May is Mental Health Awareness month and it is no surprise the role physical activity plays in supporting and benefiting our mind and our mood. While yoga is not a replacement for any professional help, it can supplement your mental health routine by calming the mind, supporting focus, and improving mood and patience. Many yoga poses, slow breathing, and meditation can increase activation of the Parasympathetic Nervous System to lead to mental relaxation. Below are 6 poses you can use when you’re in need of an extra mood boost and stress relief.

Balasana – Child’s Pose

How to do it:

Kneel on the floor with your big toes together to touch behind you. Allow your knees to fall slightly wider than your hips. Sink your hips towards your heels while reaching your torso and your arms forward. Rest your head on the floor or a blanket.

Why it works:

Child’s Pose releases spinal muscles, hips, thighs, and ankles. This pose calms the brain and can help relieve stress and fatigue. It is a perfect starting posture or a posture to come back to when you need a reset!

 

Uttanasana – Forward Fold

How to do it:

In a standing position with your feet hip width distance— fold your torso over your legs. Find a generous bend in your knees (seriously!!) so that your belly and/or chest can rest on your thighs. Let your head and arms hang heavy as you shift your weight into the balls of your feet. Take a long slow deep breath into the belly and relax into the shape.

Why it works:

Forward bends are simple, yet extremely healing. This pose calms the brain, helps relieve stress, and stimulates our detoxification organs (liver and kidneys). A forward fold can help improve digestion as well as reduce fatigue and anxiety.

 

Ustrasana – Camel Pose

How to do it: 

Stand on your knees with your thighs perpendicular to the floor hips-distance apart. Press into the tops of your feet, firming your outer ankles into your midline. Cricket your hands behind you and let your hands fall on your low back, fingers pointing down. Keep your pelvis neutral as you lift your chest skyward. Inhale as you lift your gaze and imagine a line on the ceiling. Follow the line from the top of your head towards the back of your space. Keep your chest lifted and your thighs stacked over your hips as you bend. Keep your chin slightly lifted to stabilize your head and neck muscles rather than dropping your head all the way back. Focus on your breath and allow deep inhales and slow open mouth exhales to avoid feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

Why it works:

Camel Pose is a huge heart chakra opener, which can help build confidence and leave you feeling empowered and energized! It is a great posture to boost energy and fight the fatigue that comes with physical and mental discomfort.

 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – Bridge Pose

How to do it: 

Rest your spine on the floor, bend your knees, and set your feet on the floor. Allow your heels to come as close to the sitting bones as possible. Press into your inner feet and press your arms actively into the floor. Start to push your tailbone upward toward the ceiling and lift the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel while finding glute activation. Lift your chin slightly away from your chest and pull shoulder blades against your back. Hold for a few breathes and release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.

Why it works:

Bridge Pose stretches the chest, neck, and spine to help stimulate abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid. This stretch can calm the brain and help alleviate stress and mild depression by reducing anxiety, fatigue, body aches, and insomnia.

 

Supta Baddha Konasana – Reclined Bound Angle Pose

How to do it: 

Lower down to your spine. Bring the soles of your feet together to touch and let your knees spread wide. Rest your hands on your belly or by your sides.

Why it works:

Our hips are our emotional center where creativity, self-expression, and well-being reside. Reclined Bound Angle helps relieve symptoms of stress, increase circulation in the lower abdomen, and increase range of motion in hips. Introducing this pose can help spark motivation and inspiration at any time of the day!

 

Viparita Karani – Legs Up the Wall

How to do it: 

Start by lying on your back about 5 to 6 inches away from a wall. Place the back of your legs up against the wall as you inch your glutes as close to the wall as you can get. Rest your sit bone up against where the wall and floor meet and allow your back, shoulders, and head on the mat beneath you. Option to place a yoga bolster, cushion, or pillow beneath your low back for added support. Stack your ankles above your hips and allow your body to relax as you melt into your pose.

Why it works:

If you are stressed or fatigued, this pose is especially refreshing. This simple pose is the go-to pose for reducing stress, boosting your mood, and can help enhance brain function by improving circulation. The best part about Legs Up The Wall is that it proves that positive results can come from doing less, not more. It is ok to slow down to heal.

 

To learn more about yoga for digestion with Riv, follow her on Instagram @rivyourbestlife.