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What Are the Best Stretches for Stress Relief?

Blog_Black_StressWe talked last week about a breathing practice to reduce holiday stress that is easy and effective. One of the reasons stress builds up during the holidays is because we get thrown off of our regular schedule. Sleep patterns get disrupted, our diet frequently suffers and regular exercise becomes hit or miss. No wonder we feel stress at this time of the year.

One of my students asked me for some stretches to help relieve some of her muscle tension and stress. With the holiday disruptions, her regular exercise program was in a shambles and she was starting to feel the effects.

In yoga, exhalation originates from the belly and is a technique for relaxing. When this exhalation technique is combined with certain yoga postures, even greater relaxation and stress reduction are facilitated.

For example, forward bends are initiated on exhale and can be very calming. A seated forward bend is great for stress relief and is done as follows:

  • Sit on the edge of your chair so your back is not touching the back of the chair
  • Place both feet flat on the floor and rest a hand on each thigh
  • Take several breaths – exhaling from your belly – to center and focus yourself
  • After these breaths and while exhaling, bend forward sliding your hands down the sides of your legs
  • Pause in the forward bend
  • While inhaling, return to your original, upright position
  • Repeat this movement 4 to 6 times

You can also do the forward bend from a standing position. Click here for a description of the standing forward bend.

One of my favorite forward bend movements for relaxing is The Cat, which is done as follows:

5-01 copy

  • Come to all fours with knees about hipbone distance apart and under your hips
  • Hands are flat and about shoulder width apart with wrists slightly ahead of shoulders
  • While exhaling, move your hips toward your heels while lowering chest toward thighs
  • Pause in the forward bend
  • While inhaling, return to the starting position
  • Repeat this movement 4 to 6 times

If you have tender knees, please put a blanket under them for extra protection and padding.

Movement is so important and even just a few minutes a day can go a long way to reducing stress at any time of the year.

Enjoy and Breathe Easy

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Joanne Thompson

Joanne Thompson

Founder/Owner at Yoga for Self

Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
Joanne Thompson

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