Most people have come to accept that stress is just a part of life. Multitasking is the norm and getting things done at the last minute has become the norm. What people don’t realize is that all this commotion can harm the nervous system. You don’t have let stress build up in your body because there are helpful, restorative yoga poses that are conducive to the optimal functioning of the nervous system. They can almost bring you back to life, to some degree.
There are two parts to the central nervous system: 1) the sympathetic nervous system, which is where the fight or flight mode comes from; and 2) the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to support and balance natural processes such as breathing, metabolic rates, and heart rate. The sympathetic nervous system is typically overworked in the average adult. Restorative yoga poses come in handy because they help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which works to strengthen and balance the entire central nervous system.
Before completing the following yoga poses, it may be beneficial to release overall tension in the body by performing several sun salutations. Find a quiet and peaceful area to perform these restorative yoga poses. If playing music helps you relax, then play your favorite tunes. Try to not think about anything else and just let the restorative healing happen.
1. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
This pose helps to relieve tension in the hips and helps to promote healthy circulation in the abdomen and helps improve digestion. Make sure that you fold a towel or blanket at the top of your yoga mat, so that you can prop your head on it. This makes your forehead higher than your chin, which helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. If you want to extend your arms above your head, that can help elongate muscles and further relax the spine.
2. Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose is a classic yoga position that is typically used for resting. The idea is to just let go and completely relax. Start by kneeling and sitting back on your heels, ensuring that the tops of your feet are on the ground. Slowly sit back and collapse forward, extending the arms out in front and placing your forehead on the ground. If this is uncomfortable, you can use a bolster or a stack of blankets to give the body extra support. This isn’t required, but you may feel like it helps.
3. Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero’s Pose)
This yoga pose requires a bit of flexibility and it may require additional support underneath the torso, which is illustrated in the above photo. If you feel tightness in your hips or psoas muscle, revert to Child’s Pose and rest. If you do make it into this pose, try to hold it for five or ten minutes for the most benefits. To start, start in a kneeling position with the tops of your feet on the ground. Your feet should be outside your hips as you sit back. Slowly but surely, begin to recline back all the way until your back is touching the ground, or the supportive cushion. Feel the stretch in your quadriceps and remain here for at least ten breaths.
4. Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)
Your main goal for this pose is to get your gluteus muscles up against the wall, while simultaneously having your heels touching the wall. Find a wall and lay a yoga mat on the ground heading away from the wall. You are essentially going to make your into an “L” shape. Start by lying on your back and get your butt as close to the wall as possible. Extend your legs upwards so that you heels are touching the wall and you legs are straight. You can extend your arms out to the sides for added support. Stay in this position for at least two minutes.
5. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
Sorry, folks, but there is no picture illustrating how to do this. We thought that breathing wouldn’t translate through an image. This is a breathing exercise that you can do seated upright or reclined. This technique helps to unclog any blockages in the central nervous system and works to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This is great to do after you complete the four previous yoga poses. Close your eyes and begin with simple deep breaths that are the same length. Don’t force your breath; rather, allow the air to naturally flow in and out without pause. Once you’re relaxed, gently close off each nostril every other breath. Make sure the head is straight and remember to be gentle, inhaling and exhaling through each nostril.