Work It Out: 8 best yoga poses for recovery and relaxation |

Work It Out: 8 best yoga poses for recovery and relaxation

Pinna Gallant
Work It Out
Child's pose yoga for athletic recovery.
Phil Lindeman / |

If yoga were a vitamin, you’d take it every day.

And why not? Yoga’s wide range of health benefits has been touted by everyone from the Mayo Clinic to Harvard Medical School to the Huffington Post. This ancient practice helps you decrease stress hormones and increase overall emotional, mental and physical well-being, building lean and supple muscles in the process. It can help you shed unwanted pounds, improve mental focus, regulate hormones, and reduce risk factors for heart disease and high blood pressure. It even helps alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.

So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t tried yoga yet, start with this “Sunday De-Stress Sequence” of simple postures designed to relax your physical body, as well as your neurological system. But don’t wait until Sunday — try them now in your living room. If you like these postures, try a restorative yoga or Yin class at your local yoga studio.

Child’s pose

Child’s pose offers a gentle stretch to ankles and knees, along with the upper and lower back. It also calms your nervous system and promotes strong, steady breathing, which makes it a great posture to relieve anxiety and stress.

Kneel on the floor, with big toes touching and knees a bit wider than your hips. If this hurts your knees or hips, place a thickly folded blanket between your calves and backs of your thighs.

Rest your torso over your thighs so that your forehead touches the floor or rests on a pillow.

Let your arms rest overhead, palms facing down.

Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Cat/cow pose

Cat/cow is a simple but effective set of poses made to relieve tension held in your torso and spine. This sequence releases stress in the upper, middle and lower back, meaning it can help relieve stress from menstrual cramps, low-back pain and sciatica. It’s an excellent choice following a long hike or any activity that strains the back, such as sitting at a computer or driving long distances.

Begin on your hands and knees, with your spine in a neutral position. Again, if this places stress on your knees, use a towel.

Inhale and lower your belly to the ground while gently gazing up (Cow pose).

Exhale and round your back to the sky, looking toward your navel (Cat pose).

Repeat sequence 5 times.

Puppy pose

Puppy pose is simply downward-facing dog on your knees. It stretches the spine, shoulders and hips while reducing symptoms of stress, tension and insomnia.

Kneel on the floor, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.

Walk your hands forward until your forehead rests on the floor. If your forehead doesn’t reach the floor, you can rest it on a book or a pillow.

Sink your chest toward your thighs, keeping hips over your knees.

Hold for 10 breaths.


Forward folding has a range of benefits, such as reducing stomach pains, relaxing the muscles along your spine, and calming a busy mind. If you have any low-back issues, bend your knees a lot until your torso is resting on your thighs.

Stand upright with your big toes touching.

Fold forward and bring opposite hands to opposite elbows, letting your arms and top of your head relax toward the floor.

Shift your weight to barely in front of your heels and straighten your knees as much as your lower back and hamstrings comfortably allow.

Hold for 10 breaths.

Supported bridge pose

Bridge pose is a gentle back bend, as well as an inversion. It stimulates the entire front side of your body, including lungs, thyroid glands and abdominal organs. It is known to improve digestion, reduce fatigue and relieve symptoms of asthma.

Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet hip-width apart.

Bring heels under your knees.

Lift your hips to the ceiling and place a block under your sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of your spine).

Rest your hips/sacrum on the block and fully relax.

Let your arms rest comfortably at your side, palms facing up.

Hold for 10 breaths.


Butterfly pose is a deceptively simple health-and-wellness weapon. It helps relieve mild depression, anxiety and fatigue by relaxing your inner thighs, groin and knees. It can helo soothe menstrual discomfort and sciatica, and traditional texts say this posture roots out disease and reduces fatigue.

Sit on the floor and press the soles of your feet together so that your legs make a diamond shape.

Hold onto your shins or feet and fold forward from the hips, not the waist or stomach.

Reach your heart forward and let your knees drop down toward the floor.

Hold for 10 breaths.

Legs Up the Wall pose

Legs Up the Wall is one of my favorite postures. It promotes the flow of blood away from your legs, which then, of course, means that fresh, oxygen-filled blood returns to nourish your muscles. If you’ve been doing anything that brings significant amounts of blood to your legs, like hiking or biking, or if blood flow in your feet has been constricted, like in ski boots, this is a great option. I also suggest trying this when under stress or if you’ve been restless at night.

Take a fetal position on your right hip, with your knees close to your chest and your hips a few inches from the wall.

Roll onto your back and extend your legs up the wall. If your hips are not completely resting on the floor, back away from the wall a few inches.

Hold for 2-3 minutes.


Even advanced yogis can struggle to simply lie on the floor. Savasana is often referred to as the most difficult yoga posture for good reason: relaxation isn’t as easy as it looks. Just ask the millions of Americans with insomnia! The gift of Savasana is that it trains us to gradually enter a truly relaxed state, which can also serve as a starting point for meditation.

Lie on your back, with your knees bent.

Keep your head centered, not allowing it to fall to either side.

Extend your arms to the sides, palms facing up.

Gently tuck your shoulder blades beneath your torso.

Allow your legs to relax completely. Your feet will follow and fall to the sides.

Hold for 2-3 minutes.

Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon’s only dedicated yoga studio. Designed to challenge both the body and the mind, Peak Yoga classes build muscular strength, physical endurance and emotional resilience. Learn more at

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