How do you get through your daily troubles? People use many different means to cope with stress, anxiety, and fatigue. If you listen to people who are having a rough day, many of them will reveal their coping strategies. “I need a drink,” you’ll hear them groan when they want to escape. When they want more energy they’ll grumble, “I need a coffee.” Some turn to food, using sweets or junk food to comfort themselves through moments of distress. Alcohol, caffeine and comfort food are all quick-fix methods of coping. They work by briefly relieving the symptoms of stress without ever addressing the mental and physical distress that causes anxiety and fatigue. There is a healthier way.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. We all try to fit regular exercise into our busy schedules. But what can we do about the moments of acute distress throughout the day? We can’t always run off to the gym when the day gets tough. Yoga can help. Of course you would definitely benefit from going to a class when you have a bigger chunk of time, but in these difficult moments even a pose or two can help you stay calm, mindful, and alert. If you’re new to yoga, don’t be intimidated. Yoga is flexible (forgive the pun) and can be adjusted to suit your body and your needs. Poses that are too challenging for your current flexibility or strength level can be modified. Lets begin with a few easy poses that can help you throughout the day.
A great standing pose for increased vitality is Urdhva Hastasana, or Upward Salute. When you are in a tired slump, stand up with your feet hip-width apart. Breathe in as you let your fingertips reach toward the ceiling. Look up toward your hands. You can leave your hands apart, interlace your fingers, or simply touch your palms together—whatever feels good to you. Take a few deep breaths in this pose, and try imagining the energy that you need coming in to your body with each breath you take. Exhale your fatigue. Deep breathing will help your body to wake up.
Standing Forward Bend
Next, we’ll try releasing your tense back and neck with Standing Forward Bend, or Uttanasana. From standing, exhale your upper body forward with the eventual goal of having your forehead against your shins. Bend from the hips with a flat back. Wherever your flexibility takes you is where you should be—even if that is nowhere near touching your toes. Breathe into the tension in the backs of your legs, keeping the knees soft (not locked). Rest your palms on the floor or against your legs for support. If you want to, gently clasp your elbows, and see if you can relax into hanging forward. Feel gravity helping you to release the built-up tension in your neck and back. Inhaling, slowly roll up to standing when you are ready.
Child’s Pose or Happy Baby Pose
For a moment of comfort and peace, we can come to Balasana, or Child’s Pose. Sitting with your toes uncurled in kneeling position, exhale your upper body forward over your thighs. Let your forehead rest gently on the floor in front of your knees. Your heels should be directly under your buttocks. Your hands come to rest behind you on the floor next to your feet, circling around your body with your palms facing up. Enjoy this relaxation pose for several breaths before slowly rolling up to sitting. Or, for a more energizing calm, try Ananda Balasana, or Happy Baby Pose. Lying on your back, inhale your feet up to rest in your hands with your knees deeply bent against the sides of your body. Feel your back release as you gently stretch your hips and thighs. If you can’t reach your feet, hold your ankles or thighs. Again, enjoy several rejuvenating breaths here.
There are many other simple poses that you can work in throughout the day. These three poses are simply an introduction to encourage a healthier and more long-lasting route to reducing your stress. By taking a moment to breathe deeply in one of these poses, you give your mind a little change to refresh itself. You give yourself a chance to check in and address your mental state. You can focus your thoughts by bringing your awareness to calming and energizing your body.
Unlike using caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and comfort eating, yoga only has positive effects. When you use yoga to de-stress there is no crushing post-caffeine energy crash, no dulling of your senses, and no bloated calorie coma. Oh, and did I mention it’s free? Do yourself a favor; try some yoga when you’re stressed and let go of those habits that take a negative toll on your body and your wallet. Namaste.