A Balanced Life, The Yogi Way
We all know that part of being human is to feel stressed. It's common to stress about all sorts of things such as finances, work, relationships, pimples, you name it. For many of us, now is a particularly stressful time with all of the uncertainty surrounding Coronavirus. However, I want you to know that stress is not always a bad thing. In fact, stress is our body's natural defence system; it helps us prepare for danger and can be a helpful motivator for many situations.
The problem is, however, when we persistently stress over long periods. Ongoing pressure may become chronic and can be quite harmful to a person's well-being. Instead of preparing to deal with the problem at hand, you could end up inviting additional issues such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Extreme breakdowns may even lead to further self-detrimental mind states of depression and suicidal thoughts. Most times, we aren't sure how to draw the line and deal with these stressors effectively. My recent journey and discovery of the Yogi life has helped me understand exactly this.
Yoga has proven to help reduce stress, transform your reactions, improve your health and most of all, helps you to embody grace under pressure.1 It enables you to focus on your breathing and thoughts consciously while maintaining flexibility and balance. The poses (asanas), can be considered equivalent to a stressor, and yoga teaches you to meet the physical demands of each pose with mindfulness and steady breathing, instead of a natural stressed response.
When practised consistently, we can train our nervous systems to respond differently to everyday stress with the same mindfulness. The best part about yoga is that you can do it indoors or outdoors. Imagine doing a wheel pose and feeling a gentle breeze pass over you.
Here are a few simple yoga poses (asanas) you can do in just five minutes:
1. Child's Pose (Balasana)
Child's pose is a common beginner's pose and that you can use as a resting position between more difficult poses during a practice. The pose stretches the hips, thighs, and the ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. The muscles are gently relaxed on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back torso.
How to do a Child's Pose
On the floor, kneel with toes together and your knees hip-width apart. Rest your palms on top of your thighs. Lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside the torso with palms faced down. Next, relax your shoulders towards the ground. Stay in the pose as long as needed.
Note: There are many variations on common poses. If you are accustomed to another method, feel free to use that instead.
2. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasan)
|Start by lying face-down on the floor with your legs extended behind you spread a few inches apart. Your hands should be placed alongside your body, next to your lower ribs, palms down. Inhale as you press through your hands, firmly into the floor. Press down firmly through the tops of your feet.|
3. Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
|Begin on your hands and knees. Stretch your elbows and relax your upper back. Spread your fingers wide and press firmly through your palms and knuckles. Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis.|
4. Three-Legged Dog - Hip Opener
|In Downward Dog Pose, lift your right leg high behind you with a flexed foot. Bend at the knee and start rotating your right leg out while keeping your hips squared. Keep your pelvis tucked under and inward to protect your back. This pose can be an intense hip opener, and you may not be able to hold it for ten breaths. Do the same on the opposite side.|
5. Side Plank (Advanced)
Begin on any side with your feet together and one forearm directly below your shoulder. Your core should be contracted, Raise your hips until the body is in a straight line from head to feet. Try to hold the position without dropping the hips. Give an allotted time for each set (15-30 seconds) and then repeat on the other side.2 To increase the intensity, you can raise the outward leg as high as you can as shown in the image above.
In summary, all yogis realise that the experience teaches them to see life differently. It gives you a whole new perspective and gives you the gift to think more clearly and calmly in any given situation. Yoga is when you come to know that it is a celebration of life.
Allen Francis is a Personal Trainer at Habit Health & Fitness Clubs in Auckland