It seems like stress and anxiety can be almost synonymous with college sometimes. It’s really easy to get caught up in a cycle of go, go, go, especially when deadlines loom, friends make plans and you don’t want to miss any of it.
When it feels like everything is moving too fast, I like to take time to pause. Yoga helps me do that.
Yoga is a holistic practice of breathing, physical postures and mindfulness that began in ancient India. A wide body of research has shown that yoga can help reduce perceived stress and anxiety. The practice can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
For me, one of the biggest gifts yoga offers is the permission to separate myself physically and mentally from whatever is going on in the rest of my day. Sometimes that looks like dropping my phone into a cubby outside a yoga studio. Most times, however, it’s setting up a mat or towel in a corner of my apartment and taking a few minutes to move and breathe.
Yoga can be practiced anywhere at any time. It doesn’t even have to include physical movements. You can lie down, focus on your breath and you’d be doing yoga.
Here is a simple breath and movement sequence to help you get started.
Begin in a comfortable seat
Cross your legs or sit back on your heels. Place your hands on your legs, palms facing down for grounding or up for openness. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable.
Notice the quality of your breath. Is it short, long, shallow or full? Expand your inhales through the front and back of your body and the sides of your ribcage. With each exhale, let everything go.
Try counting rhythmically in your head to help focus on your breath alone: Inhale for 4, 3, 2, 1; exhale for 4, 3, 2, 1. Try this for at least six rounds of breath or as long as you need.
Inhale and shrug your shoulders up toward your ears. Exhale and relax your shoulders down your back. Repeat three to five times.
Seated cat and cow
Inhale and move your ribcage forward, gazing up and arching your spine for seated cow pose. Exhale and pull your navel to your spine, moving your chin to your chest and rounding your back like a cat. Move through cat and cow three to five times.
Seated side bends
Inhale and reach both arms over your head. Exhale and send your right arm toward the floor and your left arm over your head, bending to the right. Inhale and return to an upright seat, both arms high. Exhale, bend left. Do these bends three to five times on each side. For a deeper stretch, rest your forearm on the floor each time.
Inhale and reach your arms over your head. Exhale and twist to the right, reaching your left fingertips toward the floor in front of you and your right fingertips toward the floor behind you. Gaze over your right shoulder. Inhale back to center, and reach your arms high. Exhale to twist left. Repeat three to five times.
Uncross your legs, tuck your toes and move into a standing forward fold. Place your feet directly below your hips. Hook your opposite pinky fingers on opposite elbows, creating a box shape above your head. Bend your knees generously, and sway side to side. Nod your head yes and no.
Roll up to mountain pose
Release your arms, and slowly unroll your spine to stand upright. Open your arms to a slight diagonal angle by your sides, palms facing forward. Feel your feet ground into the floor, then slide your shoulders down your back and look forward. Take a big breath in and audibly sigh out your exhale to release tension. Stand tall and proud!
Notice how you feel after a short break of moving and breathing. Now go out, stand tall and take ownership over the rest of your day.
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