Neck pain, tense shoulders, and tight hips? We spend way too much time sitting at our desks and looking down at our phones – and not nearly enough time moving our bodies. Press reset at the end of a long day by relieving tension and stress with these five easy yoga poses – your body will thank you.
Just like the name suggests, all you have to do is sit in a cross-legged position and breathe. This is also the perfect position for tension-releasing neck stretches and easy twists. To relieve tension in your neck, use your right hand to gently pull your head towards your right shoulder, creating length in the left side of your neck. Take a few deep breaths then release and repeat on the opposite side. For an easy twist, inhale as your sweep your arms up over your head, and as you exhale, bring your right hand to your left knee and your left hand to the mat behind you. Repeat on the opposite side.
Tip: This pose sounds easy, but it can be a bit uncomfortable to start. Make sure your pelvis is in a neutral position and remember to relax your shoulders and engage your core.
Modifications: If you are feeling pressure in the hips or knees, add some support by sitting on a block or folded blanket and placing supportive blocks or pillows under your knees.
From a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor, spread your knees and keep your big toes touching. Shift your hips towards your heels and bring your belly to rest between your thighs. Rest your forehead on the mat and either stretch your arms in front of you with palms on the floor or bring your arms back alongside your thighs with your palms facing upwards.
Tip: Bring awareness to your body by gently rolling your forehead on the mat. You can also come up on tented fingertips to deepen the stretch between the shoulder blades.
Modifications: Listen to your body here. Wider knees with big toes touching will give you a deeper hip stretch. Alternatively, keep your knees hips-width and add support with a pillow or bolster so that you can relax into the pose.
Legs up the wall pose
All you need is a wall – you can even do this pose on your bed! Sit next to the wall with your hips facing the wall then lower your shoulders and head down and swing/begin to walk your legs up the wall – don’t worry, no one looks graceful getting into this pose. Shift yourself closer to the wall so that you can relax your legs against the wall with your feet about hip distance apart.
Tip: Place a folder blanket under your head and hips to receive the full benefits of the pose.
Modifications: If you have lower back pain, rest your legs on a chair or the couch instead of a wall.
Reclining Bound Angle pose
Starting from a reclined position, bend your knees and keep the soles of your feet on the floor. Open your knees out towards the floor and bring the soles of your feet together – your legs will be in a diamond shape. Rest your hands at your sides or on your stomach – whatever is most comfortable for you.
Tip: Let gravity do the work – don’t push your knees toward the floor, just relax and breathe into it.
Modifications: If your inner thighs or groins are tight, give them some support by putting blocks, folded blankets, or pillows under your outer thighs/knees.
Lie flat on your back, heels together and toes pointed outwards. You can choose to position your hands a little away from your thighs and palms facing up or gently place them on your chest or stomach.
Tip: If you find your mind wandering, focus on your breath and feel your body sinking deeper into your mat with every exhale.
Modifications: For maximum relaxation, add a rolled blanket under your knees to help release your back. Also, cover yourself with a blanket if it’s chilly.
Nothemba is a writer and certified vinyasa yoga teacher based in Johannesburg. She completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training in December 2020.