Eight Ways to Relax in Five Minutes or Less

Some say Savasana (Corpse pose) is the hardest pose in yoga. That’s because our minds and bodies are used to being in action—or, if not action, then distraction. It’s no coincidence that Savasana comes at the end of a yoga class, after you’ve worked the body and calmed the mind. 

But, as with all practices, we can build our relaxation muscle. Just a few moments a day spent consciously surrendering into a state of letting go will shift the nervous system toward the healing frequency of the relaxation response.

Here are eight easy exercises from our faculty and presenters to help you kick back on a whole new level.

From Jennifer Reis, Kripalu Schools of Yoga and Integrative Yoga Therapy faculty: Legs Up the Wall

  1. Choose a time and place in which you will not be interrupted. Make sure you feel comfortable, supported, and warm. Cover up with a blanket and use an eye pillow, if desired.
  2. Lying on your back, place a cushion underneath your hips, about six to 12 inches from the wall. Let your legs rest against the wall, allowing them to be completely relaxed.
  3. Remain still for five to 10 minutes, breathing deeply.

From Lauren Gernady, Academic Coordinator for the Kripalu School of Ayurveda: Take a Ginger Bath

  1. Draw a warm bath.
  2. Add 1/3 cup of powdered gingerand 1/3 cup of baking soda. 
  3. Mix well.
  4. Dim the lights and unwind with soothing music.
  5. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

From Priti Robyn Ross, Kripalu Yoga teacher and teacher trainer: Body Scan 

  1. Send your breath awareness throughout your body—inhale into your heart, then exhale down your arms and out your fingertips. 
  2. Inhale into your belly, then exhale down your legs and out through your toes.
  3. Let your whole body sink into the floor with each exhalation as you let go with a soft sigh.

From Linda Graham, psychotherapist and mindful self-compassion teacher: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  1. Lying on your back, curl the toes of your right foot, holding that muscle tension for the count of seven. Then let that tensing go and relax as you count to 15. Breathe in on the tensing and exhale on the relaxing. 
  2. Curl the entire arch of your right foot as though pointing your foot, and hold that tension for the count of seven. Let that tensing go as you relax and count to 15.
  3. Flex your foot, toes back toward your leg, holding that muscle tension for the count of seven. Let that tensing go as you relax and count to 15.
  4. Continue tensing and relaxing various points of your body as you count to seven and then 15. Move slowly through your entire body, breathing in as you tense, breathing out as you let go and relax.  

From Steven Leonard, Lead Faculty in the Kripalu School of Yoga: Belly Breath

  1. Become aware of your breath. Notice how your breath feels moving in and out. Notice how your body moves with the breath. 
  2. Allowing the breath to be smooth and relaxed, let your inhalations deepen and your exhalations lengthen. Allow the air to fill up the lungs so that the belly relaxes and extends forward gently with the inhale. 
  3. As you exhale, simply allow the breath to flow out of your nostrils. Continue to find the balance of allowing the breath to relax and expand the belly, without forcing it in or out.

From Cara Bradley, body-mind trainer: Take 5

  1. Open your hand with fingers spread wide.
  2. Bring your forefinger and thumb together. 
  3. Inhale deeply and exhale for just as long.
  4. Change to middle finger and thumb. Take another deep breath.
  5. Then ring finger and thumb.
  6. Change to pinky finger and thumb.
  7. Finally, spread your fingers again and take a deep inhale and exhale.

From Mimi Solaire, Reiki practitioner and yoga therapist: Stretch Your Body

  1. To stretch safely and efficiently, go slowly and be gentle. Imagine that the tight areas of your body are similar to an onion, with layers upon layers of tension.
  2. Try relaxing the outermost layer first, by gently stretching that area just enough that you feel a mild sensation or resistance. 
  3. Direct your breath into that area until you feel a release as the muscle relaxes.
  4. Go deeper into the stretch, as if peeling away another layer of tension. 
  5. Be sure to hold the stretch long enough to experience the release—about three to five minutes.

From Janna Delgado, Kripalu Yoga, Ayurveda, and Integrative Yoga Therapy faculty: Sun Breaths

  1. Begin in Mountain pose or in a comfortable seated position with the back upright and spine long. 
  2. Relax your belly, then take five to 10 complete breaths, using your full lung capacity. Try to let each inhale and each exhale last around six counts.
  3. Inhale, and slowly raise your arms out to the sides and overhead, bringing your palms together. Then exhale and slowly draw your palms down your midline until your thumbs rest at the center of your chest.
  4. Integrate your movement and breath so that one full inhalation brings your arms all the way up and one complete exhalation takes your arms all the way down. With each breath, focus on filling and emptying your lungs completely.
  5. Repeat this for several rounds. Then relax your body, soften your breath, and place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Feel for your heartbeat and connect with the warmth of your own internal flame.

Feeling relaxed yet?