9 YOGA POSES TO NATURALLY REDUCE CORTISOL AND STRESS
Stress can creep into our lives even when we have the best intentions to keep it out. Between work, family, friends, financial and other obligations, life can get challenging and sometimes even overwhelming. While the occasional moment of stress can actually be a good thing that gives us focus and energy and spurs us into action, chronic stress negatively impacts our thoughts, mood, work performance, relationships, emotions, feelings and even our health. The good news is though that yoga can help and we have 9 yoga poses for you that help you to naturally reduce cortisol.
The stress hormone cortisol is part of our fight-or-flight response, which is great when we are in a situation of grave danger. But in our modern society, stress is usually triggered mentally or emotionally and we are not in any actual physical danger that requires a fight-or-flight response.
Too much cortisol that is flowing around in our system for extended periods of time can lead to a host of unwanted side effect, like visceral or belly fat, increased risk of chronic disease like type 2 diabetes, asthma or Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, unbalanced blood sugar, diminished bone density and breakdown of muscle tissue.
Fortunately, there are many ways to manage our daily stresses and balance out our cortisol levels. Yoga is on top of the list and has been shown to be an amazing tool to counteract the negative effects of stress. Even science proves that yoga has the ability to reduce stress and bring our hormones back into balance.
HERE ARE OUR TOP 9 YOGA POSES TO NATURALLY REDUCE CORTISOL AND STRESS.
#1 Child’s Pose
This restorative pose produces an instant feeling of calmness in any situation, allowing the mind to quiet down and ease stress. Child’s Pose is beneficial for our nervous and lymphatic system and calms the body and mind. Start in all fours, separate your knees out to the edges of your mat and bring the toes to touch. Sit your hips back on your heels and walk the hands out in front of you until your forehead comes down to the ground. If your forehead doesn’t come all the way down, you can place a blanket or block underneath it. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. You can try this calming breath: Inhale for the count of four, hold the breath for the count of six and exhale for the count of 8.
#2 Reclining Bound Angle
Reclining Bound Angle supports the rest-and-digest parasympathetic nervous system and at the same time allows you to reconnect with your breath, which is the perfect antidote to stress. Begin lying on your back. Bend your knees and bring your feet flat on the ground. Let your knees fall out to the sides and bring the soles of the feet together. It can feel nice to place a block or pillow underneath each knee for support. Bring one hand onto your heart and the other hand onto your belly and focus on long, deep breaths, relaxing more with each exhalation. You can stay in Reclining Bound Angle Pose for a few minutes if it feels good.
#3 Standing Forward Fold
Like any forward fold, Standing Forward Fold is instantly calming and relieves stress and fatigue while at the same time energizing our body as the blood rushes to our head. Stand tall with your feet together or hip-width distance apart, lengthen the spine and reach the crown of the head up towards the ceiling. Hinge forward at the hips and fold forward over your legs. You can either stay there with your hands on the ground or blocks or grab opposite elbows and gently sway side to side, making sure to release any tension in the head, neck and shoulders to completely unwind and relax.
#4 Eagle Pose
Eagle Pose is energizing and empowering, while working the whole body and releasing tension from the shoulders, back and hips. Like any balancing posture, Eagle requires absolute focus to stay balanced and you literally squeeze out all the tension from your body, reducing stress. Come to a chair pose and shift your weight onto your left leg. Pick up the right leg and wrap it around the left, if your flexibility allows, wrap the toes around your left calf. Swing the right arm underneath the left, bend the elbows and bring the palms together. Make sure to lift the elbows up to shoulder height and bring the hands away from your face to open up your shoulders. Hold for 5 breaths before switching sides.
#5 Pigeon Pose
Many people hold stress and deep tension in their hips and Pigeon Pose is the perfect antidote to release this tension and stress while at the same time putting your mind in a relaxed, chill-out mode. From Downward Facing Dog bring your right knee into the chest and let the right knee come down behind the right wrist while bringing the right flexed foot across your mat behind your left wrist. Stretch your left leg back and make sure your hips stay square. If your right hip is off the ground, place a blanket or yoga block underneath it to fill the gap. Inhale and puff out your chest and as you exhale fold forward over your right shin. If your forehead domes down to the ground, place your hands on top of each other to create a pillow for your head. You can also use a yoga block if your head doesn’t come all the way down. Hold Pigeon for at least 45 to 60 seconds before switching sides.
#6 Easy Pose
You reduce cortisol and lower stress in Easy Pose by connecting with the breath and with that calm the mind. Sit cross-legged on a yoga block, allowing your knees to be lower than your hips. Place your palms on your thighs — to feel more grounded bring the palms facing down, if you need a little more energy, bring the palms facing up. Lengthen your spine and let the shoulders relax down the back. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose for 20 breaths.
#7 Seated Forward Fold
Seated Forward Fold takes you out of the fight-or-flight state and into a rest-and-digest state by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you, feet flexed and spine straight. Lift your arms up, keep the shoulders relaxed and with a straight spine for as long as you can hold it, fold forward over your legs, finding length in your spine rather than just rounding down. You can hold onto your calves, ankles or feet depending on your flexibility. If your hamstrings are very tight, bend your knees so your can relax your upper body on your thighs and slowly work on straightening your legs.
#8 Restorative Shoulder Stand
This restorative inverted position helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and with that induce a rest-and-digest state, relieving stress and calming the mind. Lie face-up on your mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up and place a yoga block underneath your sacrum. Engage your abs, lift your legs up and straighten them out. Relax your arms alongside your body, relax the muscles of your face and close your eyes. Focus on slow, mindful breaths and stay here for at least 10 breaths.
Savasana is the ultimate relaxation pose, teaching you how to surrender, relax and let go of cortisol-boosting stress. Lie face-up on your mat, bring your feet mat-width distance apart and let your feet fall open. Bring your arms alongside your body in a 45-degree angle, palms facing up. Close your eyes and relax every muscle in your body. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths, filling up the lungs completely and emptying out the lungs complete and then find a natural flow for your breath and stay here as long as you need to feel the stress melt away and completely relax.
Up to 90% of doctor visits are due to stress, so it is essential to find ways to naturally lower our stress levels to stay happy and healthy. Yoga has the power to alter many systems in our body in a positive way and through that causes a rebalancing of our hormones.
RELIEVE STRESS AND BRING YOUR BODY BACK INTO BALANCE
Joschi & Monika