We all know that exercise is good for our body, but it’s also good for our mind. In fact, our mental health is intrinsically linked to our physical health. So set yourself up a soothing environment, then slide into some easy yet powerful stretches that will stimulate happy hormones and lead to a calmer mindset.
Here are six steps to easy stretches you can do right now to relieve stress and anxiety.
Set up Your Healing Space
Before you jump into stretching, take a few minutes to set up your space. Research shows that certain environments can have a calming effect on our minds. Being out in nature is a sure bet, with fresh clean air and natural light. But you can also set up a beautiful indoor space and tap into the air purifying effects of salt lamps, aromatherapy diffusers, and scented candles.
Release Endorphins with Sun Salutations
Don’t worry about not having enough time or energy for a full yoga workout. You can still get all the mind-clarifying benefits through a few Sun Salutations. Formally known as Surya Namaskar, this simple sequence is designed to build heat in the body and synchronize our breath with our movements.
A sun salutation is like a mini yoga workout in itself. It incorporates all major muscle groups and is just the right intensity to get your heart pumping and endorphins flowing. Endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain to reduce your perception of pain. Famous for creating the “runner’s high”, endorphins also trigger positive feelings that will energize your body and mood.
The key to releasing tension is to stretch parts of your body that hold deep tension, namely your hips, lower back, shoulders, and neck.
Pigeon and Saddle poses are a yoga stretches that get deep into your glutes and hip flexors. Hold the poses for 5 to 10 minutes each and they will create therapeutic effects similar to a deep tissue massage.
In our sedentary lifestyles, sitting muscles like glutes and hip flexors are especially prone to holding stored tension. Targeting these muscle groups will increase blood flow, helping to stimulate receptors in the nervous system, which decreases production of stress hormones.
Invert Yourself with Supported Shoulder Stand and Plow Pose
Sometimes you just need a different perspective on life, and there’s no better way to get it than flipping things upside down! Inverting our bodies has been shown to improve focus, balance, and brain function. It allows oxygen-rich blood to flow to your brain and helps reverse the effects of gravity.
Supported Shoulder Stand and its variation, Plow pose, are beginner inversions that don’t have the intimidating risk factors of headstands and handstands. They are fantastic full-spine stretches that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for action.
Be Still with Child’s Pose and Corpse Pose
No stretching routine is complete without a few final minutes to come back to centre. Yoga poses are inherently reflective, but Child’s pose and Corpse pose are the culmination of that, allowing your body to return to its normal pulse, quiet the mind, and experience a restful moment of savasana. Tune into your breath and let it flow easily. Bring your mind back to your healing space, and accept whatever thoughts that come, letting them pass away.
Allowing ourselves time for stillness, presence, and meditation, gives a chance for deep feelings to surface. Strengthened by our stretches, we can witness our thoughts and let them pass without attachment. In this way, our stretching routines can help us become more resilient in daily life, restoring vitality to our bodies and minds.
Take a Bath with Epsom Salts
Maximize the effects of your stretching by drawing out the toxins released with an epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are high in magnesium and sulfates, promote better sleep, and will further alleviate any muscle soreness from released tension. Besides, you can revel in the relaxation you created for yourself and celebrate your new healing routine.
For more tips on relieving stress and anxiety, check out our Health Topics library.