Yoga isn't just an amazing workout—it's a mentally and emotionally stimulating practice as well as a scientifically proven stress reliever. Many poses were designed specifically to relieve stress and anxiety—hip openers, in particular, can help to alleviate chronic back and knee pain, improve circulation, strengthen posture, and promote emotional freedom as well as a more grounded way of being. That's according to New York City–based yoga instructor and co-founder of Sky Ting Yoga Chloe Kernaghan, who shared her favorite anxiety-reducing pose with MindBodyGreen. When it comes to relieving stress, anxiety, or emotional turmoil, she swears by Cow Face pose. "[The hips are the] areas of the body that can hold a lot of stuff," she explains to the publication. "So this will be great if you need to relieve yourself of any kind of emotional thing, but especially good for anxiety and for stress." Here's how to do it:
1. Sit down on your yoga mat. Cross your right leg over your left, stacking your knees on top of one another with your heels spread wider than your hips. If you can't sit flat on the ground with your knees stacked in this way, sit on a yoga block, pillow, or whatever you have on hand so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees.
2. Once in position, rest your hands on your feet or the tops of your knees. Let your hips stir around in your pelvis to the right. "We like to think of the pelvis like a bowl that can be scraped around the sides, so it's really getting into all of the stickiness and the stuckness of being in a chair all day, of running around all day, of taking on other people's burdens all day," explains Kernaghan. "You want to start to unwind it, unwrap it, and allow yourself to find a little more ease and clarity in the base." Circle your hips the other way, doing the same thing. "You might find that circling one way comes easy and circling the other way is an entirely different story; give yourself time and space with that."
3. Next, walk your hands forward into a fold, letting your chest meet your top thigh, your chin to drop heavy, and your head to fall to the floor. Hold this position for a few cycles of breath.
4. Walk it back up, and switch over to the left side, stacking left knee over right knee, and repeat this cycle.
5. Finally, come all the way back up, unwind your legs, and place your feet on the floor. Take a moment to "feel the clarity you found in those hips," concludes Kernaghan. "This is a great practice to do at the very end of your day. So after all of the stuff that you've gone through, allow yourself maybe five to 10 minutes to sit in those hips, to clear up, to make space, and then you should be golden to go to bed.
Head over to MindBodyGreen for a video demonstration of the pose.