Sometimes you’re so stressed out that you can’t make time for things that will make you less stressed out. Like hauling yourself to a one-hour yoga class before work. And that’s OK.
You can start by slipping in a few poses throughout the day, says Thumbtack pro and yoga instructor Meredith Bechtel of Yoga With Meredith.
“You can use your breath through every aspect of your life to get centered and to find strength and energy,” says Meredith. “With yoga, don’t feel intimidated by the poses. Instead, think of it as a time to just be with yourself and your breath and feel the power of that connection.” Here are Meredith’s tips on three simple poses to wake up strong, pick up your afternoon energy, and wind down at night.
Morning Power: Downward Dog
Your body is still asleep for a while after you wake up, says Meredith. Start your day by gently reawakening your knees, wrists, ankles and shoulders. Hold your arms above your head and make fists with your hands, then make simple circles with your wrists and your arms, gently swinging the arms outward. Before standing up, circle your ankles, getting any snap, crackle, and pops out of the way.
After your warmup, the classic yoga pose downward dog is Meredith’s pick to start the day. “Every down dog will be particular to your body,” says Meredith. “So if your knees are bent and your heels are off the floor—that’s great!” Take it slow and easy.
- Start in plank pose. Plank pose looks the same as the top of a pushup and will be your foot and hand foundation.
- Keep your hands and feet in that position and push your hips back and up.
- Let your head look down at the floor or back at your belly button as you extend up and back. Just make sure the neck is extended, you don’t want to look forward between your hands.
- Think of your sitting bones as reaching up towards the ceiling and your hips going up rather than back.
- If the position is challenging, try bending the knees and focusing the length into your back.
- Remember there’s a difference between good pain and bad pain. If you feel pain in your shoulders like an injury, back off.
- Remember to breathe. Take five slow, deep breaths, then come out of the pose.
Most importantly, don’t compare your pose to what you see others doing. “Don’t strive for the perfect pose that you see on Instagram or other places. Let your body do what is right for you,” says Meredith.
Afternoon Energy: Triangle Pose
Triangle pose works everything in your body, so it’s a great pick-me-up pose in the middle of the day. “This pose is all about stretching and strengthening at the same time,” says Meredith. “Look for a sense of levity in your body as you expand in all directions.”
A yoga block is recommended for this pose. If you don’t have one, stack some books about six inches off the ground.
- Do a forward bend with your legs together.
- Step your right leg back into runner’s lunge.
- Lower your right heel down towards the mat, so the toes are angled at a 45-degree angle toward the front of your mat.
- Place your yoga block (or books) next to your left foot, then place your left hand on top of the block.
- Bring your right hand to your right hip.
- Once you’re stable, turn your body open towards the right hand side.
- Imagine peeling your chest and hips open to the right.
- Slowly straighten through the left leg while simultaneously reaching down with the left arm. (It’s okay if the left leg doesn’t come completely straight.)
- Extend your right arm up toward ceiling and bring it in line with left arm reaching down. Imagine someone pulling you up through your top arm while you plant your feet down.
- Take five slow, deep breaths.
- Release and do the other side.
Nighttime Relaxation: Seated Breathing
“It’s so important to give your body a moment to wind down from the day before trying to go to sleep,” says Meredith. “This breathing exercise is a simple and quick transition that will help you relax.”
- Turn off your phone!
- Set down a pillow or folded blanket if your hips are tight.
- Sit cross-legged on your support. You can also lie down with your torso on the floor and your legs up the wall so you are in an L-shaped position.
- Starting with a three count sequence:
- Inhale for three counts.
- Hold your breath for three counts.
- Exhale for three counts.
- Hold your lungs empty for three counts.
Repeat the entire sequence for five rounds. You’ll feel your mind start to slow down and your body let go of tension in the chest, legs and shoulders. If you like, you can increase your breath count to four or five seconds, as long as each part of the exercise is the same length.
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