More than 50 centuries ago, yoga's journey as an ancient Indian science of healing and exercise started somewhere in the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation in northern India. Today, it is one of the most popular holistic healthcare systems, not just in South Asia but across the world. Translated from Sanskrit, an ancient and classical language of India, the word "yoga" means "to yoke or join". It means the "union", the ultimate union between our consciousness and the higher consciousness, which some call God or divine. The word also refers to the union of body, mind and spirit, which we can achieve through various practices and postures.

Swami Sivananda once explained, "Yoga is the science that teaches us the method of uniting the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, of merging the individual will in the Cosmic Will." It is also the master key to unlocking the realms of peace and bliss.

Why yoga for stress relief?

Be it a seemingly never-ending headache, stiff spine or tightness in your shoulders, stress manifests itself in our bodies in multiple ways. And, many studies suggest that yoga might be the ultimate form of stress relief because of its breathing techniques and mindful movements. The practice helps you relax and calm your nerves even during the most anxiety-filled days, suggest experts. Wondering why? Well, according to studies, it triggers the body's parasympathetic nervous system, which when activated, signals the body and mind to relax. 

Yoga also decreases the levels of cortisol, or the stress hormone, in our body. It helps with insomnia, and improves digestion, both of which are impacted by stress. It also eases depression, anxiety, and mood swings by restoring dopamine and serotonin in the brain.

Specific yogic breathing techniques like Ujjayi breath and Brahmari breath help tone the vagus nerve, which is otherwise known as the well-being nerve, and according to research, allows people to easily shift from a stressed to a relaxed state.

While the countless other benefits of yoga are enough to convince people to try out the ancient practice, it is mostly popular because of its stress-relieving effects on the mind and body. It teaches a person to manage daily stress and better tackle emotional situations as they arise.

The deep breathing practices in yoga help a person calm his mind. It also helps lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, and improve focus on thoughts and attention. The gentle asanas or postures allow you to stretch and strengthen your muscles, ease pain, and release tension. Keep scrolling to start your yoga journey!

Yoga poses for stress relief and relaxation

Ready to head to your mat for a stress-busting session? First, start by personalising your yoga corner. Add your favourite flowers to the room decor or light your favourite candles, do what appeals the most to you. 

To prep for a serene at-home practice, engage in a brief acupressure practice. Take some yoga blocks and do a little acupressure at the occipital ridge of your skull as two trigger points from traditional Chinese medicine, the Gates of Consciousness and Heavenly Pillar, are located there.

"This will help release tense necks and relieve painful headaches," Jang, who received acupressure training at the McKinnon Therapy School, told Yoga Journal.

Simply, place one yoga block on the floor and lean the second block horizontally against the first. Now, lie down on the blocks and rest your neck on the angled block. Stretch your arms outwards and relax for a few minutes before rolling to your side to return to sitting. You can also apply a little pressure on the hall of impression point, which lies between your eyebrows.

Now, you can head to the actual yoga session. Start by warming up your body with a Surya Namaskar aka Sun Salutation. Next, head to pranayama practices aka breathing practices. Initially one should start with eleven cycles of breathing, and it can be increased to one hundred and twenty-one rounds.

Here're some yoga poses that help relieve stress:

  1. Child's Pose
  2. Eagle's Pose
  3. Puppy pose
  4. Tabletop Position
  5. Mountain Pose 
  6. Corpse Pose


Child’s Pose

It is simple yet effective! Kneel on your mat and sit back on your heels with your legs together. Bend forward and let your chest touch your thighs. Rest your hands in the front.


Mountain Pose

To get to a mountain pose aka Tadasana, stand with your feet together, bring your hands above your head and stretch your body upwards.


Eagle’s Pose

This yoga pose reduces stress and fatigue. Start with the Tadasana posture and then slightly bend your knees, lift your left foot up and, cross your left thigh over the right. Then hook the top of the foot behind your lower right calf. Cross your hands too.


Puppy Pose

The puppy pose is a combination of the downward-facing dog and the child's pose. All you need to do is kneel and place your hands in the front. Exhale and move your buttocks halfway back towards your heels. look in front and breathe slowly.


Tabletop Position

Also known as Bharmanasana, the table-top position requires you to slowly move onto your hands and knees, placing your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your palms should be on the floor, fingers facing forward with your weight evenly distributed on your palms. Centre your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward. 


Corpse Pose

In the end, we have to talk about Savasana aka corpse pose, which is one of the most calming poses for managing stress. Lie down on your back, keeping your legs apart. Your palms should be facing upward. Close your eyes and relax your mind. Start breathing deeply and bring your attention to each part of your body. 

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