With a Hollywood celebrity’s budget, de-stressing is as easy as booking an appointment for a full-body massage. For those of us who don’t have that luxury, relaxing at home with yoga can bring as much serenity as a pricey trip to the day spa – and the benefits reach far beyond an afternoon or evening of pampering yourself.
Letting stress spiral out of control can lead to a host of ailments, including insomnia, back pain and headaches. Through its focus on poses and breathing, yoga is a naturally great way to manage stress, as you shift your concentration away from the external demands on your life and instead look inward to your place of serenity.
Studies indicate that yoga’s overall benefits include decreasing anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure – and by increasing flexibility, yoga expands your range of motion, which can help you avoid injuries.
Yoga can play an important role in a weight loss plan, and older adults who practice yoga can improve their balance to avoid falls. Caregivers struggling with fatigue may find that practicing yoga helps them sleep better and improve their ability to cope with stress.
In addition, there is evidence that yoga may increase lung capacity and improve your mood. Studies suggest that there may also be benefits for specific chronic medical conditions such as asthma and low back pain.
Yoga can be done virtually anywhere, but be sure to eliminate distractions by turning off the TV, setting your cell to vibrate, and starting to calm your mind by paying attention to your breathing.
Try a few breaths in each of the following poses – consult with a physician first if you have concerns or special needs, or if you are pregnant – and feel the stress begin to melt away.
Downward Facing Dog pose. Start with your hands and knees on the floor so your body forms a tabletop. With fingers spread wide and hands pressed firmly into the floor, lift up into an upside down “V.” Press hips up and back, and straighten your legs. Let your head hang naturally and move your shoulder blades down your back, away from your ears. Like a loyal canine companion, Downward Facing Dog can be trusted to invigorate you when you need it most.
Bridge pose. Start on your back with knees bent, feet fl at on the floor, arms alongside your torso. Press arms and feet firmly into the floor, lifting hips up. (To provide more support, place a thick, folded blanket under your shoulders.) Clasp your hands underneath you and let your shoulders keep you rooted or for a more advanced pose, grasp your ankles for a deeper stretch. Keeping your thighs and feet parallel, relax your jaw and neck muscles as you build your inner bridge to tranquility. Slowly roll your spine down to the floor to release out of this pose.
Child’s pose. Sit on your heels, toes touching, with knees hip-width apart. Bring your forehead toward the floor and lay your torso over your thighs. Place your arms along your side with palms facing upward. Lengthen the back of your neck, and enjoy this simple but powerfully rejuvenating pose.
Hooked? Local yoga centers, Internet guides and even online yoga classes can help you learn more about improving your health and letting go of stress – one pose at a time.