Featured article by Jessica Rounds, Certified Power Yoga Instructor. Jessica is a regular guest instructor at our free weekly seminars, leading 1-hour Power Yoga sessions. Learn more about Jessica, here.
We know that exercise is a key element to getting and staying fit, but sometimes it’s equally as important to find simple methods of relaxing. Dedicating a few minutes each day to a few yoga poses may help you decrease stress, and improve sleep as well as your overall sense of well being.
The word “yoga” derives from the Sanskrit root meaning “to join” or “to yoke” and is an ancient art designed to link mind, body and spirit. There are many different types of yoga practices with a range of focuses, from breath- to strength-building postures, or a combination thereof.
It’s yoga ‘practice’—you don’t have to be ‘perfect’. I always remember that. Some days I may feel strong, energetic and flexible; other days, it’s all I can do to step onto my mat, let alone move. It’s important to listen to your body: if you are sore or exhausted, then simply be mindful of your breath and do what you can, returning to a comfortable seated position or Child’s Pose whenever necessary.
Even if you don’t have time to do anything else, you can easily improve the way you breathe. With our fast-paced lives, we don’t realize how beneficial good breathing can be. By inhaling deeply, holding it for a moment, and exhaling for as long as possible, you increase oxygen intake and improve circulation. More immediately, you’ll feel calmer. Controlling your inhales and exhales can help you regain control over an otherwise hectic day. (*Sometimes I use the iPhone app, “Pranayama Universal Breathing” by Saagara, if I want to focus more intensively on deeper breathing for a few minutes a day.)
Below are three basic poses (or Asanas) that you can do anywhere on a daily basis to increase circulation and flexibility. For each pose, I’ve included 2 images: a full expression of the pose, and a less intense modification.
1. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend): From a standing position, hinge from the hips and fold forward, bending your knees as necessary to lessen the intensity of the stretch. Reach your hands towards the floor (they may only reach as far as your knees), and then shift the weight forward slightly onto your toes. Relax your head down. Breathe here.
2. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog): This is a great chest opener. Lie face-down, and as you straighten your arms directly under your shoulders, reach your chest forward and create a sensation of lifting and spreading across your collarbones. Then, draw your shoulder blades down away from your ears and in against your back ribs.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog): From Upward-Facing Dog, exhale and engage from your belly to lift your hips up and back to Downward-Facing Dog. Make sure your hands are pressing firmly all the way to the fingertips against the floor as you lengthen through your spine. Relax your head.
For more on Jessica, visit www.jessicarounds.com. To take weekly yoga classes in the park or to stay updated on helpful yoga tips, visit: www.facebook.com/YogainTheParkwithSamandJess.