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5 Poses for a Calm and Happy Mind

The first step toward relieving your stress is understanding what it is, and what it does to your mind, body and soul. The second step is unrolling your yoga mat. Yoga is not only a great stress reliever, but also helps overcome symptoms of insomnia, anxiety and depression. .

Yoga shifts the body from a state dominated by the sympathetic nervous system (the one that creates a stress response) to a state ruled by the parasympathetic system (the one that triggers relaxation). This may allow the fear-based part of the brain, the limbic system, to relax. This shift to relaxation is due to yoga's ability to soothe the vagus nerve, a major component of our emotional well-being. Studies show that people who practice yoga regularly tone the vagus nerve, which enables them to bounce back from adversity quicker and can more easily regulate emotions.

Practicing selective yoga poses regularly can help calm the mind and improve your mood. Here are a few of our favorite stress relief poses:

1. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge Pose)-Start from a kneeling position. Step one leg forward, keep the ankle and knee in the same line. Lengthen your back leg.Reach arms out to the side and overhead. Lift your spine as you reach your heart back to create a crescent shape. Take 3 deep breaths in and out. Repeat on the other side and continue to alternate Benefits: Many people hold tension, stress and even emotions in their hips and groin. This pose stretches and strengthens the hips, front of the leg, muscles around the knee as well as the arms, neck and chest. Low lunge creates a feeling of calmness and peace.

2. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) -Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms on the floor with your fingers reaching toward your heels. Keep your feet parallel as your press down into the soles of the feet to lift your hips off the floor. Slide your yoga block under your back directly under your sacrum, letting it rest on the block. Keep the arms alongside the body. Stay and breath for 1-2 minutes. Benefits: With the head and neck being lower than the heart, this pose promotes the parasympathetic nervous system. It helps open the chest for better breathing, and can aleviate low back pain.

3.Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)-While standing bring the feet hip-distance apart. Slowly bend your body at the hips and move your torso downward. See that your knees are straight. Connect your hands together at your low back, and gently lift your hands away from the body, stretching the shoulders and the chest. Hold for 8-10 breaths, slowly bend your knees and return to standing. Benefits: Enhances your immunity, attenuates stress and relaxes the mind, reduces insomnia, fatigue and headaches.

4. Balasana (Child's Pose)-Get down on your knees, keeping the spine straight. Slowly bend forward and move your chest toward your thighs, thighs towards your chest. Keep bending forwards until your head is beyond the knee and touches the ground. Straighten both the arms on either side of your legs with your palms down. Stay and breathe for 30 seconds, take a few seconds break and repeat 2-3 times. Benefits:Relieves stress and anxiety, preserves calmness and promotes a stress-free mind. Increases blood circulation and tones the muscles around the hips, ankles and thighs.

5. Parsva Balasana (Thread the Needle)-Start in a table top or hands and knees position, tuck your toes under your feet. Place your right hand a few inches in front of your shoulder, then walk your hand a few inches away from your body. Turn your chest toward the right, slowly lower the left arm to the floor and crawl your hand under your right arm pit. Breath and hold for 30 seconds, releasing the tension in your shoulder. Exit by pushing back into table top. Repeat on the other side, alternate sides 3-4 times. Benefits: Calms the mind and body, helps to reduce stress, opens the shoulders and stretches the upper chest muscles.

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