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Release tension with these yoga poses

Last updated on: August 20, 2009 

Image: Five great tension-relieving poses
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff Shameem Akthar

In yoga it is believed that chronic stress or tension can reduce vitality, invite diseases and create blockages to happiness.

Tension may be experienced as stiffness all along the spine, at the joints from the minor to major ones, swelling or bloating of body parts as the cleansing systems like the lymphatic drainage get into go-slow mode. Major systems in the body, including the glandular, circulatory, nervous and digestive, slow down to accommodate the sense of emergency that tension creates in the rest of the body. The poses discussed here release such energy locks and will help your body experience an immediate state of lightness and release.

Tension also 'freezes' certain parts of the body that scientists refer to as primary fear centers, like the neck. These poses gently but firmly ease this tightness from the body and mind. You may do modified versions of these any time during the day or any where for immediate relief.

Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Center, instructs you on how you can practice these five tension-relieving poses.

Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings or upcoming workshops from

(This column only seeks to share the author's enthusiasm towards yoga. Yoga is best learnt under expert guidance.)

Baddha Konasana (Bound angle pose)

Image: Baddha Konasana (Bound angle pose)

Sit up straight. Bring the soles of your feet together. Holding your feet with your hands, bring them as close to the groin as possible. Keep your knees as close to the floor as you can. Ensure your back remains straight, and you are looking straight ahead. Hold the pose as long as you can comfortably, breathing normally.

You may shut your eyes while holding the pose to ensure complete relaxation. You may sit on a cushion initially, if you find that your back does not remain erect.

Benefits: Apart from the immediate release of stress, the pose also helps release fat from the liver, conrolling weight problems. It impacts the uro-genital system, helping with related ailments. It elevates mood. It is used, along with forward-bending poses, to control anger, anxiety and stress.

Skandha chakra (Neck roll)

Image: Skandha chakra (Neck roll)

Sit up straight, with your legs out in front of you. Fold them at the knee and inhale. Exhaling, hug your legs to your body with your arms, as shown. Keep your heels close to your hips. Then raise your head as you inhale. Exhaling, drop your head down, locking your chin between your collar bone. Do this five to ten times.

Benefits: Releases tension all along the upper back. Hugging your body in this fashion is soothing and relaxing, and stress-relieving.

Ardha matysendrasana (Half spinal twist)

Image: Ardha matysendrasana (Half spinal twist)

Sit with both legs out in front of you. Fold your right leg at the knee, passing it over your left leg. Place your right foot beside your left knee. Place your right hand behind you, close to your hips. Use your left hand to apply counter pressure, to enhance the twist you will be executing. Inhale.

Exhaling, twist over your right shoulder, extending your spine, keeping your body as straight as possible. Hold for a few seconds, breathing deeply. Release and repeat for the other side. You must slowly increase duration in the final pose with regular practice.

Benefits: Releases tension all along the spine. The squeeze-release pressure on the torso massages and soothes all the organ systems and glands that are negatively affected by tension. Is detoxifiying.

Parvatasana (Mountain pose)

Image: Parvatasana (Mountain pose)

This pose is also referred to as the inverted-V pose.

Kneel down and lean forward to place your palms flat on the ground in front. Exhale. Hoist your hips off the floor, pushing down your shoulders as you continue breathing, making the following adjustments: push down your heels; focus attention on your stomach. Apply pressure at your shoulder blades.

Move your head as close to the ground as possible. Hold the pose for as long as you can. Do several times initially. Later, build up the stamina to hold pose for a minute or so.

: Eases tension powerfully by removing the blockages caused by emotional pressure. Is a powerful stamina-builder. Boosts calmness due to blood flow to the brain. Balances blood pressure, both low and high. Alleviates all spinal problems. Tones arms and legs. The entire body is worked out. Removes wrinkles.

Balasana (Child pose)

Image: Balasana (Child pose)

Sit on your heels so your hips are rested on the heels which are flared. Inhale and raise your arms overhead. Exhaling lower them, simultaneously lowering your head so your forehead is rested on the ground in front. Place your hands alongside your body (see photo).

Rest in this pose, breathing normally. Initially, stay in the pose only for a few seconds. Slowly you may learn to increase the time, to half a minute or so, over several weeks. Doing this before going to bed can be restful and calming.

Benefits: Soothes anxiety. Enhances breath capacity by the pressure applied on the abdomen and the diaphragm. The brain is completely relaxed due to the rush of blood to head. The blood flow to the chest region, including the lungs, is also greater allowing that region to rejuvenate.