The great thing about yoga is its multi-dimensional, adaptable nature. Unlike other activities that demand a certain type of “on” energy, you can get a lot out of yoga even when you’re tired, stressed, sad, mad or just not feeling so hot.
I often turn to yoga when I’m not feeling well, have had a bad day, or if I’m gearing up for a challenging experience. Through my practice, I’ve learned about certain yoga poses that have the power to calm, relieve and/or activate positive emotions and physical sensations.
Here are some of my favorites that I come back to over and over again.
Note: Not all of these poses are beginner poses. If you’re a new or inexperienced yogi, be sure to take it slow and modify as appropriate, or take a few classes before trying on your own. It’s also always a good idea to warm up with a few rounds of sun salutations.
Tough Day #1: You overindulged and now you’re bloated and your stomach’s in knots
Try: Back-bending and twisting poses
Why it Works: Poses that stretch and open your front body help stimulate your abdominal organs. Deep twisting poses massage your abdomen. Both can help relieve bloating, pressure and stomach pain.
My favorites (click the photo names for more info/instructions):
Tough Day #2: You have a big presentation or meeting and you’re feeling fried and less than confident
Try: Energizing inversions
Why it Works: Energizing and warming inversions like headstands and handstands are big confidence boosters because they directly challenge the obvious norm of standing upright! Humans aren’t designed to be upside down, so these poses can stimulate your ideas of what you’re truly capable of. Although inversions are tough and I haven’t mastered them, working on them makes me feel powerful and strong, physically and mentally.
These poses are more on the intermediate/advanced side, so be sure to warm up and modify as appropriate. Practicing them against a wall provides insurance against falls and crashes!
Tough Day #3: You had a long, stressful day at work, your body is tight and you’re stressed/anxious
Try: Hip opening, spine lengthening poses
Why it Works: Stress tends to be “stored” in the hips and hip opening poses have the effect of releasing built-up tension. Sitting at a desk for hours on end can be brutal on your back and neck, and spine lengthening poses can help ease the knots.
The Universal “Cure for a Crappy Day” Pose
When nothing seems to work, try the pose that many yogis believe is the universal cure-all — Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani). When I first tried this, I doubted that it would do anything for me — it just seemed too simple. But I was wrong; it’s incredibly relaxing. It feels really, really good, especially with a bolster under your lower back (you can also use folded up blankets or a pillow folded in half). With this pose, ommmmm very well may lead to zzzzzzz ….
Pose photos in this post (except feature photo) courtesy of www.yogajournal.com
Also published on Medium.