Well friends, it’s been a doozy of a year. With the global coronavirus pandemic that has impacted all of us and a disheartening string of social and environmental events, mental health and wellbeing have taken a hit. In fact, the CDC reports that reported anxiety among American adults has increased by a shocking amount – from 8.1% to 25.5% since 2019.
For those who have practiced yoga, you likely have experienced the stress-relieving and anxiety-reducing benefits of the practice first hand. I know for me, especially on hard days when the last thing I want to do is get on the mat, by the time I have finished my practice I always feel so much better: in body, mind and heart. In fact, the positive effects of yoga on our overall mental wellbeing are being scientifically studied and proven.
Harvard Medical School writes:
“The scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.”
Yoga has become an accepted tool to help ease anxiety. However, the type of yoga you need may change from day to day. Some days you need to move slowly and softly, somedays you might need to flow and sweat, and other days you may simply need to sit and breathe. Whatever you need today, here are three short yoga practices that you can try at home, each with their own focus.
Grounding and Calming Yoga Sequence
While doing this practice, hold each pose for five to ten deep breaths. You might get a blanket to bring onto your mat for extra support. Turn the lights down low. Play some calming music. Really focus on your breath and the sensations in your body.
Begin in Child's pose, by bringing your shins to the mat, big toes to touch and knees wide. Let your hips sink back over your heels and walk your hands forward on your mat, allowing your chest to melt down to the earth. Bring your forehead to the mat and relax your belly. Breathe deeply.
Child's Pose with Lateral Stretches
Keep your hips where they are in child's pose, but begin to walk your hands to the top left corner of your yoga mat, allowing your chest to follow. Keep your right hip rooted down and breathe into the space created in the right side of your body. You might choose to stack your right hand over your left hand. Breathe here, and then return to center and switch sides.
From your child's pose, push yourself up to your hands and knees for a moment in table top. Then, step your right foot forward to the outside of your right hand and bend the right knee. Keep your left knee on the mat and untuck the left toes. Allow the hips to sink forward. You can stay lifted on your fingers or come down to your forearms. After a few breaths, switch sides.
Transition to your back and hug both knees into your chest, feeling your sacrum rooted down. From here, drop your knees over to the right and shift your gaze to the left. Open your arms wide or in a goal-post shape, keeping your shoulders rooted on the mat. Breathe into the mid-belly, and maybe close your eyes. After a few breaths, return knees to center and switch sides.
Hug both knees into your chest one final time, giving yourself a big squeeze. Perhaps think for a moment about one thing in life that makes you feel grateful. Then, with an exhale breath, extend all your limbs wide on the mat for your final resting pose. Allow your eyes to close. Imagine all your muscles softening. Stay here and rest for 5-10 minutes.
Burn and Let Go Yoga Sequence
For this sequence, the goal is to move quickly and allow the body to build heat. You can repeat the sequence as many times as you’d like until you start to sweat. Move fluidly and freely! Turn the music up loud. Let it all go.