10 Yoga Poses For Your Mental Health
Updated: Dec 15, 2022
Yoga is a form of Ancient Indian philosophy that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation to aid in spirituality as your body and mind become one. Yoga is a stress outlet that’s great for mental health and a way to exercise and boost heart health. It’s said that practicing yoga may help lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood glucose levels (1).
I have compiled a list of 10 yoga poses that have a variety of mental health benefits that you can practice during times of stress or even every day to keep your mental health strong. Before starting, it's important to remember to always listen to what your body is saying and respect your body’s limitations. Even if you don’t successfully execute a pose, celebrate your attempts and try again.
Head to Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Cat Cow Pose (Marjaryasana Bitilasana)
Puppy Dog Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
1. Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
Easy Pose, also known as Sukhasana, will be our first pose for this mental health practice. This pose not only strengthens the spinal muscles while stretching the knees and ankles. This pose also opens the chest, improves posture, and gently opens the hips in external rotation. Easy Pose also reduces anxiety and stress, releasing tension and calming the mind.
Easy Pose (Sukhasana) can be successfully executed by following these steps:
Start by sitting in a seated position on your mat. Cross the right shin in front of the left and keep your knees as flat as possible while remaining in your comfort zone.
Rest your hands on your knees with your pointer and thumb fingers creating a circle, and the remaining fingers are open like an "okay" sign.
Press the hip bones down into the mat while reaching the crown of your head towards the ceiling with a straight and lengthened back. Drop the shoulders down and back away from the ears while pressing your chest towards the front of the room.
Relax your face, jaw, and belly, and drop the tongue from the roof of the mouth to fully relax the body and release tension.
Breathe deeply through the nose and down into the belly. Hold this pose as long as you'd like.
Avoid this pose if you have problems with inflammation or a knee or hip injury.
2. Head to Knee Forward Bend
Since you're already seated, the next pose to go to would be Head to Knee Forward Bend, also known as Janu Sirsasana. Not only does this pose to stretch the spine, shoulders, hamstrings, and groin,but it also strengthens the back muscles during pregnancy, stimulating the liver and kidneys. This pose also improves digestion, calms the brain, helps relieve mild depression, and reduces anxiety, fatigue, headache, and menstrual discomfort.
Head to Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana) can be successfully executed by following these steps:
Sit on the mat with your legs straight forward.
Bend your right knee, bringing your right foot to your left inner thigh, and lay the outer right leg on the floor on an inhalation. Keep your left leg straight.
Press your right hand against your inner right groin with your left hand on the mat beside your hip. On an exhale, turn the torso slightly left, lifting the torso as you push the inner right thigh to the mat and line your navel with the middle of the left thigh.
When you're ready, reach out with your right hand to take the inner left foot with the thumb on the sole. Inhale and lift the front torso as you extend through the left heel.
Exhale and extend forward through the groin as you descend, bend your elbows out to the sides and lift them away from the floor.
Lengthen yourself into a comfortable stretch. Stay in this pose for about three minutes and repeat on the other side before continuing to the next pose.
Avoid this pose if you are experiencing diarrhea, have asthma, or have a knee injury.
3. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Next up is Mountain Pose, also known as Tadasana. This pose uses every muscle in the body, helps reduce back pain, and strengthens the thighs, knees, ankles, abdomen, and buttocks. Mountain Pose also relieves sciatica pain, steadies the mind and body, and steadies and soothes your breathing while improving posture, lessening stress, and improving concentration.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana) can be successfully executed by following these steps:
Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Press your weight evenly across the balls and arches of your feet. Breathe steadily and rhythmically. Draw your awareness inward. Focus on the present moment, letting all worries and concerns fade away.
Press your big toes together (separate your heels if needed). Lift your toes, spreading them apart. Then, place them back down on the mat, one at a time.
Draw down through your heels and straighten your legs. Ground your feet firmly into the mat, pressing evenly across all four corners of both feet.
Then, lift your ankles and the arches of your feet. Squeeze your outer shins toward each other.
Draw the top of your thighs up and back, engaging the quadriceps. Rotate your thighs slightly inward, widening your sitting bones.
Tuck in your tailbone slightly, but don’t round your lower back. Lift the back of your thighs, but release your butt. Keep your hips even with the centerline of your body.
Bring your pelvis to its neutral position. Do not let your front hip bones point down or up; instead, point them straight forward. Draw your belly in slightly. As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist.