Approach your yoga stretching in a different mind-set than you would other exercise. The traditional principle of yoga is “The pose is perfected through the relaxation of effort and the meditation upon the breath.” Real yoga looks to affect the 5 sheaths of the being from the surface to the innermost core- it has a different intention than regular exercise.
Classical yoga breathing has you breathe in as you open the front of the body and breathe out as you close the front of the body. Cat pose is a great pose to do regularly to help release tension in the diaphragm and back, free the breath, and stimulate the healthy flow of cerebral spinal fluid. A modified cat can be done from standing or sitting.
What is important in any yoga exercise or “asana” is that you give it your full, uncritical awareness. Practice doing what you are doing without evaluating it- right/wrong, good/bad, like/dislike, better/worse. Just notice and work with what is present- breath by breath-this is what is truly healing and insightful.
A simple way to connect mind/body/spirit and lift your energy is to simply stand with your hands at your heart in prayer pose. Feel the grounding down through your feet and the balance through the 2 sides of the body, feel the breath. Add movement to it by inhaling and opening your arms out as if embracing the space all around you, glancing upwards- exhaling and closing the arms so the hands touch in front and the back rounds, glancing inwards. 10 rounds of this will stimulate you and help undo tension in the upper back.
A simple way to relax and collect yourself if you are anxious or angry is to lie down with the legs bent, or with the calves resting on a chair, or let the legs run up the wall. Allow yourself to simply relax into the support and let the breath naturally rise and fall. Let go of any “ideas” or “thoughts” about how to breathe and simply let the body relax into the floor and the mind rest in the flow of the breath. This allows your mind and body to connect and your nervous system to naturally come to equilibrium. After you have settled (3-5 minutes) you can practice deep breathing with focus on the abdomen rising/falling or full breathing with the abdomen rising and then chest expanding.