Yoga Stretches For Your Body & Mind
Yoga poses and stretches are restorative for your muscles, as well as your mind. So many of us rest only during sleep, but it is important to calm the mind in our waking hours. The Mayo Clinic endorses yoga as being effective in stress reduction, increased fitness, and suggests it for the management of chronic health conditions, including insomnia and fatigue, cancer, and chronic pain disorders.
Depression can often manifest itself in the body, so that those suffering from depression display slumped shoulders, sunken chests, or stiffness throughout the body.2 While getting in touch with that sadness, an individual may discover that those negative feelings are actually carried in a physical location, such as the neck, back, or shoulders. Practicing yoga for a few minutes each day, or even a few times per week, will ease your depressive symptoms. You don’t have to join a gym or a yoga class to complete basic stretches at home, as I recommend a few of them in this tip. If you begin these stretches, and find them enjoyable as well as beneficial, yoga classes are offered at most wellness facilities, or there are a number of videos available to guide you through your practice.
*As with all new exercise regimens, do not push yourself past your physical limit, and consult your family physician regarding any medical issues that may conflict with the poses suggested here.
* To complete the following poses, you will need a yoga mat for your safety and comfort.
Legs up the Wall or Viparita Karani
This pose is very simple, and should not stress or strain your body in any way. It is helpful in reducing and releasing bodily pain, as well as increasing circulation to the brain, pelvis and heart. It is particularly effective in relieving headaches and anxiety.
Note* Using a support under your lower back may be helpful in this pose. This support may be a yoga block, a pillow or a rolled up blanket. Place the support under your lower back, just above the buttocks.
- Position your yoga mat perpendicular to the wall (imagine the wall as the top of a T, and the yoga mat as the stem). Sit down on your yoga mat, facing the wall. You may turn slightly to either side, as you lie down and raise your legs up straight, against the wall.
- You will notice that tension in your back and legs eases, and your mind will begin to relax.
- Stay in this position from 1-10 minutes.
Downward Facing Dog : Adho Mukha Svanasana
This pose is probably the most recognized yoga stretch, and is important for many reasons. It has wonderful mental relaxation properties, as well as strengthening your muscles and limbs. It is a great whole body stretch that is simple and approachable for most beginners.
- On your mat, lower yourself onto your hands and knees. Place your knees directly below your hips. Your hands should be positioned in front of your shoulders. Spread your hands and turn your toes under to support yourself, as you gently and slowly lift your knees up and away from your mat.
- Exhaling, reach your buttocks toward the ceiling, while pushing your heels downward. Straighten your upper body as your heels lower. Your heels do not have to touch the ground, but it is in reaching for the ground that you will achieve the deepest stretch in your legs.
- Tuck your head so that it is parallel to your shoulders.
- Feel this deep stretch. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes, breathing deeply. With each exhalation, move your body into a deeper stretch.
Seated Twist: Parivrtta Sukhasana
This pose helps to cleanse and massage the liver. The liver is thought to have over 500 functions within the human body, and works in combination with other organs to keep you healthy.
- Sit on your mat in a cross-legged position.
- Place your right hand on the floor beside your body, and twist your upper body to the right.
- Turn your head to look over your right shoulder.
- Hold this pose for 2 deep breaths, or 10 seconds, and return to the centre.
- Repeat this turn on your left side.