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4 Yoga Poses to Alleviate Stress, Headaches, Insomnia, and Overindulgence

Gabrielle Harris
December 28, 2012
December 28, 2012

This holiday season, take time each day to assess how you feel and then make a point of spending at least five minutes on the mat to calm and heal.

These poses can be used individually or as a mini-sequence to keep you in physical and psychological shape.

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Overtired and Stressed

Ignoring the body's need to slow down and rest and keeping up a hectic pace may lead to burn out and fatigue.

Propping up with caffeine or stimulates in an attempt to override signals to rest adds to the overall build up of stress and fatigue in the body. Take time out to assess your internal state so you can stay tuned in with what you need.

Supported Bridge Pose: Cross two bolsters over each other to form a cross shape. Sit at the short end of the top bolster and lie back over the length of it creating a gentle passive back bend. If you don't have two bolsters try Bridge Pose with a block under the sacrum.

You can make cactus arms or stretch the arms overhead in both variations. Stay in this pose for five minutes or more.


There are dozens of causes of headaches, the most common being stress and tension-related which is often associated with tightness in the muscles of the head and neck.

Seated Forward Bend with a Bolster: Start by sitting up with your legs extended in front of you. If your lower back rounds, sit on one or two blankets. Cross a bolster over your shins. On an inhale lengthen your spine. On an exhalation fold forward from the hips. If your head does not rest on the bolster make it higher with blankets.

You could stay for several minutes, the longer the better, however if you are a beginner just build up slowly from one minute. This pose is relaxing and also releases tension in the neck and shoulders.


Often a result of taking on too much during the busy season. Be careful not to overstress your system by doing active yoga practices without balancing them with more passive poses, especially as bedtime approaches. If you are very sedentary during the day you need to consider doing an active practice as some point in the day to expel pent up energy, follow this with something more calming.

Supported Shoulderstand: Fold three or four blankets into rectangles and place them in a stack on a yoga mat. Lie back on the mat with your shoulders a couple of inches from the edge of the blankets so your head and part of your neck extend past the edge and the back of your head touches the floor.

On an exhalation push into your extended arms and roll right over to plough so your feet are on the ground behind you. From here bring your hands to your mid back and on an exhalation raise your bent knees over your head and then straighten your legs. Longer holds tend to be more calming.


Yoga twists are the most important poses to aid the body in detoxification. Twists stimulate digestion and facilitate the elimination of impurities and waste products from the body. The abdominal organs are squeezed during twists, stimulating the kidneys and liver, and forcing out blood filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. When the twists are released fresh, clean blood enters these organs, bathing the cells in nutrients and oxygen.

Marichyasana III: Sit with your legs in front of you then bend your right knee and put the foot on the floor, with the heel as close to the right sitting bone as possible. Press the inner right foot actively into the floor. With an exhalation, rotate your torso to the right and wrap your left arm around the right thigh Press your right fingertips onto the floor just behind your pelvis to lift the torso slightly up and forward.

Continue lengthening the spine with each inhalation, and twist a little more with each exhalation. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then release with an exhalation, reverse the legs and twist to the left for an equal length of time.

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Gabrielle Harris author page.
Gabrielle Harris

Gabrielle Harris is the original suburban yogini of New Zealand. In between hot sweaty vinyasas and mellow yin practices, she likes to go back to the suburbs and write about what she learned while cooking the dinner, running a business, and growing vegetables. Yoga is the little box of sanity that she likes to unwrap at frequent intervals to keep the wheels of domestic bliss turning smoothly. Her latest venture is Yin New Zealand, which explores how we can live our life through yin yoga practices.

You can find her blog at Yin New Zealand.

Gabrielle is a qualified yoga teacher and has a double degree in Education and Psychology from Victoria University, Wellington.