It’s important to not let stress get the best of you, even when life gets so crazy that you can’t seem to get it under control. When facing tough decisions, humans often turn to a flight or fight mode, making our minds and bodies go in to overdrive and wreaking havoc on our mental and physical well being, not to mention our looks (bags under eyes) and waistlines (sugar binges at midnight). Thankfully, you can now turn to YOGA as a great way to manage those unhealthy urges!
I discovered yoga when I was at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and it made a world of difference in managing my stress levels, helping me focus, relax, eat better, sleep better, and look and feel better. I loved it so much, I became certified to teach after graduating, and it’s become my full-time career.
Here are 5 yoga techniques you can use (no matter your level of experience with yoga) when you’re ready to blow your top! Best of all, these can even be done in your desk chair.
1. Ujayii Breathing
The sound that our ears like to hear most is the oceanic sound of a breath. It is truly soothing to hear that rhythmic ebb and flow of the ocean tide. When you hold a seashell to your ear, it has a magical and relaxing quality. The ujayii breath is what we use to link our mind and body when we practice yoga. It has a magical meditative effect and it calms the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s very much like that oceanic sound. To practice, take a deep full inhale through your nose and as you exhale out the mouth, close off the back of your throat so you can hear your breath. Try this a few times. Now try creating the silent whisper “ha” as you keep your mouth closed. Finally create the sound on both the inhalation and exhalation while only breathing in and out through the nose. You can do this with your eyes open or closed. Take five minutes to sit and breathe this way and feel the immediate calmness in your body and mind.
2. Alternate nostril breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is an awesome way to connect our right side and left side brain and bring everything back in to focus. We often feel super stressed when we have a million things going on at once and our thoughts are scattered. Alternate nostril helps us feel united and harmonious. Sit up straight and close your eyes. Rest your left hand in your lap, and with your right hand fold the first two fingers down and use the thumb and forefinger on your nose. Block the right nostril off with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Close both sides off and then open the left side and exhale the air out. Repeat, this time inhaling through the left and exhaling out the right. Continue for 8 to 10 cycles.
3. Chair Twist
Twists are great for detoxifying the body and helping us shift our perspective about the world. When we are super frazzled, it helps to stop and change our focus for a second before turning back to what we are doing. Sit tall at the edge of your seat. Inhale and lift your spine up, engage your abdominals and twist around to your right. Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand at the top of the back of the chair. Hold for five to eight breaths, then repeat on the opposite side. Repeat two more times.
4. Altar Pose
High altar pose is one of my personal favorites. Sit tall and lace your hands together, then invert the palms and press the heels of the hands above your overhead. Straighten out your arms completely as you relax the tops of the shoulders away from your ears. Place anything above you that you want to bring in to your life. Hold and breathe for five to eight breaths. This pose releases tension in the shoulders, wrists and neck. When you lift your arms up, you open the sides of the waist and bring in more oxygen to your lungs. You will get a mental and physical boost, which helps to eliminate stress. Also the image of bringing positive things into your life is awesome!
5. Downward Facing Dog
A down dog a day keeps the doctor away! I think downward dog is such a beneficial pose and one you should try to do every day if possible. Downward facing dog brings blood flow to the brain, stretches and strengthens our muscles, joints and bones, and oxygenates our entire body. You can do down dog at the desk by standing an arms length away and placing your hands on top of the desk then bow forward. Walk your feet back until you feel a great stretch in the arms, torso and hamstrings. Keep your torso parallel to the floor. Also make sure your abdominals are engaged as you hold and breathe for five to eight breaths. You can do this on the floor, mat or towel. Start on all fours, tuck your toes under and move your hips back towards your heels. Engage your abdominals and start to lift your hips up in the air. You may need to walk your feet back a bit further as you come in the pose. Press firmly in to your hands as you bring your weight back towards your legs.
Try doing these yoga poses and breathing exercises on a regular basis and I promise you, you will feel stress-free in no time at all. Yoga can be done anywhere and anytime and all you need is your body, breath and imagination. When you unite the mind, body and breath, you feel present, focused, engaged, alive, happy, and relaxed.
About Kristin McGee
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She’s also a proud mom to her son Timothy, a contributing editor at Health, a brand ambassador for C9 by Target, and has appeared frequently on television. Download her free yoga video at www.KristinMcGee.com.