Everyone experiences stress, and stress can be experienced for a number of varying reasons.
But there is something truly unpleasant about stress that you can just, feel. It’s that splitting headache, the tense shoulders, or the stiff neck. You can feel it permeate through every inch of your body, and at the end of the day, you’re left feeling anxious and exhausted.
When you’re stressed out or anxious, your body releases a combination of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that can have a profound physical impact on our bodies.
When your body associates something with stress or fear, adrenaline triggers the well-known fight-or-flight response, while cortisol is responsible for ensuring your body uses its energy efficiently. Cortisol is also responsible for cutting off non-vital bodily functions when other needs demand more energy and attention.
All that being said, you can imagine the long-term effects on your body when you consistently feel on edge. And while a stiff neck may seem like an inconvenience at best, chronic stress can lead to a lot of serious health issues if not properly managed. Heart disease, weight gain, strokes, and a compromised immune system are all side-effects of chronic stress.
While yoga and stretching won’t magically shorten your to-do list, frequent stretching has been linked to experiencing lower levels of stress and anxiety, and greater feelings of inner peace and relaxation. And who doesn’t want more of that?
Legs on the Wall
While not necessarily a stretch, this quick move is great if you spend a lot of time on your feet, be it waiting tables or chasing toddlers. Begin by laying flat on your back with your butt as close to the wall as possible. Stick your feet up to rest against the wall, ensuring your heels are over your hips.
It’s recommended that you lay here for three to five minutes while focusing on your breath. The most obvious benefit is getting the increased circulation, which helps ensure your body and brain are getting enough oxygen (a vital ingredient to stress relief), in addition to aiding in digestion, headaches, and insomnia.
For anyone who’s taken a yoga class, Child’s Pose is often the most anticipated stretch of the lesson, because it’s easily the most relaxing and peaceful.
To begin, start by kneeling on the floor, a yoga mat, or your bed, and sit your butt down on top of your feet. From there, lay your upper body out over your thighs, extending your arms outwards and touching your head to the surface.
This position mirrors the classic ‘head between your knees’ position that also claims to provide instant stress relief. As your body bends over your legs, your lungs expand. Use this to release more and more tension with each breath.
Don’t be surprised if you find this pose helps with relief of another kind, too. As your belly folds over your thighs, your intestines may shift, triggering the release of built-up gas. Don’t say you weren’t warned!
There is something uniquely nostalgic and carefree about this stretch, making it even more pleasant to do on even the most unpleasant days.
Begin by laying flat on your back. Bend your legs to your chest and grip the inside or outside of each foot with your hands. If you can’t grip your feet, you can use a towel or a yoga strap for assistance. Put slight pressure on the bottoms of the feet using your hands, to open up the pelvis more.
In addition to the relief of lower back pain, and tight hips and groin, this stretch is light-hearted and fun. Coupled with deep breathing, you’ll be left feeling energized, peaceful, and maybe even a bit more youthful after this stretch.
This stretch is likely something you do every morning when you wake up. When executed properly, it can fight stress and relieve feelings of anxiety. Begin by standing with your feet together and your arms at your side. Raise your arms above your head, arch your back, and feel that tension slip through your fingers.
This stretch extends your body from the tip of your toes to the ends of your fingers, creating space in the chest and lungs, and assisting with oxygen flow.
Standing Forward Bend
This stretch typically follows closely behind the previous move mentioned and can assist with symptoms of tension, and anxiety.
Begin with your feet flat on the floor, with your knees slightly bent, and continue by folding your torso over your legs. Make sure you’re bending from the hips and not the lower back.
You can choose to cross your arms, let them dangle, or place them on the floor (if you can reach). Your hamstrings get the stretch of their lifetime, you may feel the relief of headaches, insomnia, and feelings of anxiousness.
Stress is inevitable. It can come in the form of getting stuck in traffic, to major career decisions. And despite our best efforts, stressful situations will always arise. When they do, it’s important to understand how to deal.
Being aware of your body and how it feels is a key component to effectively managing stress. Try these moves before bed for a peaceful night sleep and less pain in the morning!