The Daily Grind Deserves a Daily Unwind
One of the great things about yoga is that it can benefit you in so many situations. You don’t have to be in the studio to practice or to reap the benefits. In fact, you can integrate some of yoga’s techniques into your daily life as a way to fend off stress, stay focused, and prevent aches and pains.
Whether in the office, school, or at home, there are times when a task at hand or long to-do list can leave you feeling anxious or stressed. While stressed, you’re not going to be thinking as clearly as you usually would be. On top of that, if stress is chronic, it can take a toll on your health and well-being.
That’s why it’s always helpful to have calming strategies at your disposal. When you allow yourself a moment for self-care before diving into otherwise stressful tasks, you’re making space to be more mindful, think more clearly, and care for your body.
Regardless of where you are, an easy way to help calm yourself down is by doing a breathing exercise (or pranayama). If you’re in a situation where you can close your eyes, do so. Otherwise, keep them open (i.e. even if traffic is a major stressor, it’s usually best to keep your eyes open on the highway). Start by breathing in and feeling it expand in your low belly. Let the breath rise into the ribs, and then into your chest. Exhale in a slow, controlled breath in the opposite order– first exhaling through the chest, then ribs, and then low belly. This is known as Dirga Swasam, the Three-Part Breath, and it is a very effective way to deepen your breathing, center yourself, lower stress, and reduce anxiety.
Additionally, if you have more space and the opportunity to get on the floor, spending a couple of minutes in Child’s Pose (balasana) can also be beneficial. Child’s Pose is a very calming position, and it helps stretch the hips and lower back– places where many people store their stress. To perform Child’s Pose, start in a kneeling position with your feet close together and your knees apart (note: if you have particularly tight hips, it may be more comfortable to keep your knees closer together, which is fine). From there, lower your torso toward the floor, letting your brow (aka your third eye chakra) rest on the mat, and work toward sitting with your buttocks touching your heels. Your arms can be extended in front of you or resting beside you. To enjoy the full effects of this posture, try to remain in it for three to five minutes.
Staying Loose and Limber
As amazing as the human body is, it’s sometimes baffling to think about all the things that can lead to sore muscles and stiff joints. Too much physical activity, not enough physical activity, stress, twisting the wrong way, or falling asleep in an odd position can all cause physical discomfort.
Knowing how to stretch out sore areas or loosen up tight muscles is another one of the many benefits that come out of a yoga practice. As mentioned, child’s pose can be a great way to gently stretch the hips and lower back, and that’s just one pose among many. Poses such as Butterfly, Supported Bridge, and Saddle are also great for stretching out and opening the parts of the body where we often store stress.
While the aforementioned poses are great for getting a deep stretch in the connective tissues, performing more muscle-oriented poses will also help combat stiffness. The only way to strengthen your muscles and keep them stimulated is to use them. Doing poses such as Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Tree (Vrksasana), or going through a Sun Salutation (Vinyasa) will help to strengthen your muscles, but most importantly these poses will move your muscles in a way that activates them while still being low impact. Even if you can only get in half an hour worth of these exercises, they’ll help you improve your strength and muscular stability, elevate your heartrate, and get you moving. Some poses may be difficult at first, but remember: an object in motion will stay in motion. So, if you want to improve your mobility for the long run, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Ready to Learn Some Poses?
The easiest way to learn poses so that you can integrate them into your daily life safely is to learn them from a practiced teacher. Be sure to check out our schedule of classes and stop by! Our awesome instructors will give you easy-to-follow guidance for each pose, which in turn will fill your toolkit for daily self-care techniques.
If you already practice yoga and have some poses or techniques that you enjoy practicing regularly, be sure to leave a comment and share this article with your friends!