your body to soften and relax fully into the mat.

Shavasana

We often put the needs of others before ourselves, to an extent this can be admirable however it can also be to our detriment. 

Remember, our duty is to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others. Try to keep this in mind whenever you think you are too busy. All you need is  15 minutes a day to work on your on your own growth and well being.
To end with the wise words of Buddha:

“You yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

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About the author

Ram Jain

Born into a Jain family where yoga has been the way of life for five generations, my formal yoga journey began at age of eight at a Vedic school in India. There I received a solid foundation in ancient scriptures, including Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Sutras (to name a few).

In 2009, I founded Arhanta Yoga Ashrams. I see yoga as a way to master the five senses, so I named our ashrams 'Arhanta Yoga,' the yoga to master the five senses!

In 2017, I also founded Arhanta Yoga Online Academy so that people who can not visit our ashrams can follow our courses remotely.

At Arhanta, we don't just teach yoga. We teach you how to reach your potential, deepen your knowledge, build your confidence, and take charge of your life.

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