Training builds strength, but training plus rest breeds resilience, says Equinox Health Advisory Board member Craig Liebenson, a Los Angeles-based chiropractor and director of L.A. Sports and Spine. It’s especially important to reset both body and mind when life is at its most hectic, whether you’re celebrating holidays, swamped with work, traveling, or prepping for a big race.
That’s why you need resting postures. In a paper published in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, Liebenson outlines four specific poses that ground you, literally, during times of chaos: Japanese sit, toe sit, drinking posture, and full squat.
Humans have been relaxing in these positions for millions of years, says Anna Hartman, CSCS, the paper’s co-author based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Your body responds to danger by tucking in the tailbone, reaching the head forward, and protecting the torso and all the invaluable organs inside. These floor-based poses, on the other hand, tell the nerves in the pelvis and brain that there’s no imminent threat, that you can fully relax.
Though they’re seated, they don’t cause tightening in the joints and muscles like sitting on a couch or at a desk will, Hartman adds. They actually test your body’s mobility, a benefit that will pay off in the gym.
Gina DiNapoli, a New York City-based group fitness instructor at Equinox Gramercy and creator of the Jabs class series at PROJECT by Equinox, notes there’s more than one pro to taking it easy, especially when life feels out of control. “If you allow yourself to reset, your body will actually crave intense exercise again when you're back to your regular day-to-day life,” DiNapoli says.
In the slideshow below, DiNapoli demos the four poses. Complete them in the order shown anytime you feel stressed or your body feels tight. (If you only have time to hold one or two of them, choose drinking posture or Japanese sit, which are the most calming.)
Each posture moves your body through its full range of motion and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The number-one priority: comfort. “You should literally feel like you’re doing nothing,” Hartman says. Use as many pillows, towels, bolsters, and yoga blocks as necessary to make each pose pain-free.
Kneel on the floor or on a yoga mat with knees and feet together, toes curled under feet, spine straight, and palms resting on thighs. Sit down so the glutes rest on the ankles. Hold for as long as is comfortable, as briefly as 3 to 4 seconds. Perform as often as 2 to 3 times throughout the day.
Modifications: Place a pillow or rolled up towel between your ankles and glutes or rest your knees on a bolster or yoga block.
Kneel on the floor or on a yoga mat with knees and feet together, toes curled under feet, spine straight, and palms resting on thighs. Sit down so the glutes rest on the ankles and slowly lean forward to bring forehead to the floor, placing hands on the floor for extra stability if needed. Hold for 20 seconds to 2 minutes once per day.
Modifications: Place a pillow or rolled up towel between your glutes and heels, rest your knees on a bolster, or lower your head onto a yoga block.
Kneel on the floor or on a yoga mat with knees and feet together, toes pointing behind you, spine straight, and palms resting on thighs. Sit down so the glutes rest on the ankles. Hold for 20 seconds to 2 minutes once per day.
Modifications: Place a pillow or rolled-up towel between your ankles and glutes or between your ankles and the floor.
Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width and lower into a deep squat, dropping glutes as low as possible without lifting the heels from the floor. (Turn toes outward slightly if needed.) Maintain a straight spine and rest your triceps on the insides of your thighs for balance. Hold for 4 to 5 slow exhalations. Return to standing by lowering hands to the ground, shifting weight forward, and lifting into a forward fold before raising your chest. Repeat 4 times. Perform once per day.
Modifications: Place a pillow or rolled up towel underneath your heels or lower your glutes onto a yoga block.