Calming frazzled nerves can be as easy as shifting your body into a different position.
“Any yoga posture that assists natural exhalation of breath instantly reduces tension in the body,” says Erin Compton, owner of Riverbend Yoga in Yarmouth, Maine. Forward folds, seated or standing, are a great example. “Breathing out and giving in to gravity allow your body to shift from fight-or-flight to rest and digest, releasing stress-carrying hormones and easing tension from areas where we tend to hold it the most, like the hips and jaw.”
Also, postures that invert your body reverse the flow of blood and flush toxins. “It’s like a reset for your nervous system and body, inside and out,” says Compton, who has been teaching yoga for six years.
More good news, the poses don’t have to be complicated to do the trick. Compton shares her favorites here. For each pose, focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply.
1 | Forward fold (also known as rag doll). Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Clasp opposite hand to opposite elbow, and hinge upper body forward, moving from hips. Shift weight forward to the front of your feet. Let your head hang heavy. Breathe. Work up to 1 minute.
Make it easier: Bend knees more, even to the point of resting upper body on thighs.
2 | Wide-leg forward fold. Step feet wider than hips, knees slightly bent. Hinge upper body forward, moving from hips. Rest hands on the floor and lift up through hips as you lengthen spine toward the floor, shifting weight forward to the front of your feet. Let your head hang heavy. Breathe. Work up to 1 minute.
Make it easier: Bring the floor closer by resting your hands on a stack of books or a yoga block.
3 | Child’s pose. Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Sink back as you slowly shift hips toward heels, extending arms overhead, palms on floor. Breathe. Work up to 3 minutes.
Make it easier: If your hips are tight, keep knees together and rest chest on thighs.
4 | Supported fish. Sitting on the floor, place a bed pillow or a couple of throw pillows behind you at the base of your spine; don’t sit on them. (The pillows expand your chest, making it easier to fill your lungs with oxygen and improving the flow of oxygen to the brain.)
Lower onto your back, legs extended in front of you, arms stretched to the sides, palms up. Rest back of head on floor or under an additional pillow. Lift chin off chest, close eyes. Breathe. “Let your muscles melt away from your bones,” cues Compton. Work up to 5 or 6 minutes, or more.
5 | Legs up the wall. Find about 3’ of clear wall space. Sit next to wall, hip to baseboard, palm on floor for support. Lift leg that is closer to wall, and raise it so back of leg faces wall with heel resting on wall. As you raise the other leg to meet the first, shimmy toward wall so buttocks touch baseboard, or come as close as is comfortable for you. Place heels hip-width distance apart on wall. Spread arms to the sides on floor, palms up. Relax your feet and toes. Breathe. Stay for 5 to 6 minutes, or more.
If you’re a senior and you’d like to try yoga with an instructor to guide you, we can help! Join us for free, 1-hour Senior Chair Yoga classes at the Martin’s Point Community Center in Scarborough. Learn more, and watch the video to get a taste.
Looking for more stress-busting strategies? Talk to your Martin’s Point health care provider about other approaches you can try, like meditation, getting out into nature, journaling, mindfulness, counseling or coaching and more.