According to the World Health Organization, burnout and stress are at all-time highs across all professions. A little stress now and then is not something to be concerned about. But, ongoing, chronic stress can cause or worsen many serious health problems including obesity, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, hair loss, heart attacks, strokes and many other physical changes to the body. However, taking a few deep breaths right now, and scheduling a 10-15 minute session of yoga or movement each day can help reduce these outcomes.
The benefits of yoga are many. It can help improve ease of movement, decrease stress, improve flexibility and even help one lose weight, if that is desired. Many people feel that exercise has to hurt, takes up too much time and is just too difficult to manage. Whereas yoga can be a simple modality to incorporate into your day to alleviate stress and improve well-being. Yoga helps to bring more attention to your breath and encourages more mindfulness with movements.
Here are 5 simple exercises based in yoga to help reduce stress:
- Triangle Pose. Triangle pose helps strengthen the lower body and improve balance. Start in a wide stance with the front foot pointing forward and the other foot to the side. Place a yoga block, on its highest setting, on the outside of the front foot. Reach arms out to the front and back. Press the hips backwards and reach your front arm as far forward as you can. When you reach as far as possible, rest the front hand on the block and reach the other hand up towards the ceiling. Breathe two to three breaths in this position and slowly, like you’re being pulled by your top arm, rise out of the stretch. Perform this stretch on the other side.
- Up Dog Hip Release Pose. Up dog is a great pose to help release low back tension from sitting for long periods of time. Using 2 yoga blocks to help support the hands can deepen the stretch. Start on the belly with hands on yoga blocks, on their lowest setting, by your shoulders. Point the toes so that the weight is on the top of the foot. Slowly push up through the arms and lift the chest and chin upward, legs stay activated and thighs lift off the ground. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 2-3 breaths. Slowly lower back to the starting position.
- Standing Forward Fold Pose. Folding forward calms the mind and reduces blood pressure. Start standing forward with feet hip width distance apart and a yoga block a few inches in front of the feet on the floor. Reach upward to the ceiling and then slowly lower arms to thighs and roll down towards the block. Engage your thighs and do not lock the knees, allow your knees to bend until your chest can relax on your thighs. Place the top of your head balancing on the block with hands on the floor and allow the body to relax in this forward fold position. Use as many blocks as needed to support your head. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 3-5 breaths. Slowly rise back to standing.
- Bridge Release. Bridge pose helps open the chest, neck hips, and low back. Although a yoga block can work on this pose, a better option may be a yoga wheel. Yoga wheels have a curve while blocks have straight lines which makes it more comfortable for this yoga pose. Yoga wheels vary in size and sometimes may feel better with a small wheel for some while a larger wheel for others. Start lying on your back with knees bent and the small yoga wheel placed under your hips and low back. The placement is key for comfort. Once the hips and low back are placed on the wheel reach hands out to the sides and extend the legs. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 2-3 breaths. This is one pose that staying more than the 3-5 breaths works well.
- Fish Pose. Fish pose can be a great chest opener and alleviate neck tension from sitting at a computer. Using a yoga wheel for this pose is beneficial. Start seated with knees bent and place the yoga wheel behind you. Slowly lower back onto the yoga wheel underneath your shoulder blades. Once you have weight onto the wheel, slowly reach the arms over head and allow the knees to fall out to each side with the bottom of the feet together. Option to keep the hands behind your head to support your neck is available. Breathe into the stretch and hold for 2-3 breaths. Slowly lower rise on and off the yoga wheel to the starting position.