Spring is a stressful time of year, which means it’s important to take care of your body. Take some time to stretch away your stress with these yoga-base stress relieving stretches and don’t neglect your body in the midst of all the chaos.
Hold each pose for at least thirty seconds, but no longer than a minute-and-a-half.
Crossed Leg Stretch
Begin your workout with a moment of prayer. Since you’re venturing into exercises that are rooted in another religion, it’s important to take an extra moment to offer this time and your body to the service of the Lord. Feel free to remain in silent prayer throughout the remainder of your workout.
Open your hips and relax your body with this first pose. Sit with your legs crossed in front of you. Lightly shrug your shoulders up and roll them back to relieve tension and stress in your shoulders. Hook your right foot into the fold of your left knee. If you are able, stack your left foot onto your thigh, keeping your left heel beside the right hip.
For a deeper stretch, with a tall torso, exhale and fold forward from your hips. Avoid rounding forward from your belly. Place your hands on the floor in front of your shins and fold deeper into the stretch with every exhale. Inhale when you lift your torso upright and uncross your legs, repeating on the other side.
Uncross your legs from the previous stretch and place your right foot in front of your left hip bone, with your leg flat on the floor. Shift slightly to the right so you have room to swing your left leg straight back behind you. Extend your left leg back, making sure the top of your foot is on the floor. Balance your weight between your hips, which should be square to the floor.
For an extra core workout, lift your arms above your head, keeping your bottom relaxed but engaging your core muscles to keep your left leg elongated, your hips square and your body balanced.
For a deeper stretch, elongate your spine forward. Place your forearms on the ground. Breath gently into your low back as you exhale deeper into your stretch.
From Pigeon, bend your left knee making a 90* angle with your back leg. Your weight should be balanced on the right foot and left knee. Grab your left foot with your right hand, holding your ankle. Exhale and release the left foot, slowly bringing the leg back to the floor. Repeat Pigeon and the Quad Stretch on the opposite side.
From your Quad Stretch, swing your back leg forward and place both legs straight in front of you, laying on your back with arms on the floor beside you. Exhale and press your arms against the floor, pushing your feet away from the floor while drawing your thighs toward your torso. Continue by tightening your belly muscles and roll your hips up and over so your knees come toward your face. Stretch your arms out parallel or clasp your hands together pressing them into the floor to support your inverted body. If you need extra support, bend your elbows and place your hands on your lower back.
With toes on the floor, lift your tailbone toward the ceiling keeping your torso perpendicular to the floor and your legs fully extended.
For a deeper back stretch, release your knees to the ground, one on either side of your head. Be sure to keep your weight on your shoulders, not on your neck.
Inhale and lift your bent knees toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso. Straighten the knees, pressing the heels up toward the ceiling. When the backs of the legs are fully lengthened, lift through the balls of your big toes.
To exit, exhale, bending your knees into your torso again. Roll your back slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor and your core tightly engaged. Move your arms accordingly to provide the support you need to find a full release of this pose.
To prepare for the next exercise, you’ll want to warm up your back with the following two stretches.
Move onto your belly with your hands resting beside your body, palms up. As you exhale, bend your knees and bring your heels as close as you can to your bottom. Reach both of your hands back and grab your ankles, making sure your knees aren’t wider than your hips. Inhale and lift your heels away from your bottom, which will cause your chest and head to lift off the floor. Relax your shoulders, pressing them away from your ears. Squeeze your shoulder blades and open through the chest. If you’re having difficulty breathing, only hold this pose for twenty seconds instead of the recommended thirty, but try breathing into your back rather than your stomach before giving up. Gently lower your feet back to your bottom, releasing your grasp, slowly lower your legs and return to lying on belly with hands and legs resting on floor.
Push up into standing on your knees, hip width apart. Pressing your shins and top of feet into the floor, rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, fingers pointing down. Slightly pressing tailbone down, lift your chest by pressing your shoulder blades down your back. Lean back reaching your hands for your heals. If you’re struggling to reach your heals, tilt the thighs back and twist slightly to one side to place one hand on the foot on that side. Be sure to press your thighs back so they’re perpendicular to the floor once you’ve placed both hands on your heels. If your back doesn’t feel comfortable in this position, turn your toes under to elevate your heels. Without squeezing the shoulder blades together, outwardly turn your arms so your elbow crease is facing forward. Keep your neck in a neutral position, or drop your head back if more comfortable. But, be careful not to strain your neck.
To exit, bring your hands onto your pelvis. Then, with an inhale, lift your head and torso up.
Wheel or Upward Bridge
Returning to your back, bend your knees, placing your feet on the floor with your heels close to your sitting bones. Bending your elbows, place your palms on the floor beside your ears with fingers pointing toward your shoulders. Pressing your feet into the floor gradually lift your bottom off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel to one another. When you’re ready, press your hands into the floor, engaging your shoulder blades and lift on to the crown of your head. Keep your arms parallel to each other. With an exhale, lift your head off the floor and straighten your arms. Let your head hang, or lift it slightly to look down at the floor. Only hold this stretch for 5 to 10 seconds, but repeat 3 to 10 times to build flexibility and strength.
To exit, slowly lower your bottom back toward the floor. Releasing your arms and legs once you’re stable and have comfortably reached the floor with your full back. Be sure to tuck your chin into your chest as you lower so you don’t bang your head against the floor.
Upward Plank Pose
After doing the backbend, you’ll want to strengthen the opposite side of your arms. Sit up and extend your legs in front of you. Place your hands on the floor directly behind your hips with fingers pointing away from your body. Lift your hips, pressing the balls of your feet into the floor. Make sure your neck is in line with your spine or drop your head if that’s more comfortable. When ready, slowly lower your hips back to the floor.
End your tension relieving time with a simple Side Twist. While sitting down, stack your left knee on top of your right, keeping your sit bones equally on the ground. Gently twist to the left, keeping your left arm on the ground just behind your sits bone providing additional support for your back. Use your right arm to help coax you into the stretch by gently placing it on the left knee. Do not use your arms to force yourself into the twist, you should feel a nice and easy stretch.
For a deeper stretch, place your right arm on the inside of your left knee. Press slightly against your knee with your arm to stabilize your twist.