Saving lives is never easy. Yes, working as a travel nurse will always be rewarding, but the physical labor can put a strain on your body. If you’re dealing with tension and discomfort, there’s a chance it may be affecting your career—but how does one combat this nurse stress?
For many people, the answer is yoga. A daily restorative yoga practice can help healthcare professionals relax both their bodies and minds. If you’re looking for the perfect post-shift release, here are 7 yoga poses to help nurses manage stress!
#1 Toe Squat
If there’s one thing nursing guarantees, it’s being on your feet all day. This constant pressure can lead to swollen ankles, varicose veins, and even plantar fasciitis. Fortunately, there are plenty of yoga poses that target the feet—like a toe squat!
The principles of a toe squat are simple: start on your hands and knees with all ten toes tucked under your feet. From there, slowly lean your hips back until you’ve reached a gentle seat on the backs of your heels. When your toes are properly tucked, this pressure will create a gentle stretch in the arch of the foot.
If your feet are tight, this process may take some time. Start with light pressure by keeping your hands on the ground or on the tops of your thighs. From there, you can slowly work your way up to a fully seated position.
Why Nurses Love This Pose – Routine practice of this position will help strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the feet, creating the strong foundation every nurse needs. Plus, this stretch feels amazing after a long day of standing!
Travel nursing jobs can be strenuous on both the lower back and the mind. If you want a pose that improves posture and incorporates meditation—look no further than tadasana.
Tadasana, also known as mountain pose, is a simple yet powerful therapeutic yoga technique. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and turn your palms upward to create space. Once you’ve found your footing, take a deep, cleansing breath into your chest. Balance is crucial to this pose, so make sure to evenly distribute your weight through all four corners of the feet.1
Why Nurses Love This Pose – This posture requires a moment of complete stillness, giving busy nurses an opportunity to relax. Mountain pose is also wonderful for the spine and helps improve posture. Working as a nurse can be hard on the lower back, but tadasana can help with pain relief..
#3 Downward Facing Dog
Travel nurses never stop moving—which can be amazing for your step count but rough on your calves. Although you may not realize it, many nurses suffer from chronically tight calf muscles. Signs that your lower legs need some attention may include:
- Dull, aching pain
- Difficulty walking
- Poor balance
- Tender feet (specifically the arch, heel, and achilles tendon)
For a deep stretch in this area, you’ll want to get acquainted with downward dog. To get into this pose, start in a plank position on the ground. From there, you can begin to walk your feet forward and draw the hips upward. Once you’ve created this triangular shape, you’ll begin to feel a stretch in the calves.2
Remember that it’s okay if your heels don’t reach the floor at first. Getting the hang of downward dog can take practice. As time goes on, your heels will get closer to the floor (thus deepening the stretch).
Why Nurses Love This Pose – Yoga for nurses is all about targeting tension. Running from patient to patient can cause tight calves that affect your ability to walk. Downward dog is one of the best stretches you can do to treat this area.
#4 Seated Twist
Work-related stress can lead to tightness in the neck and shoulders. If you tend to hold tension in these areas, yoga will help elongate the muscles and relieve you from the dreaded “nurse neck.”
The best way to pull your shoulders back into place (and away from your ear lobes)? A gentle seated twist. Here’s how to do it:
- Step #1 – Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position.
- Step #2 – Straighten your spine and hold your head high.
- Step #3 – Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the floor behind you.
- Step #4 – Inhale deeply and sit up tall.
- Step #5 – While exhaling, twist your upper body to the right. Keep your head twisted to the left for an optimal neck stretch.3
This yoga pose should create a soothing stretch for the spine, shoulders, and neck. With each inhale, open your chest as much as possible. On each exhale, try and deepen the stretch even further.
Why Nurses Love This Pose – A seated twist will relieve tension in the neck and shoulders, making it ideal for a demanding career like nursing. This position also encourages mindful deep breathing, which can help travel nurses relax after a tough day.
#5 Child’s Pose
Everyone should tap into their inner child once in a while—and what better way than a child’s pose?
Travel nurses tend to hold tension in the lower back from leaning over throughout the day. Constant walking can also lead to stiffness in the hips, which may cause physical pain when trying to stretch.
Child’s pose is both a deep and easy stretch (plus, it’s pretty relaxing). Start in a kneeling position on the floor, with your knees spread as wide as possible. From there, simply lean forward until your forehead touches the ground. Spread both hands out in front of you for maximum stretch in the lower back.4
Why Nurses Love This Pose – Child’s pose is an easy hip-opener that won’t be painful, even for nurses with stiff joints. This position also stretches the lower back, which is crucial for nurses who hold stress in that area. Seated yoga poses are perfect for nurses with tired feet (because, let’s be real—who wants to stand after a long shift?).
#6 Ear-to-Shoulder Neck Roll
Sometimes tension creeps up on you mid-shift. Unfortunately, it’s often impossible to strike a quick downward dog on the hospital floor (or, at least, not recommended). The good news is that there is yoga for nurses at work.
Neck rolls can be done seated or standing, and they only take a few moments to complete. Here’s the 411 on this portable position:
- Step #1 – Gently place the palm of your right hand on your left temple (with your arm hovering above your head).
- Step #2 – Tilt your head to the right, bringing your ear as close to your shoulder as possible.
- Step #3 – Extend your left arm straight down, with your palm facing the floor.
- Step #4 – Slowly move your left arm in a semicircle between the front and back of your body. As you do this, you should feel a stretch in the left side of your neck.
- Step #5 – Repeat on the other side.5
After completing this stretch on both sides, you should feel a release of upper body tension. Stiff neck muscles will quickly elongate and allow for a wider range of motion.
Why Nurses Love This Pose – This yoga pose is made for stress relief on the go. When you feel tension building up during your shift, a quick neck roll can relieve pain and help you take on the rest of the day.
#7 Supta Vajrasana
For nurses who want yoga beyond the basics, Supta Vajrasana has you covered.
Also known as the supine thunderbolt pose, Supta Vajrasana offers an intense release in the back, knees, and hips. Getting into this position takes some patience, but once you’re there, the relaxation will soon follow. Here’s the technique, step-by-step:
- Step #1 – Get into a comfortable, kneeling position on your yoga mat (lower legs tucked underneath your bottom).
- Step #2 – Using your hands, scoot the calf muscles out from under your thighs, creating a deeper stretch in the knees.
- Step #3 – Once you’ve created this W shape with the legs, carefully lean back until your spine is flush with the yoga mat.
- Step #4 – Allow your hips and knees to adjust to the position, close your eyes, and relax.
- Step #5 – Slowly rise back to a seat, using your elbows for support. Lean forward onto your hands and knees to safely bring your legs back to a neutral position.
This position may take some practice, but the more you do it, the better your lower body will feel. Using a pillow or exercise ball to elevate the back can help beginners achieve this posture without putting unnecessary strain on the knees and spine.
Why Nurses Love This Pose – Tired, aching legs will benefit from this yoga pose. A deep stretch in the knees and hips relieves tension, and rerouting the blood flow can help prevent swollen feet and ankles.6
Nursing and Mindfulness: A Match Made in Heaven
Yoga is wonderful for physical and mental stress relief. The next time you’re experiencing pain or discomfort after a long shift, give these nurse-friendly poses a try.
Mindfulness doesn’t stop at the yoga mat, either. Travel nursing is a high-stakes job. If you plan to succeed in this field, it’s important to find relaxation techniques that work for you. Using stress management apps for nurses is another popular way that healthcare workers take care of their minds.
Remember that healthy patients start with healthy nurses. Prioritize yourself and watch your career reap the benefits!
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- Mother Nurse Love. 7 Energizing Yoga Poses for Nurses (with Photos). https://www.mothernurselove.com/7-energizing-yoga-poses-for-nurses-with-photos/
- Destination Yoga. How to Do: Downward Dog. https://destinationyoga.co.uk/latest-news/poses/downward-dog/
- Yoga Journal. A Healing Yoga Sequence to Ease Neck + Shoulder Pain. https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/healing-yoga-sequence-ease-neck-shoulder-pain/
- Aureus Medical. Four Yoga Poses to Help a Travel Nurse Achieve a Healthy Back. https://www.aureusmedical.com/blog/four-yoga-poses-to-help-a-travel-nurse-achieve-a-healthy-back/
- Sport Me. 10 Yoga Poses to Help Relieve Shoulder and Neck Pain. https://www.sportme.com/blog/10-yoga-poses-to-help-relieve-shoulder-and-neck
- India Times. Supta Vajrasana: The Supine Thunderbolt Pose. https://www.indiatimes.com/health/healthyliving/supta-vajrasana-the-supine-thunderbolt-pose-242516.html