But one of the most common physical symptoms of stress is muscle hypertonicity, which is a fancy-sounding word for tightness, soreness or rigidity. Ever come home from work with aching shoulders or a stiff lower back? There’s a good chance you’re holding stress in your body without even realising it.
A great way to ease this sensation is yoga. We recently caught up with Lara Zilibowitz, a yoga teacher and ambassador for lululemon’s Ivy store in Sydney, who demonstrated a few key poses that will help you unwind after (or before!) a high-octane day at the office:
1. Child’s pose
Zilibowitz says this pose releases lower back tension and stretches the back, side body, knees and ankles. It’s also calming, and helps to relieve fatigue and anxiety. (Post continues after video.)
How it’s done:
1. Come to kneeling, with your big toes together and knees wide.
2. On an inhale, lengthen the spine; on an exhale start to walk your hands out in front of you as far as you can, keeping your sitting bones back towards the heels.
3. Start to walk your hands across to the right side of the mat, reaching out more with the left fingers to feel the left-side body lengthen and stretch.
3. Let the head, neck and shoulders completely soften and release.
4. Stay there for five to 10 breaths, changing sides when you’re ready.
2. Cat and Cow pose
This move gently massages the spine and the belly, releases tension from the neck and opens up across the chest. It also releases tension by encouraging long, slow, deep breaths into the belly.
How it’s done
1. Come to all fours, with hands underneath your shoulders and knees hips-width apart.
2. On a slow, long and deep inhale, drop your belly down, roll your shoulders back and spread your chest forward and look up to the sky.
3. On a slow, long and deep exhale, draw your navel back into your spine, round your back and tuck your chin into your chest.
4. Repeat, with eyes closed, for five full cycles of synchronising your breath with your movement.
3. Downward-facing dog
This classic yoga pose stretches the chest, shoulders — as well as the whole back of the body — ankles, calves, hamstrings and spine. Zilibowitz says it can also be energising.
How it’s done
1. From an all-fours position, spread your fingers, keeping the base of your thumb and index finger grounded.
2. On an exhalation, push the floor away from you, lift your hips and push yourself back into an upside down V pose.
3. Keep your knees initially bent to lengthen the spine, taking your hips up and back. Then, if possible, straighten the legs, while maintaining the length in your spine.
4. Press your upper arms towards each other and your shoulder blades down along your spine, keeping the space across the tops of the shoulders.
5. Keep your head relaxed and your neck long. Hold for five to 10 breaths. (Post continues after gallery.)
4. Standing forward fold
A standing forward fold stretches the back of the legs, the hips and spine, and strengthens the legs, thighs and knees. It can also balance the nervous system, calm the mind, and relieve lower-back tension.
How it’s done
1. From a downward-facing dog, slightly bend your knees and start to walk your hands back towards your feet. Keep your torso long and avoid bending from the waist.
2. Soften the knees and work towards maintaining length in the front of your body, rather than getting closer to the floor.
3. Take hold of your opposite elbows as you hang and lengthen the spine. Keep length in your neck and your shoulders soft.
4. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths, gently swaying from side to side to release any tension in your neck and side waists.
5. Release your elbows and slowly roll up through the spine. Your head comes up very last.
5. Lying twist
Need to release tension in your spine? Try this move. It’ll also stretch your back muscles and the ones across your chest, and release the fronts of your hips and side waists. A lying twist is especially soothing after sitting at your desk for long periods of time.
How it’s done
1. Come to lie on your back with your arms extended at shoulder height.
2. Bend up your knees, and place the feet mats-width apart.
3. Drop both knees across to the right side with the left shoulder staying towards the ground.
4. For a deeper variation, hook the left ankle on top of the right knee to more actively release the front of the left hip and side body.
5. Turn your head to the left bringing your gaze over the left shoulder.
6. Hold five to 10 breaths before bringing your knees back through the centre and repeating on the other side.
What’s your favourite yoga pose? Does it help you de-stress?