Yogi rolling her blue yoga mat

There are so many reasons to try yoga. It is proven to relieve stress and anxiety, and by stretching our bodies after sitting (or standing) for many hours during the day, it can lift physical tension and reduce the emotional burdens of everyday life.

“Yoga helps counter-balance some of the poor posture we tend to end up with from long days sitting at the desk or lounging on the couch,” explains Kirra Michel, Australia’s first Peloton instructor. “It focuses on chest openers, elongating the spine and opening the hips, and other problematic areas. Yoga helps keep our joints more mobile which is important as we age.”

Michel adds that the breath-work and mediative aspects of yoga can also assist with stress and anxiety. “Taking six long, deep full-belly breaths helps regulate the central nervous system, assisting in lowering cortisol and stepping out of the fight or flight response… lowering stress levels and anxiety. If these methods are practiced consistently over time, we become less reactive and more in control over our emotional responses to stress.”

The following are the top 5 yoga poses Michel recommends:

Down Dog

This pose is great for elongating and stretching your body. When performing it, keep a soft bend to your knees, push away from the floor with your hands and stick your booty in the air. Rather than rounding your tailbone under, find length through your spine.

Chest Opener/Back Extension

Sitting in a chair, interlace your hands behind your back or hold onto the sides of the chair. Maintaining a good posture (head up, back straight), pull your shoulder blades together and lift your chest up and open. If you’d prefer to lay on the floor, start in a low cobra position for a few breaths, then lift your chest up and forward, rather than collapsing in the lower back.

Standing Quad Stretch

Holding onto a chair for balance, reach back to hold your right foot in your right hand. Gently pull the heel towards your butt as you send your hips forward. Once you have the proper balance, you can consider taking your hand off the chair when performing this stretch. Just be careful and be sure to repeat on the left side.

Seated or Standing Twists

Keeping your knees and hips straight, inhale and gently twist your upper body to one side as you exhale. It’s okay to use your hands against the chair or wall for leverage for a deeper twist. Just be careful… never push hard. Breath and let your body twist naturally. This pose helps relieve tightness in the lower back and spine. Be sure to do both sides.

Seated Figure Four

Sit in a chair and cross your right ankle on top of your left thigh to open up the right hip. Inhale, and as you exhale, gently lean forward, maintaining a good posture (head up, back straight). You can also use the power of your right leg to send the right knee away from your body to intensify the pose. Once again, be sure to do both sides.

 

Warning: Be sure to check with a medical professional before attempting any type of exercise regimen, particularly if you have any injuries or chronic pain.

Source: Body & Soul