Fight Off Stress with These 8 Relaxing Exercises

Modern life these days can feel overwhelming, filled with change and uncertainty. And more recently those changes seem to be occurring at a faster pace than ever before. The result? Stress. It’s the way your body responds to a demanding situation. There is space between that for both good and bad stress, yet in either case, your body can quickly and easily be affected. We tend to separate the mind and the body, and they’re so linked. Mental stress can cause your muscles to tighten as your body tries to protect itself against injury and pain. But relaxing your muscles — say, with a sequence of gentle stretches — can send calming signals to your brain that help alleviate mental stress. They may not be a one-stop solution, but they can make you feel better on the spot. BFW wants to show you eight exercises that can help to relax that body tension. These moves are designed in a sequence to slowly warm up your body, improve mobility, boost core stability, and alleviate tightness in key areas, including your arms, shoulders, hips, and back. The routine is gentle enough to your body that you can do them every day.  To maximize the mental and physical benefits of this sequence, focus on controlling your breathing throughout every move. Controlling your breath can help you keep your heart from racing, which can in turn help ward off the physical manifestation of stress. Here is a step by step guide to stretch out the stress from your body:


Child’s Pose

  • Get into a kneeling position with your knees hip-distance apart and feet together behind you.
  • Take a deep inhale, and on the exhale lay your torso over your thighs, pressing your butt onto your heels and reaching your arms forward.
  • Think about lengthening your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
  • Rest your forehead on the mat. You should feel a stretch on your backside and possibly in your hips. You may also feel a stretch in your arms if they are straight in front. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Helpful tip: If you feel any back pain in this position, bring your knees closer together.


  • Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over knees.
  • Slowly inhale, and on the exhale round your spine and drop your head toward the floor (this is the Cat posture).
  • Inhale and lift your head, chest, and tailbone toward the ceiling as you arch your back for Cow.
  • That’s 1 rep. Continue performing reps for 30 to 60 seconds. You should feel a stretch in your spine and possibly your glutes and shoulders as well.

Helpful Tip: To round your spine even more in Cat position, press into the floor with your hands and knees.

Puppy Pose

  • Get into a tabletop position with your wrists under shoulders, knees under hips.
  • Walk your arms forward and bring your chin to the floor while keeping your butt lifted above your knees. Your arms should be stretched out in front and your armpits lifted off the floor. You should feel a stretch in your armpits, across the front of your chest, and in your core.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Helpful Tip: If it hurts to rest your chin on the floor, rest your forehead instead.

Lunging Hip-Flexor Stretch

  • Kneel on one knee. Place the opposite foot flat in front of you, front thigh parallel to the floor, ankle underneath your knee.
  • Hold this position or, for a deeper stretch, lean forward, stretching your hip toward the floor (just make sure your knee doesn’t extend over your ankle).
  • Squeeze your butt; this will allow you to stretch your hip flexor even more.
  • For an even deeper stretch, reach up with the arm on the same side as the knee on the floor.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Helpful Tip: This is a more intense stretch, so you may want to take breaks during the 30 to 60 seconds, instead of holding the stretch all the way through. Also, if your grounded knee hurts, put a towel or doubled-over yoga mat under it for extra cushion.

Downward Facing Dog

  • Start on your hands and knees with your hands stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Spread your hands wide and press your index finger and thumb into your mat.
  • Lift your tailbone and press your butt up and back, drawing your hips toward the ceiling. Straighten your legs as best as you can and press your heels gently toward the floor.
  • Your head should be relaxed between your arms, facing your knees; your shoulders should be pulled back and down, and your back should be flat. You may feel a stretch in your hamstrings, calves, back, and/or shoulders.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Helpful Tip: To help relieve low back tension, bend your knees. Keeping straight knees will work hamstring and glute mobility.

Forward Fold

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Straighten your legs out as much as you can without locking your knees and let your torso hang down.
  • Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders and extend the crown of your head toward the floor to create a long spine.
  • Depending on your flexibility, your hands will touch the floor or dangle above the floor level. You can hold onto each elbow with the opposite arm or let your arms hang separately.
  • You should feel a stretch in your back and hamstrings.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Helpful Tip: If you feel tension in your low back, bend your knees. For a deeper release of tension in the back and hamstrings, place a block underneath your hands and press into it.

Seated Spinal Twist

  • Sit up straight on your butt with your legs crossed. Make sure you’re not rounding your pelvis.
  • Place your left arm on your right knee and your right arm behind you, fingers on the ground facing away from your body.
  • Inhale and elongate your spine, then exhale and rotate to the right. Your goal is to look over your right shoulder while also keeping both shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Helpful Tip: Take your time to ease into this stretch; don’t yank your spine.

Pigeon Pose

  • From a kneeling position, get into the Downward Facing Dog and extend your right leg high behind you. Then bring your right leg underneath your body and place it in front of you with your shin parallel to the top of your mat. (The goal isn’t to create an L-shape with your right leg; your foot can be tucked as close to your hips as needed.)
  • Extend your left leg long behind you and rest the top of your foot on the mat.
  • Keep your right foot flexed and try to keep your pelvis neutral and your left hip as close to the mat as you can. If your hip lifts off the floor, bring your right foot a little closer to your body.
  • You should feel a stretch in your right hip. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Helpful Tip: To make sure your pelvis stays neutral, place a block or pillow underneath your externally rotated hip. You can also place a pillow or block underneath the knee on your straight leg to alleviate any pain. For a deeper stretch, lean your torso forward and rest your forehead on the ground, arms framing your face or resting at your sides.