The benefits of yoga have long been talked about. The exercise reduces stress, stretches our bodies, strengthens our muscles, and gives us some much-needed time to re-centre ourselves. We all know why we should be doing it - but we also know how easy it is to feel daunted by the complex positions you see online. Good news - you don’t have to be able to twist yourself into a pretzel to feel the benefits of yoga. A few simple movements can set our bodies and minds back to a neutral state, and allow us to properly focus on what life throws at us. So where do you start?
Child’s Pose: Good If… You Need To Relieve Stress
If you’ve had a hectic day, or you haven’t slept well, chances are your stress levels are up. This can have a multitude of negative effects on our bodies, from dulled skin to lack of alertness. Why not relax into child’s pose? It’s deceptively simple, but has a huge impact, so is a great one to try if you’re not a seasoned yogi. Kneel on the floor (or a mat) with your knees apart and sit back on your heels. Then, sink forwards so that your forehead touches the floor (or as close as you can get), reaching your arms out in front of you. This position induces feelings of calm, and helps to induce a meditative state. As a bonus, it loosens up your hip flexors, which tighten up after a long stretch of sitting down - like a day at the office. Try holding this pose while you take ten slow, deep breaths, focusing just on how your body feels. You should be ready for a peaceful night’s sleep, or a calm day ahead, in no time!
Spine Twist: Good If… You’ve Been Sitting All Day
Have you ever stood up after a long period of sitting down and slightly staggered for your first few steps? Us too - it creeps up on you! The truth is, our bodies just aren’t designed to spend 8 hours a day sitting down. On top of getting up to walk to the water cooler, and going for a walk in your lunch break, there are some stretches that help to ease the pressure on our bodies. Try the spine twist, which is pretty much what it sounds like: sit with one leg over the other on the floor, inhale, and as you exhale twist your body around to one side. Inhale again in that position, and try to twist a little more. Then repeat on the other side! This is another one that’s super simple, but will release tension from your back. Try to use your stomach muscles to twist around, rather than forcing your body with your shoulders or arms. Don’t be surprised if you feel a few clicks - though if you don’t it doesn’t mean it’s not working!
The Plank: Good If… You Want to Strengthen Your Abdominals
If you thought yoga didn’t involve working your body a bit, you’d be wrong. One of the core moves (get it?) is the plank, aka. the stuff of P.E. nightmares. It’s really not as bad as you remember it though (promise!), and will strengthen your core to no end if you can do it regularly. A strong core is important for both yoga and daily life, so it wouldn’t go amiss to hold this move for a while whilst catching up on your favourite podcast. Ideally, though, you’d get into position - hands or forearms on the floor, balancing on the balls of your feet - and focus on holding your back and legs in one straight line from the shoulders downwards. If you can’t do this version, rest on your knees instead of your toes and hold that pose. 8-10 deep breaths later, you’ll be feeling zen - and maybe a little stronger!
Legs Up The Wall: Good If… Your Feet Get Swollen
Been on your feet all day? There’s a good chance that they’ll be swollen and inflamed - but thankfully there’s an easy solution. Try legs up the wall pose - which is exactly what it sounds like. This pose will drain fluid out of your feet and ankles, and lessen the swelling. It also gives you some time to yourself, to concentrate on your breathing - or to make a mental list of all the things you need to do tomorrow! If you’re a little more advanced, try switching to a shoulder stand instead, which will increase blood flow to your head whilst improving your core stability. Thanks to the extra blood in your head, you should feel your stress levels reducing and your concentration improving.
Here at Evolve, yoga is one of our favourite ways of connecting with our bodies. We sometimes get so used to a certain position - like being hunched over at a desk - that we forget it’s not how our bodies are supposed to feel. These easy positions give us time to concentrate on the way our bodies feel, and how we can make that better. One of our favourites is corpse pose which - despite the slightly ominous name - can really relax and calm your mind. You just lie down, slowly concentrating on relaxing individual parts of your body, and feel any tension slip away. It’s also a great one to have on hand if you regularly suffer from the inability to fall asleep, as it puts the brain into a zone of thinking about the physical reality of your body, rather than any external problems or worries. This is the pose causes people to nod off during class! Who said yoga had to be hard?