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Gear up for the week! 5 easy yoga moves to help you relax

With the help of yoga teacher Lisa Marie Nilsson, two beginners demonstrate easy yoga moves to help you prepare for the stress of the coming week

MANILA, Philippines – When everything gets to be too much, worrying about what’s going on in your life adds to the stress of day-to-day. All of this stress can manifest physically – it’s normal to feel the tightness in your shoulders and the stiffness in your back, for example.  

Here are some yoga poses that you can do to ease the effects of all that weight you’re carrying on your shoulders. Yoga may seem intimidating, and advanced poses are best attempted with the help of a professional, but these particular poses can help you quiet your mind and gear up for the coming week. 

We asked yoga instructor Lisa Marie Nilsson of Yoga+ studio in Pasig City to teach us these 5 easy poses, as demonstrated by two beginners:

1. Child’s pose 

CHILD'S POSE. Breathe in and out as you relax in this pose

Kneel and sit down on your heels. Make sure you keep your knees a little bit apart. Pitch your torso forward, and extend your arms on the mat. Breathe deeply through your nose. 

Tip: Instead of forcing your forehead on the mat, place a cushion or a folded towel on the mat and rest your head there.

Though this is a resting pose, the actions should still be done mindfully. Feel your fingers and arms on the mat, and feel the stretch in your hips and in the upper part of your thighs. Listen to your own breath and feel yourself relaxing – you deserve even just a few minutes of respite from the world! 

2. Reclining bound angle pose

RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE. If your knees won't touch the floor, you can always use cushions to prop them up. Don't worry about perfecting it

It’s important not to rush into this pose. Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Now bend your knees in and place your heels together, closer to the groin. Slowly – it’s very important not to rush this – allow your knees to fall on either side, creating a diamond shape. Now place your hands on either side of you, near the buttocks. Slowly, lean back gradually until you’re lying down on the mat.

Tip: Don’t force your knees out too much on either side; support with pillows or a blanket if you need to. Not everyone can lay flat on the mat either – you may have to use support your neck with another blanket.  

Aside from being a wonderful calming pose, this pose should also help you feel a nice stretch in your inner thighs and groin. 

3. Standing forward bend 

STANDING FORWARD BEND. If you can't quite reach the floor, modify the pose by crossing your arms and hanging on to your elbows

Stand straight, with your feet together. Bend your torso slowly down to the floor. As you bend, don’t fall forward; control the motion. Keep the knees straight. and gently place your hands on the floor, if you can. Breathe. 

Tip: Try not to fixate on getting your hands down to the floor. If you can’t touch the floor, you may want to cross your arms and hang on to your elbows. If you pitch forward, feel your heels firmly on the mat and mindfully make the effort to root yourself in the position. 

Often practiced as a resting pose, this calming pose strengthens the legs and gives them a great stretch. Don’t forget to let your head hang to release the tension in your neck. 

4. Happy Baby pose 

HAPPY BABY POSE. If you can't reach the sides of your feet, or if your knees won't spread out as widely, you can grip your toes or use a yoga strap to help you

While lying on your back, lift up your knees towards your shoulders and spread them wider than the top half of your body. Flex your feet, and use your hands to grip the sides of your feet. Keep your legs up while pulling with your hands.  

Tip: Ideally, the ankles should be aligned with your knees, but only go where you’re comfortable. With practice, your body will adjust to the sensation. If you find it hard to reach your feet, you can use a strap instead. 

Remember, don’t launch right into this pose; you don’t want to shock your body, particularly your lower back and groin, during the stretch. Start with a resting pose like child’s pose instead. This pose is great for a little boost after a workout, too.

5. Downward-facing dog 

DOWNWARD-FACING DOG. Don't be afraid to bend your knees if you can't straighten them all the way. Don't fret if the pose isn't perfect

Caution: many beginners will find this challenging at first, but work at it in order to get the full benefits.

Get on your hands and knees, tuck your toes under you, and push up into the triangular shape you see in the image. Spread your fingers wide to get your grip on the mat. Try to get your feet flat on the floor. Try to distribute the weight evenly; don’t make your arms do all the work. Breathe in and out slowly through your nose. 

Tip: Don’t be afraid to bend your knees. If your spine is slightly curved, Lisa says not to worry about it if that’s the way your body is wired. 

Yoga is not about forcing your body to get into the proper position, it’s about slowly teaching your body to get into the pose, in the hopes of reaping its positive effects.  

This energizing pose is actually a type of inversion. Though it can be difficult for beginners, Lisa says that with practice, the downward dog actually becomes a relaxing resting pose, and you can pop into it any time to reset yourself if the need arises. –