If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, typically the last thing you want to do is relax and breathe.
But often slowing down is exactly what we need in order to efficiently and effectively stop our racing minds.
Whether it’s deadlines and meetings that have your brain on overdrive, or you just can’t seem to turn work mode off on the weekends, it is possible to calm and clear your mind. The key? A regular yoga practice.
In the ancient Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states: Yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind. In other words, the very practice of yoga is one to calm the mind and remove distractions, ultimately allowing us to move deeper into our practice, both on and off the mat.
While almost all yoga styles and poses can help you to de-stress, these specific yoga postures will help you to easily calm and clear your mind, wherever you might be.
Five Yoga Poses To Calm and Clear Your Mind
1. One-to-one breathing
This is my go-to exercise whenever I find myself feeling particularly overwhelmed or stressed. For me, that typically means when my mind starts racing with fear on airplanes.
However, one-to-one breathing is also a great exercise before important meetings, presentations, or any other time you need to calm and clear your mind.
To start, sit in a comfortable position with a tall spine. If you can, gently close your eyes. Begin by breathing naturally. Then, begin to lengthen the inhale, counting the beats until you have fully filled your belly and chest.
Now, exhale for the same amount of length that you inhaled. For example, if you inhaled for four counts, you would also exhale for four counts. Focus only on counting the rise of the inhale and fall of the exhale.
Repeat for at least a minute, or until you feel centered and relaxed.
2. Tree Pose
Balancing postures are another one of my favorite ways to clear my mind. Even after years of yoga practice, balancing postures are always difficult for me.
In order for me to remain rooted and strong, I must block out all other distractions to focus purely on the balancing exercise at hand.
Even if you have excellent balance, postures that require you to hold your weight on your hands or one foot will encourage you to quiet your mind and engage solely with the posture.
Tree Pose is a fantastic balancing posture for beginners and advanced practitioners alike. Begin by moving your body weight onto one foot. Root down through the four corners of the feet, growing tall and strong. When you’re ready, bring one foot up to your opposite ankle, shin or thigh.
Hands can come to prayer at heart center, above your head, or sway around your body like branches in the wind. Take it to the next level by closing your eyes while maintaining your center of balance. Stay here for as long as you can, then switch sides.
3. Cobra Pose
Open the heart, strengthen the spine and relieve fatigue, all while clearing your mind of excess distractions. Cobra Pose is typically practiced during Sun Salutations, but holding the posture for a few seconds can produce extraordinary benefits to the mind and body.
Start by laying on your stomach. Place your hands on either side of your chest, hugging your elbows in toward your body. Inhale and begin to peel your chest off the ground for a gentle backbend.
Shoulder blades are firm down the back, and the tops of your feet should actively push down into the ground beneath you. Hold for 30 seconds, then gently lower to release.
4. Seated Forward Fold
Forward Folds naturally stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn calms and relaxes both your mind and body.
Additionally, forward folds can help to reduce anxiety, anger and other feelings of irritability and annoyance.
Begin seated with your legs stretched out in front of you, feet flexed. Inhale to lengthen the spine, bringing the arms up overhead. Engage the core. Then, on the exhale, begin to forward fold over your legs. Hands can come to your feet or shins.
On each inhale, lengthen in the spine. On each exhale, fold a bit deeper over your legs. Stay here for at least 30 seconds, or up to a few minutes.
Don’t hesitate to grab a pillow or blanket to support your head on your legs as you fold forward. Remember, the ultimate goal is to stop the fluctuations of the mind and find calmness and clarity in the posture. Use the props you need to help you achieve this.
5. Sun Salutations
Sometimes it’s important to get still and steady. Other times, the best way to get out of our heads is to get our bodies moving. Sun Salutations are an effective way to clear the mind by linking movement with breath.
For the best results, try to practice at least five cycles of Sun Salutations. Move as slowly as you like, but remember to start each movement with the inhale or exhale of the breath.
Use this step-by-step guide to help you work through Sun Salutations, one pose at a time.
Don’t let a busy mind overwhelm your life and distract you from what really matters. A regular yoga practice can dramatically impact your stress levels and help you to live more mindfully.
Use these five yoga poses to get started. Then, continue your practice to find what personal yoga poses most effectively clear and calm your mind.
If you’d like to discover more useful tips to improve your physical and mental health, then check out Zenward.