Whether you’re having a bad day, or just need to unwind after a busy week, these yoga poses will calm your mind and leave you feeling relaxed and reenergised. Stretch London’s Sophie Whippy explains their benefits and how to do them safely.
Paschimottanasana (aka Seated Forward Bend)
How to do it: Sit tall on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your heels flexed. Lean forward from your hips, not your waist, lengthening your tailbone down away from your pelvis. If possible, take the sides of your feet with your hands (loop a belt around your feet if you can’t quite get there) and lift and lengthen your torso towards them with each inhalation. Protect your back by keeping a slight bend in your knees, and don’t worry if you cannot get your stomach completely flat against your legs: the aim here is length, not proving how flexible you are!
The benefits: A deep stretch for the back of the body, from your toes right up to the crown of your head. It is introspective in nature, so produces a deep sense of calm and reduces anxiety. It also improves digestion and can relieves period pain.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
How to do it: Beginning in a seated cross-legged position, lower your back towards the floor, leaning back on your forearms as you do so, then releasing them when you’re there. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop down to the floor, resting your arms out to the sides. Breathe deeply and stay in the posture for at least one minute.
The benefits: Stimulates the heart and improves circulation, helps bring calm to the body, by reducing the sympathetic nervous system's 'flight or fight' response, and tuning into the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the state of 'rest and digest', which supports digestion, relaxes muscles and promotes a good night’s sleep.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)
How to do it: Move your yoga mat next to the wall and lie with your back flat on the mat. Carefully inch your way forward and place your legs flat against the wall, with your sitting bones firmly rooted. Soften your eyes and breathe deeply for anything from five to 15 minutes.
The benefits: A gentle inversion, this promotes blood flow to the upper body, which is great if you've spent a long time standing or sitting upright. Again, taking the body to the 'rest and digest' state, the body will start digesting food better and go into a state of heal and repair. Truly a pose where by doing nothing, you will gain more.
Supta Jathara Parivartanasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
How to do it: Lie with your back flat on the mat and arms and legs extended. Bend one knee and cross it over your body, using the opposite hand to gently hold it in place. Keep your shoulders squared and rooted to the floor, and turn your head in the opposite director. Hold it for a minute, breathing deeply, then repeat on the other side.
The benefits: A detoxifying posture which ‘wrings out’ the internal organs, it also lengthens the spine and stretches out the shoulder and back muscles. When you release the twist, fresh blood – and therefore fresh oxygen – and nutrients can rush back into your digestive organs. A great pose to do before Savasana (Corpse).