Practical Yoga for Busy Schedules
By Sisi Chen, LMHC
It is common practice to be constantly “doing”, but how about adding in some “being”? Practicing yoga does not mean that you have to attend a class, pay for memberships, or even have a yoga mat. So, why do yoga? Yoga originated in ancient India as a physical, mental, and spiritual practice. The word yoga means “to yoke” or “to unite”, mind, body, and spirit. While yoga has been around for thousands of years, the intent has ultimately been to achieve liberation from suffering. Doing yoga can improve physical health, which can also positively affect mental health. Some examples of yoga’s positive impact on mental health are increased relaxation, better stress management, and enhanced interpersonal relationships (Shroff & Asgarpour, 2017).
Although Westernized modern yoga has emphasized the movement aspect of yoga, it is not the primary focus of traditional yoga practice. For some, hot yoga or fast-paced vinyasa yoga can look and feel really intimidating and stressful! But yoga does not have to be physically intense or super sweaty. The key aspects in yoga practice are to bring together your mind, body, and breath. Here are some quick and easy practices that you can do while you are at work:
- Sit and let your eyes rest - Find a comfortable seat, perhaps in a chair, or in your parked car. Place your hands on your lap, and allow your shoulders to fall down and away from your ears. Allow your seat to support you. Release the tension in your jaw, and behind your ears. Take a slow, deep breath in, fill up your lungs, your diaphragm, and the space under your belly button, hold for a count to ten, and slowly release. Try three (or more) rounds of deep breathing, and remember to keep those shoulders dropped.
- Neck yoga - This only takes one minute, but you can practice this for as long as you like. We tend to hold a lot of tension in our shoulders and our necks. Imagine how this impacts the flow of blood to our brain! Wherever you are, sitting, standing, or laying down, drop your shoulders down and away from your ears. Bring your right hand up and over the top of your head so that your palm is cupping the left side of your head, and the tips of your fingers resting on your left ear. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, gently pull your head down towards your right shoulder. Make sure your left shoulder does not shrug up towards your left ear as you stretch. Hold this pose and take five deep breaths in and out while you stretch the left side of your neck. Switch to the other side when you are ready.
- Chair Cat Cow - Find a comfortable seat and inhale deeply, interlace your fingers in front of you, and push your palms out and away from your chest. As you push your palms out, round your shoulders and your back, lower your head and chin towards your chest as you exhale fully. Unlace your fingers, inhale, and stretch your arms out as you pull your shoulders back and open your chest. Slowly look up towards the sky and tilt your head backwards, filling up your lungs. Repeat the movements with your breath and many times as you would like.
Remember, deep breathing and being present as you practice your poses are two of the most therapeutic aspects of doing yoga. From a yogic perspective, deepening your breath can slow your mind, which in turn, brings more calmness. As B.K.S. Iyengar, the father of modern yoga said, “Regulate the breathing, and thereby control the mind” (Iyengar, 1965).
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
Iyengar, B.K.S. (1965). Light on yoga: the definitive guide to yoga practice.
Shroff, F. M., & Asgarpour, M. (2017). Yoga and mental health: A review. Physiother Rehabil, 2(132), 2573-0312.
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