The physical practice of yoga is one of our favorite ways to prepare for a nice, long meditation session.
Some days, a strong vinyasa is in order to burn off negative energy and purify before we wind down. Other days, we’re just not in a meditation frame of mind until we perform some restorative postures.
Either way, using a singing bowl at the open and close of our practice is a huge help. Here are a few poses that seem to work best when we want to ward off stress.
Supta badha konasana is an excellent restorative posture and gentle hip opener in one. It leaves the chest open as well, letting the heart space breathe.
Starting in savasana, bend your knees and slide your feet toward your hips. Next, gently let your knees fall to either side as you bring the soles of your feet together.
If your hips are tight, you may need to keep a block under each knee for support. Place one hand on your belly, the other on your heart, and enjoy five to ten deep, mindful breaths.
Standing forward folds like uttanasana, as well as seated versions like paschimottanasana, are excellent for the nervous system.
Any pose that encourages you to lower your forehead - where the third eye is located - toward the ground is a great way to reduce jittery feelings and racing thoughts.
For healthy forward folds, always make sure you’re bending forward from the hips, not rounding through the lower back. This means you might need to keep your knees bent, or that you may not bring your forehead all the way down.
Legs Up the Wall
Want to reduce swelling, improve circulation, and get some rest all at once? Then look no further than viparita karani. This pose can be done anywhere near a wall with enough blank space for your legs - even a bed.
To begin, lie down with a straight spine, and inch your hips as close to the wall as you can get. Now extend your legs upward, and rest them against the wall.
This pose is perfect for those who have to be on their feet all day. Legs up the wall is a gentle inversion that allows lymphatic drainage and blood flow to leave stressed, aching lower limbs. And since your back is completely supported by the floor or bed, you can take a time out and meditate as you lie in peaceful repose.
Trikonasana is an active pose that can be found in many traditional yoga sequences. From warrior two, straighten your leading leg. Hinging at the hips, keep your torso long as you tilt forward, allowing the lower arm to extend toward the floor.
Make certain your hips and chest are still facing the long edge of your mat. Beginners will likely need a block by the leading foot to place the lowered hand on. Allow your upper arm to reach for the heavens.
How is such an active (and sometimes challenging) pose good for stress? Anxiety and stress create a lot of unnoticed tension, especially in the torso where our spine, chest, and core are located. If we’re stiff or wound too tight, the deep stretch we get here can resolve and release a lot of this.
Have you ever fallen asleep in savasana? It’s okay, it happens to the best of us. Corpse pose is your body’s opportunity to digest all of the good work you’ve done during your yoga practice.
If you’re familiar with “rest and digest” mode, you know it’s essential to healing and starting anew. It’s also when our fascia - the thin, web-like tissue beneath our skin - cools down.
Savasana is peaceful and restorative, but just like with meditation, stillness can be challenging. As you lie with arms and legs outstretched, remember to relax the shoulders and give your neck some space.
Most importantly, don’t stay attached to this moment; let yourself become empty here.