Whether you’re looking for a way to relax, calm a chaotic mind, or exercise, yoga could be the fix. Yoga offers a variety of techniques and a very forgiving atmosphere, making it less intimidating when starting out. Not sure if yoga is for you? Our favorite benefits and tips will infuse the practice into your already busy day. You might just be convinced to give it a try!
Meditation is simply the act of thinking deeply about your mind and breathing. The best part of going to yoga class is meditating at the start and end of each session. This short time of focused thought helps find a rhythm to the breath, which can calm the nervous system. During this time, set an intention for the day. This could be anything—consistency in healthy eating, focusing at work, turning negative thoughts into positive outlooks, you get the idea. Then throughout the day, check in with yourself. Are you staying on track? If not, try a mini meditation at your desk—close your eyes, and refocus on your breathing and intention. If silence is a hard thing to come by at work, put in some headphones and listen to ocean waves or light instrumental music.
Breathing is arguably the most essential part of yoga. Start by aligning your inhales and exhales with your movements. Ideally, your exhale should match the movements that exert the most energy. For example, moving from plank to cobra, you want your exhale to happen as you slowly lower your body and tighten your core. Going for more of a Yin practice? Try a three step breath. Start your inhale by expanding your belly, then your chest, and then feeling the breath in your throat. On the exhale, release the air from the throat first, then chest, and lastly the belly. Changing your breathing directly affects your physiology. Your heart beat will follow your breathing pattern, meaning you are in control. Remember this throughout your day. When your boss throws yet another impossible task your way, instead of letting your heart race, regain control by focusing your breath.
While discussing yoga, you can’t not talk about stretching. Don’t freak out! No one expects you to go into your first yoga session being a limber, boneless contortionist. The yoga community is welcoming and a friendly atmosphere for beginners and often stresses the importance of honoring your body’s limitations. That means, push yourself, but don’t overdo it. With each session, you’ll improve! So give yourself some grace and patience.
Tips to help you improve your stretching and flexibility
- Use blocks - Blocks will help with balance during stretches while helping to prop you up when you aren’t ready to sink into the deepest of poses.
- Use straps - Straps are a great way to help push your body just a bit further. Instead of your legs or arms needing to maintain a stretch by themself, you can pull the strap to increase the stretch.
- Be consistent - This is critical. If you want to see results, with anything, you need to be consistent. Don’t have time to do a full yoga session every day? No problem! Take 10 minutes over lunch at your desk to stretch it out. Psst...this will also help as your posture slumps throughout the day!
Yoga offers an incredible variety of poses, making it great for all levels! If you aren’t quite ready to head to a studio, build your own. Create a relaxing space in your home by dimming the lights, lighting some candles (I like to use Loma’s Mango candle!), playing some soft waves in the background, and setting out a mat or blanket. Check out the below list for a new pose to add to your next flow:
Pose: Child’s Pose
- Sit back on your heels.
- Rest your forehead on the ground or a block if you feel a lot of tension in your neck.
Pose: Half Moon Pose
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
- Use a block about 6 to 8 inches in front of you and offset from your grounded foot; this will provide better balance.
- If you are going for the intermediate version, try wrapping your free hand around your torso and grabbing the outside of your raised foot.
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
- Use a block under the glute of your forward leg if you have trouble sinking to the ground.
- Check that your back leg is aligned with your hips.
- Lower your torso to the ground for a deeper stretch.
Pose: Shoulder Stand
- Start in a half bridge position with your shoulders still on the floor and your heels raised.
- Before you raise your legs, brace your low back with your palms and work your shoulders closer together.
- Once you’ve raised your legs, if you are looking to challenge yourself, lower your legs toward the ground above your head - maintain bracing your back as you lower.
Pose: Standing Split
- Use blocks if you have trouble reaching the floor.
- Use a chair or barre to hold your lifted leg if you are just starting out.
- For a deeper pose, grab the ankle of your grounded leg.
- Push your shoulders away from your ears to help protect your neck.
- Aim for alignment—don’t let the hips go past the shoulders. This will help you stay balanced and not fall out of the pose.
- Practice against a wall or with a spotter.
Now that you know some new poses and have some breathing, meditation, and stretching tips, get ready to start seeing the benefits. You can look forward to improved flexibility and posture, better sleep (bless!), more balance, increased control over your nervous system, a positive energy, and so much more! Next time you’re feeling stressed, can’t sleep, or just need to practice some self care, test out some yoga!
P.S. Now that we’re feeling calm, pause your day and follow along with this guided meditation below.