While there’s no doubt college is stressful in itself, there are two times throughout each semester when that stress is amplified: midterms and finals. Finals season is unfortunately upon us. Finals and stress go hand in hand, and it’s important you find healthy ways to combat this stress in order to ace your exams and keep your health intact. You’ve probably heard that exercising is a great way to reduce stress at any time, but it’s hard to take the time to do so when studying has taking over your life.
That’s why yoga is the perfect compromise! According to registered yoga teacher Pamela Miller Shults, there are specific yoga moves that relax the muscles that tighten when a person is stressed, which are called the iliopsoas muscles. These belong to the inner hip muscles, but more specifically, are located on the middle part of the vertebrae and connect to the top of the thighbone. When a person is stressed, these muscles tighten and make the back feel sore. Thanks to Shults and Kate Hanson, a certified yoga teacher at the University of Kansas, we rounded up seven quick yoga poses that you can do to relax these muscles and de-stress to stay calm before your midterms.
1. Standing Forward Bend
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Exhale and hang forward with your hands on the ground beside your feet (or you can hold on to your elbows). Lift your knees and thigh muscles upward. Inhale for eight seconds; exhale for 16 seconds. Breathe every exhalation longer than the previous one. If your hamstrings are barking at you or if your back muscles hurt, soften your knees so that you aren’t in pain.
2. Seated Twist
Sit on the floor with your legs out straight. Cross your right leg over your left leg, keeping your left leg straight. Make sure your right foot is on the floor flat and your right knee is bent. Hug your right leg with your left arm and put your right arm behind you to support your back. Keep your right hand flat on the floor. Sit up tall so your spine does not compress. Look over your right shoulder for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
3. Supine Bound Angle
Lie on the ground, either flat on your back or on a cushion, with your knees bent and your feet touching the floor. Slowly open your knees out wide, making the soles of your feet touch. Have your palms at the sides of your hips, facing upwards. Soften your shoulders into the ground or cushion and relax the rest of your body.
4. Legs Up The Wall
Lay with your bottom at the wall and put both of your legs up the wall so your back is flat on the floor. You can place a firm blanket under your bottom if you’d prefer. Hold this for anywhere from three to 10 minutes, breathing with awareness.
5. Supine Spinal Twist
Lying on your back, inhale your knees into your chest. Rock your hips slightly to the left and right, massaging your lower back. Then, lay your arms out flat with your palms facing up. Allow both knees to drop to the right, coming into a spinal twist. Draw your gaze to the left and allow your eyes to close with your body melting around the shape. Inhale into tight areas of your lower back. As you exhale, ease your shoulders closer to the floor, eventually allowing them to touch the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
6. Child’s Pose
Coming into a kneeling position, release your toes on the floor and separate your knees about hip width apart. While exhaling, slowly lower your buttocks toward your heels, while feeling your tailbone lengthen away from the back of your pelvis. As your torso folds over your thighs, stretch your neck and then rest your forehead on the floor. Lay your arms by your thighs with your palms facing up. Breathe slowly, and while inhaling, lengthen your torso over your thighs and rise up as your tailbone presses down into your pelvis and toward your heels. Hold for as long as desired.
7. Upward Salute
Sit in a chair or on the ground, or stand facing the wall. Reach your arms up the wall as far as possible and walk your fingers higher up the wall, stretching your lower back. Broaden your shoulders by separating and lifting your shoulder blades without tensing them. Once you cannot walk your fingers any higher, rest for a moment in the pose to allow your body to adjust, and then walk them higher. Rest and repeat several times.
The beauty of these poses is that they’re quick and simple solutions to reducing your stress, allowing you to get back to studying a lot more relaxed than before. Happy studying, collegiettes!