Yoga poses for relaxation

Forward fold poses in yoga stretch and lengthen the back of the body. Regularly practising forward fold postures can help to bring flexibility to the back muscles, as well as the hamstrings and calf muscles in the legs.

Along with the physical benefits, forward fold poses are also excellent postures for soothing anxious feelings and calming the nervous system. Practising these postures in the evening can help to relax and prepare your body for sleep. That being said, they do require practice.

These types of poses require us to turn inward and this can be mentally challenging, especially if we’re going through a tough time. With this in mind, having a gentle focus on your inhale and exhale can help to steady the mind.

Roll out your mat and discover the yoga forward fold poses that you can practice for relaxation. Take care to listen to your body. You never want to feel pain in yoga, so if a pose causes you discomfort, bring yourself back out of the pose. These poses are not outlined with pregnancy in mind, so do seek advice from a pregnancy yoga specialist before practising.

Bhadrasana

Bhadrasana (sometimes called Baddha konasana) stretches and opens the hips. Folding forward in bhadrasana deepens this stretch further – take care to only go to where is comfortable. Avoid this pose if you have a hip or knee injury. If you have tight hips, you may benefit from practising this pose by sitting on a block to raise the hips.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out long in front of you.
  2. Inhale and hugs the knees into your chest, drawing the heels together.
  3. Exhale and gently drop your knees out to the side.
  4. Bring your thumbs to the pads of your feet and fingers to your instep. Hold for five breaths.
  5. To take the pose into a forward fold, inhale and begin to hinge at the hips as you fold forwards. Keep the neck and spine long – think about leading with your chest to avoid rounding through the back.
  6. Hold for three to five breaths.
  7. Inhale to lift yourself back up to sitting.
  8. Bring the palms underneath the thighs to help draw the legs together once more.

Janu sirsasana

Janu sirsasana is a stretch that helps to relax the hamstrings and the muscles of the back. It’s also excellent for calming the mind, and can help with insomnia if practised before bedtime. Avoid this pose if you have a knee, groin or hip injury. If you have tight hamstrings, you may benefit from using a yoga strap to wrap around the ball of the foot to give you extra length.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Inhale and bring your right knee into the chest.
  3. Exhale and gently open your right knee out to the side. Keep your left leg stretched long, toes energised up to the sky.
  4. Inhale and lengthen through the spine, reaching the arms up to the sky. As you exhale, hinge forward at the hips, reaching for the left shin, heel or toes. As before, think about leading with your chest to avoid rounding through the spine. Think belly to thigh, chest to knee, and face to shin.
  5. Hold for three to five breaths.
  6. On your next inhale, lift back up with a long spine to sit up.
  7. Take the hand underneath the right thigh to support and draw the leg back in.
  8. Repeat on the opposite side.

Paschimottanasana

Paschimottanasana is the full expression of Janu sirsasana, with both legs stretched out at the same time. This can be an intense pose, especially if you have tightness in your back or hamstrings. Again, a yoga strap wrapped around the ball of the foot can help with finding length, as can sitting on a block. This posture is very calming and can help with depression and anxiety, as well as insomnia and headache. Avoid this pose if you have any back or hamstring injury.

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you, toes energised to the sky.
  2. Inhale and sit up tall, reaching the arms overhead.
  3. Exhale and hinge forward at the hips, reaching the arms forward and palms to the shins, ankles or toes.
  4. Keep the spine long, leading with the chest. The movement comes from the hips.
  5. Hold for three to five breaths.
  6. Inhale to lift yourself back up to sitting, stretching up with the arms and keeping the spine long.
  7. Exhale to bring your arms back down to your sides.

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