In case you're feeling a little tense this holiday season.

By Kylie Gilbert
Dec 17, 2020 @ 5:56 pm
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While the holiday season looks a whole lot different this year due to the pandemic, most of us are still experiencing the usual stress that comes with trying to cram in shopping, (virtual) holiday parties, and work projects — and still manage to find time to sleep.

And although stress manifests itself in different ways (hello stress breakouts and stress eating), it’s also common to experience increased tension in your body.

So we turned to Krissy Jones and Chloe Kernaghan, the duo behind SKY TING, one of our favorite New York City yoga studios, that has since gone global with their subscription-based online yoga streaming platform, SKY TING TV.

The co-founders shared six poses – most of which fall into the forward fold or inversion categories — that are designed to release stress from the body. Why?

"Folding forward and going upside down creates a calming state for the nervous system. When the head is on the ground it creates a grounding effect. When you fold forward you are giving yourself the opportunity to go within and self-soothe," Jones and Kernaghan explain.  "All of these postures are meant to be held for longer periods of time, giving the body a chance to relax into the posture and receive the effects."

Sold? Read on for the poses you need to release stress and tension.

1. Headstand

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Why it works: A headstand is a great pose to change your perspective and reduce anxiety and stress, bringing more blood flow to the brain. (FYI, this is a more advanced pose for people with regular yoga practices.)

How to do it: Start in child’s pose. Interlace fingers and place the crown of the head on the floor, wrapping the hands around the skull. Press down through the forearms, tuck your toes and find a shortened down dog on the crown of your head (there should be more weight in the arms than the head). Walk feet towards your face and bring the knees into your chest, eventually extending the legs up to the sky/ceiling.

Stay one to three minutes until receiving the full effects of being upside-down.

2. Spinal Twist

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Why it works: This is an amazing pose for digestion, spinal mobility, shoulder mobility, and alleviating back pain.

How to do it: Lay on your back. Pull the right knee into your chest. Move the knee across the body and place it on the floor or a block. Open the right arm to the right and look past the right shoulder. (The right shoulder doesn't have to touch the floor.)

Stay for 10 breaths. Repeat on the left.

3. Rabbit Pose

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Why it works: Whenever the head is making contact with the ground it creates a relaxing state for the nervous system.

How to do it: Start in Child's Pose. Roll forward to the crown of your head lifting your hips off of your feet and rounding your spine. Interlace the hands behind the lower back and arc them overhead.

Stay for 10 breaths.

4. Wide-Legged Fold

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Why it works: This is an amazing pose to reduce stress and calm the nervous system.

How to do it: Start with the feet wide apart, hands on the hips. Inhale and look up toward the ceiling, exhale and fold forward over the legs until the hands touch the floor. If the crown of the head touches the floor, great. Otherwise, feel free to put a block or cushion under the head for a grounding effect.

Stay for 10 to 15 breaths. Come up slowly.

5. Pigeon

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Why it works: The hips hold a great deal of the body’s tension and stress, as they are the largest joints in the body. Great for relieving sciatica pain and other lower back ailments.

How to do it: Start on all fours, slide the right shin forward, right knee behind the right wrist. The shin does not have to be parallel to the front edge of the mat, a common misconception. The most important thing is to keep the hips square. Slide the left leg long behind you. Fold forward, placing hands under the forehead for an added grounding effect.

Stay for 10 breaths then repeat on the left leg.

6. Star Pose

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Why it works: This is an amazing pose to release the hips and spine.

How to do it: Start seated on the ground with the soles of the feet touching each other, knees butterflied open to the sides, creating a diamond shape in the legs. Fold forward, rounding the spine, until the forehead is close to the soles of the feet.

Stay for 10 to 20 breaths.