Stress in a small amount mobilizes a person, allows to quickly focus attention on the task, but chronic stress is opposite in effect. It leads to tension on a mental level, decreased concentration, as well as very real physical illnesses. Yoga for stress is one of the effective tools confirmed by ancient Vedic texts and fresh scientific studies.

Yoga against stress

  1. Yoga lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Yoga classes depress the posterior region of the hypothalamus (the sympathetic area that is responsible for the "hit or run" response), reducing the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland and cortisol from the adrenal glands 1.
  2. Yoga increases the secretion of neurotransmitters (specifically gamma-aminobutyric acid [GABA]) that aim to reduce anxiety, so practicing yoga improves your mood 2.
  3. Yoga promotes serotonin production naturally. Yoga asanas can directly affect the excitation rate of serotonin neurons, increasing serotonin production and release 3.

Yoga exercises for stress relief

Among the yoga exercises, many directly or indirectly affect the nervous and hormonal systems, hence the growing interest in yoga as a tool for stress relief. Since the early 2000s, many scientific studies have been published on the effects of asanas on reducing anxiety and stress.


Shavasana, translated as ‘corpse pose’, is a fairly easy asana to perform to relieve fatigue after physical exertion or a day's work. Shavasana develops awareness in the body, the ability to relax qualitatively, and when the body is maximally relaxed, awareness of the mind increases. Asana allows you to reduce stress levels, relax your body and mind in a short period of time 456.

Lying flat on the ground with the face upwards, in the manner of a dead body, is Shavasana. It removes tiredness and enables the mind (and whole body) to relax 5.

Swami Swatmarama. Hatha Yoga Pradipika

The main purpose of the exercise is to take away tension in the body and calm the mind. Concentrate on your breathing – this will help you regulate your thought flow and recover faster in shavasana.

Important! If it is difficult to keep attention on the breath for a long time, start practicing Shavasana with 3-5 minutes, gradually increasing the time of concentration.



Shashankasana, ‘hare pose’, is one of the basic asanas for relaxation. Shashankasana has a calming and cooling effect. In a 2016 study, a set of yoga with static holds (including shashanskasana) showed greater efficacy in reducing stress levels compared to an equally long practice of shavasana 7.

Breathing, while performing asana, is natural and calm. To harmonize the nervous system, it is recommended to practice for 5 to 10 minutes continuously. Asana strengthens the back muscles, helps with sciatica (damaged sciatic nerve), has a positive effect on the digestive and reproductive systems.

Contraindications for performance: high blood pressure, intervertebral hernias, dizziness.



Gomukhasana, ‘cow face pose’, is one of the effective asanas to combat anxiety and stress. Gomukhasana promotes relaxation, and with prolonged practice (from 10 minutes) eliminates fatigue, tension, reduces anxiety 6. Asana opens the thoracic region, tones the muscles in the shoulder girdle, eliminates tension, relaxes, and relieves stress 8.

Among the positive effects of Gomukhasana are:

  • back pain relief;
  • reduction of pain due to sciatica, radiculitis, rheumatism;
  • improving the elasticity of leg muscles;
  • getting rid of leg cramps;
  • eliminating stiffness in the shoulder girdle and neck;
  • posture improvement 56.

Asana has contraindications that require additional consultation with a doctor – injuries and pain in the back, knees, shoulder girdle.



Vajrasana, ‘diamond pose’, is a calming asana; increases resistance to stress, helps to reduce anxiety, and helps to deal with depression 91011. Asana improves physical and mental health, digestion, and boosts your mood. Vajrasana is one of the meditative postures for people who cannot access meditative asanas with crossed legs.

Interesting fact! In order to improve digestion, it is recommended to practice Vajrasana for 5 minutes after a meal.

Vajrasana in general has no contraindications, but the practice should not be forced, start with 5 minutes, gradually increasing the duration. Take care of your knees!


Viparita karani mudra

Inverted asanas allow you to naturally slow down your breathing, stimulating the vagus nerve and activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes quality rest and relaxation 9. Viparita karani mudra – ‘bent candle pose’ – balances the nervous system, relieves stress and anxiety, and helps normalize blood pressure and improve concentration 6. To increase the calming effect by staying in asana for a longer period of time, the exercise can be performed against a wall using a bolster, ‘”ricks” or a folded blanket 10.

Important! The practice is performed on an empty stomach. It is positive to perform Viparita karani mudra regularly in the morning at the same time. When performing Viparita karani mudra, the breathing is even, deep and calm. Watch the position of your chin – do not press it against your chest.

Contraindications: high blood pressure, heart disease, high intraocular pressure, lung disease, hernias, spinal injuries.

Viparita Karani mudra

Surya Namaskar complex

Surya Namaskar, ‘sun salutation’, is a complete stand-alone yoga complex, effective for stress and anxiety 6. The complex relaxes and at the same time tones all joints and muscles, massages internal organs well, calms the nervous system, improves blood circulation, tones spinal nerves. Multiple studies from 2015 to 2023 confirm that regular practice of Surya Namaskar:

  • reduces stress, anxiety;
  • relieves somatic stress;
  • reduces drowsiness;
  • improves sleep quality;
  • boosts emotional intelligence 141516.

With regular practice, practitioners report joy, calmness, a surge of energy, improved sleep quality, rapid recovery and relaxation of the body 1718.

Contraindications to practicing the complex:

  • increased blood pressure,
  • heart diseases,
  • spinal and limb injuries,
  • hernia,
  • acute respiratory infections (ARIs),
  • acute inflammatory processes.

Full yogic breath for stress

Full yogic breath is one of the most versatile exercises for relieving stress. Breathing exercise has no contraindications, does not require specific skills, but it is effective on the parasympathetic nervous system. When performing full yogic breath, inhalation and exhalation are stretched to the maximum in duration, and the abdominal region, chest, and collarbones are involved in the breathing process. The exercise helps you gain control over your breathing, correct your breathing pattern, and increase your oxygen supply 6, also reduces stress and calms you down. 19. It is not necessary to perform the breathing exercise in a sitting meditative posture — any pose, place, time is suitable for practicing full yogic breath.

Important: When performing the breathing exercise, make sure that your breathing is comfortable, relaxed and natural. Avoid straining during the exercise. Breathing process — one continuous action, each phase flows smoothly into the other, without jerks or stops. Inhaling and exhaling are like the movement of a sea wave – smooth and soft.

Just a few cycles of full yogic breath will relieve anxiety and restore mental clarity.