Cut stress with yoga
Regular daily exercise is a central part of stress reduction as it releases a cascade of beneficial effects on our nerves, heart, glands and muscles.
A daily walk is an excellent place to start – it’s easy and accessible, and you can build up the length and pace over time. If you have a regular sport, use it as a fun way to exercise and release stress. Of course you have to make sure that playing competitively doesn’t actually add to your stress levels. A competitive game of golf, where you end up cursing yourself for that missed shot, might not be the best thing in terms of stress management.
Yoga stretches or postures can bring balance, stability, ease and contentment into your life. This ancient art offers a range of different postures and techniques to help you manage stress. You don’t have to join a studio to do yoga (although this is your best option) – yoga postures can be done anywhere, anytime.
Try some of these simple exercises:
- When you wake up in the morning, point and flex your feet, stretch, and take some deep breaths.
- Master the art of the one-minute breath: inhale for 20 seconds, hold the breath for 20 seconds, and exhale for 20 seconds. This might be tough at first – start with 5 seconds for each breath and build up gradually. Breathing exercises strengthen the parasympathetic nervous system and can lead to new vitality.
- Do you sit at a desk most days of the week? Roll your head every hour by bringing your left ear to your left shoulder, your chin to your chest, your right ear to your right shoulder, and then gently roll your head back to your left shoulder.
- Master the yogic art of the half inner smile, a perpetual relaxed face, no matter what the situation or condition.
- If you’re sitting in the traffic, try some shoulder shrugs: raise your shoulders right up to your ears and hold on the in-breath, and release your shoulders on the out-breath. Do this a number of times. Send a half yogic smile to the person in the car across the way from you!
- Have you been typing crazily for the last hour? Rotate your hands and your wrists, and open and close your fingers. Rotate your feet and wiggle your toes, and slowly breathe in and out.
- If you’re waiting at the photocopier, practise the “tree posture”. Raise your right foot up against the inside of your thigh, place your hands by your chest in the prayer position, relax and breathe, and feel that sense of being rooted and grounded. Swap legs and repeat.
- If you’re waiting in the bank queue, stretch your arms up towards the ceiling while you inhale; then fold over at your waist and touch the floor as you exhale.
- While you’re reading your e-mails, make your out-breath twice as long as your in-breath.
- Any movement done with awareness and breathing is a form of yoga. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
- If you’re stuck in a marathon meeting, make sure you’re sitting comfortably upright and taking long and slow breaths.
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