If you’re chronically anxious or simply feeling stressed out, consider giving yoga a try.
This 5,000-year-old system of exercise, breathing and meditation is wonderfully effective at clearing the mind and easing muscular tension. It also fosters a sense of self-confidence – a feeling that you can handle whatever comes your way.
Basic Yoga Program
A basic program takes about 20 minutes each day. Some people prefer doing yoga in the morning. Others prefer early evening. Either way is okay. Just make sure you do it at the same time of day, every day. The only “equipment” you’ll need is a quiet room; loose, comfortable clothing; and a blanket, large towel or another pad on which to sit comfortably.
To help focus your attention inward, start with two minutes of deep breathing exercises. Sit cross-legged on a firm cushion on the floor, or find another seated position in which your back is straight but relaxed. Begin inhaling slowly and deeply through the nose. Relax your belly so that it expands with each incoming breath, and let your chest and rib cage expand. At the very top of each inhalation, your shoulders will lift slightly. At this point, exhale by relaxing your shoulders and then your ribs. Then tighten your belly to squeeze the air out. Relax and repeat.
When we breathe ordinarily, each inhalation lasts longer than each exhalation. With yoga breathing, inhalation and exhalation should take the same amount of time. Breathe in for a count of five and out for a count of five until you’ve established a rhythm.
Arm and Shoulder Stretches
These two standing stretches loosen the joints and ease muscular tension.
Arm roll – Hold your arms out to the side, elbows straight, hands held up as if stopping traffic. Rotate your arms forward in three large circles, and then backward in three large circles. Then do three small circles in each direction.
Side stretch – Keep your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, with arms held out to the side. Inhale deeply. Then exhale as you bend to the right. Slide your right hand down your right thigh toward the knee, and bring your left arm overhead. Breathe in, and return to an upright position. Do the same stretch on your left side. Repeat three times on each side.
These two poses are especially beneficial if you work at a desk.
Baby pose – Sit on your feet. Slowly bend forward until your head approaches the floor. Let your arms rest at your sides with elbows bent. Hold for at least one minute.
Corpse pose – Lie on your back with feet slightly apart and arms at sides, palms up. Close your eyes. Relax your entire body, paying particular attention to the face and stomach. Rest for at least one minute.
Meditation teaches us to observe rather than to worry about or act upon the thoughts that constantly flit through our minds, which allows us to withdraw from the never-ending bombardment of desires, fears, regrets, etc. and find peace by turning our attention solely to the present moment. Start by lying face up on your pad, with arms at sides, palms up. Remain as still as possible.
For the next two minutes or so, focus on each part of your body in turn. Envision each part separately and relax it – starting from your forehead and moving slowly, gradually down to your feet. Clear your mind and release any lingering thoughts. Bask in the moment for about 10 minutes.