Yoga For Relaxation: 12 Poses For A Deep Release

These simple poses are a soothing tonic for easing day-to-day stresses.

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Yoga continues to be a great tool for relaxation. Whether it is stress, insomnia, or pain, a simple yoga routine can be a tonic for dealing with day-to-day life. In this article we’ll take a look at:

a man lying on a yoga mat with a hand on his chest and another on his belly

Which style of yoga is good for relaxation?

Yoga is a great mind-body practice that has many proven benefits but some styles and approaches will be far more beneficial for relaxation than others.

Dynamic styles such as ashtanga, hot yoga, vinyasa flow and power yoga are more energetic and may leave you feeling more energized and awake. That’s not to say that there are not relaxing elements to these approaches, but they may not be your first port of call for yoga for relaxation.

Many people need to move their body in order to find relaxation – think about it like shaking off the stress and unwanted energies of the body before you can rest. In this case styles such as slow flow, somatic yoga, and yang to yin approaches will be a good place to start because for many people, just being still won’t be relaxing.

Yin and restorative styles tend to be pretty accessible and relaxing for many people so these are good classes to try out on the studio schedule.

Restorative yoga is particularly powerful for relaxation as it uses props to support the body so that the body can deeply relax in held positions. It’s a wonderful practice, but it can be difficult for some as the poses are held for a significant amount of time and there is a lot of silence.

Breathing For Relaxation

Pranayama or breathing exercises can be another great tool for down-regulating the nervous system into the “rest and digest” response. Simple breathing techniques such as lengthening the exhalation can be a powerful way to move towards relaxation.

Focusing on the breath and using techniques such as coherent breathing which requires you to match the inhalation to the exhalation in length is a great way to move towards relaxation.

One of the best things about breathing techniques is that you can do them pretty much anywhere and at any time of day.

Meditation For Relaxation

A consistent meditation practice is a great way to combat stress and journey towards relaxation. Just ten minutes per day can be a great way to build a meditation practice and it can have huge benefits on health as well as the ability to relax.

A particular form of meditation called yoga nidra is very helpful for relaxation. This form of guided relaxation is practiced supine and is suitable for just about everyone. There are many different approaches to yoga nidra, and there are many available on YouTube for free.

When should you practice yoga for relaxation?

A yoga practice at any time of the day is going to be a great thing! However, if you’re finding that you need that boost of relaxation before bed then an evening practice is for you – just make sure that you don’t do anything too stimulating.

Many of us spend so much time scrolling on our phones before bed so why not switch up your social media time for this quick bedtime yoga routine?

12 Yoga poses for relaxation

#1: Seated cross-legged forward fold

  • Begin by sitting cross-legged on the floor.
  • Place a block or a flooded blanket underneath your seat if you find that your lower back is rounding.
  • Fold forward any amount by bringing the hands in front of you on the floor.
  • Be sure to take the other cross of the legs and repeat.
  • Stay in the pose for around half a minute.

#2: Seated Side Stretch

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing seated side bend Pose
  • Start by sitting cross-legged on the floor (use a block under your seat if needed).
  • Take your right hand out to the right and place it on the floor.
  • Stretch your left arm up and overhead to create a lengthening in the left side waist.
  • Let the left thigh bone drop.
  • Reach through your left ring finger.
  • Slowly come out of the pose and pause, feeling the difference between the left side of you and the right side of you.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Hold the pose for about half a minute on each side.

#3: Cat Cow

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing cat cow pose
  • Start on all fours with the wrists underneath the shoulders and the hips over the knees.
  • Breathe in and arch the spine up towards to sky so that the head and tail drop.
  • Following this, breathe out and go the opposite way by letting the belly drop and the chest and tail lift.
  • Go through these two movements several times.

#4: Downward Facing Dog

annotated image of a woman doing yoga's downward facing dog
  • Start on all fours.
  • Take your hips back towards your heels.
  • Extend the legs towards straight and come into an inverted V shape with your body.
  • Stay for five slow breaths.
  • Repeat the pose if you wish.
  • To come out, return to all fours.

#5: Child Pose

annotated image of a woman doing child's pose
  • From all fours, let the hips come to the heels.
  • The arms can reach forward beside the ears.
  • The head should rest on the floor or a folded blanket.
  • If the hips do not come to the heels, then place a folded blanket between the hips and the heels.
  • Stay in the pose for one to two minutes.

#6: Pigeon Pose

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing half pigeon Pose
  • From all fours (or downward facing dog), step the right leg forward so that the right knee is behind the right wrist and the right ankle is behind the left wrist.
  • You may want to put a block or a folded blanket underneath the right hip to support it if it is far from the floor.
  • Stretch the left leg back behind you so that it is straight.
  • Staying upright on the hands, walk the hands to the left slightly and focus on letting the bent leg hip drop. Take a few breaths here.
  • Staying upright on the hands, walk the hands to the right slightly and focus on the front of the straight leg hip dropping and releasing.  Stay there for a few breaths.
  • Come back to center with the arms and either stay up on the hands or drop down onto the forearms.
  • Stay in the pose for around one minute before repeating it on the other side.

#7: Single leg stretch

  • Come onto your back.
  • Place a firm folded blanket underneath the pelvis.
  • Start with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor.
  • Stretch the left leg long.
  • For some that will be enough of a lengthening on the left front hip, but if you want a little more, then draw the right knee into the chest. You can hold on to it or let it hang.
  • Focus on the left thigh bone dropping and releasing as you exhale, and make sure that you are not holding tension in the shoulders.
  • Stay in the pose for two minutes before moving onto the second side.

#8: Supported bridge pose

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing bridge pose
  • Lying on your back, bring your knees into a bent position so that the feet are flat on the floor. Fett can be hip width apart or even wider if that feels better.
  • Place a block on the lowest or middle height underneath the back of the pelvis. The block should not be on the flexible part of your spine but the bony rim of the pelvis.
  • Draw the shoulder blades down the back and towards each other to create space in the front of the chest.
  • Keep the neck in a neutral position, neither tucking nor lifting the chin.
  • Stay for two to three minutes before removing the block and coming down to rest.

#9: Happy baby

annotated image of a woman doing happy baby pose, ananda balasana
  • From a supine position, draw the knees into the chest and place the elbows on the insides of the knees.
  • Catch a hold over the ankles, feet or toes and sway gentle from side to side.
  • If the head and neck are uncomfortable in this position, then place a folded blanket underneath the head.
  • Stay in the pose for around one minute.

#10: Supine Twist

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing reclined twist Pose
  • While lying on your back with your knees bent, take your arms out wide into a t-shape.
  • Shift your hips to the left and take your knees to the left.
  • If this is uncomfortable through the hip, place a block in between the knees.
  • Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a minute before coming back to the center and performing the pose on the other side.

#11: Supine butterfly pose

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing reclined bound angle Pose
  • From a supine position, bring the soles of the feet together and take the knees wide.
  • For a more luxurious version of this pose then, place a cushion underneath each thigh to support the legs and reduce some of the stretch (stretch isn’t bad but it can be stimulating)
  • Place the arms in a comfortable position.
  • Stay in the pose for between one and five minutes.

#12: Savasana

annotated image of a woman in corpse pose, savasana
  • This is the pose where props can be a great help. Lying on your back, support your lower back by placing a rolled yoga mat, bolster or pillow underneath the backs of your knees.
  • Place a rolled blanket underneath the achilles tendon.
  • Use a soft cushion, or blanket underneath the head for support.
  • Cover your body with a blanket and block out some light by placing an eye pillow or spare sock over the eyes.
  • Stay for between five and twenty minutes.

What next?

If this yoga for relaxation article has left you wanting more practice ideas then why not try out 11 stretches for hips.

Photo of author
Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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