Personal trainer Ulrick Bien-Aimé had been working with harried corporate executives for years when he noticed something interesting: Many of his clients complained of feeling both physical and emotional stress in their lower back. "Stiffness in the body was the number one issue I heard during workouts," says Bien-Aimé. "When we're anxious or stressed, many of us don't breathe or contract our abdominal muscles properly, and tension builds up." To help clients release trapped energy, he made these four moves mandatory (hold each pose for 15 seconds).
Start by lying on your back with your legs straight and your hands on your abdomen, about two inches below your navel. Inhale slowly through your nostrils and focus on pulling in your belly. Exhale gradually while pushing your abdomen toward your back.
Next, bring your knees to your chest while continuing to inhale and exhale. Remember not to hold your breath—whenever you extend or exert energy, you should exhale.
Place your legs straight on the floor, then lift your right leg and bend it at the knee so your leg is at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Bring your right knee across your body until it touches the floor, making sure your shoulders remain flat. With your left hand, push down your knee to increase the stretch. Mirror this exercise on your left side.
Finally, lie flat on your back, and pull in your feet until the soles are touching to create a diamond shape on the ground. Spread your knees apart as far as possible and apply pressure with your hands. Pay attention to the parts of your body that begin to feel release—those are likely the places where you tend to trap tension.