Yoga is a many-faceted jewel. You can practice this ancient discipline for its flexibility or strength-building benefits, or you can use it to bring yourself down off the ceiling if stress has you bouncing off the walls. To melt into a yoga pose that was designed to calm and center you is like being mantled with a soft, cozy blanket. Tension eases out of every limb, your breathing slows and your harried mind stops racing. Practice calming yoga poses for peace and serenity.
Whether you’re lucky enough to live near some or you have to search the Internet for a picture of one, take a look at a mountain the next time you think of it. Watch it stand there, immovable and graceful under the worst kind of pressure Mother Nature can throw at it. You can achieve the same kind of calm when you stand in Mountain pose. Just the act of not moving and mindfully breathing for a minute or so can slow your heart rate and restore peace to your mind and soul. Other poses, such as Standing Forward Bend and Downward Dog, where you’re grounded on both feet, have the same effect. Stay away from poses where you have to balance on one foot like Tree or Eagle. They have their own benefits, but when you’re searching for the calm in the storm, trying to save yourself from toppling out of a pose is not the way to go.
Choose seated poses that don’t put a lot of pressure on your joints when you want to become calm. For instance, Cobblers pose is good, while Lotus is bad. You want to ease into a pose, not strain. Since your shoulders and back take the brunt of stress and anxiety, stretch them out in Seated Forward Bend and Head-to-Knee pose. Both poses require you to bend from the waist as you stretch forward and attempt to grasp your toes. Lengthen your spine with every exhalation and let yourself sink into a cocoon of calm. For a quick fix, drop down to your mat and sit in an Easy Cross-Legged pose. Rest your hands on your knees, close your eyes and breathe.
They couldn’t have been referring to yoga when they came up with the expression "don’t have a cow," because if you want a calming yoga pose, the Cow’s for you. Pair it with Cat pose and slowly undulate your back in time with your inhalations and exhalations for instant calm. Add Sphinx, Bridge and Cobra to your roster of back bends if you need to chill.
There’s a danger here because restorative yoga poses feel so good that you might just forget about the rest of your yoga practice. But for inducing calm, you can’t do better than spending time in poses that often use props like blankets and pillows. Child’s pose is traditionally used as a rest stop between poses, but you can employ it on its own when you need a time out. Cushion your forehead on a pillow or yoga block and let your torso and limbs sink into the mat. Practice Savasana or Corpse, Legs-Up-the-Wall and Reclined Bound Angle poses along with Child's pose for tranquility.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.