It’s worth having a few great “go-to” yoga asanas to help you to chill out. Here are my top five asanas for relaxation. (Learn more about yoga for relaxation in Restorative Yoga: Relax and Recharge.)
Viparita karani, the Sanskrit name for legs-up-the-wall pose,
is the perfect pose to practice before you go to sleep at night (you
can even do it on your bed with your legs up the wall!) or any time you
need deep relaxation. Reversing the direction of gravity on your legs is
great if you spend all day on your feet. You can allow any tension to
dissipate from your legs and lower back as your body settles into this
wonderful position of surrender. Open your arms out to the side and take
a few sighs through an open mouth to really let go.
Who doesn’t love a comforting child’s pose (balasana)? Practice it wide-kneed with your body folding forward and your forehead resting on the ground to relax your whole body. Gently rocking your head from side to side will help you to massage any tension out of your forehead. And to up the relaxing effects, fold forward over a bolster and turn your head to one side. Ahhhh.
Pigeon pose, also called kapotasana, is a relatively intense asana that can be surprisingly relaxing when performed in a yin style, particularly for those who carry tension in their hips (which is most of us!). It can release a tight lower back, too. To be extra yin in your approach, place a cushion or blanket under the sit bones of the front leg to give yourself something to relax into, and release all muscular action. Let yourself surrender to the pose, remaining in it for around three minutes per side. (Read more about The Benefits of Yin Yoga.)
Now this is a lovely asana. Starting with the soles of your feet together, lengthen your spine and allow yourself to fold over your legs into baddha konasana. The forward bend is very soothing for your nervous system and releases the inner thighs. To make it even more relaxing, instead of folding forward, place a bolster behind you, and let yourself melt back over it into supta baddha konasana. Your arms can open into a "T" shape and you can also place cushions under your knees for extra support. Take long deep breaths into your belly and, with every exhale, allow yourself to drop further open.
Never let anyone tell you that savasana (corpse pose) is only for the end of yoga class. Any time you need instant relaxation, you can adopt savasana. Just a couple of minutes of deep mindful breathing can give your body and mind the relaxation they deserve. Rest your arms slightly away from your body, palms facing up in a gesture of receiving all the restorative benefits of your savasana.
Whatever asana you adopt, remember to keep your approach to these asanas soft and gentle. This is not the time for striving. Be passive, surrender and let yourself soak up all the delicious benefits of your relaxing yoga practice. (Learn more in Yin Yoga: There's Power in Surrender.)