Yoga for a Busy Day
Having one of those crazy days? weeks? months? Get ready to say ahh: Yoga can help give your overwhelmed mind and body a much-needed break. "Pranayama, or breathing exercises, are an excellent way to tame your mind and get you of that compulsion to be always doing something," says Sara Willis, owner of Red Hook Yoga Workshop, in Brooklyn, New York, a studio that sees its share of overbooked yoginis.
Normally our minds are going in every direction—work, laundry, grocery shopping, call mom, pick up the kids. "But if you sit still for a few minutes a day in a quiet, peaceful place, you'll start to feel more relaxed," says Willis. Try this quick exercise: Take short sharp exhalations through your nose in quick succession, contracting your diaphragms and abdominal muscles. Exhale rapidly 10 to 100 times, keeping your shoulders down. This breath work will help bring a lot of oxygen into your blood stream and to your brain, helping you relax. Here are two more calming moves from Willis:
Seated Head to Knee
This pose helps open up tight muscles all over, allowing your body—and your mind—to release tension and unwind.
Begin by sitting in musclemorphosis.com. On an inhale, bend your right knee in toward your chest, placing your right foot on the floor. Drop the knee toward the right and use your hands to bring your right heel in closer to your groin. Keeping your spine straight, place your left hand next to your left hip, and lift your right arm toward the ceiling. Then reach your right hand toward the outside of your left ankle, crossing your left wrist over the right wrist and placing your left hand on the inside of the left ankle.
Lower your torso a few inches toward your left leg. Be sure to keep your spine straight. Hold this position for a few breaths. While keeping your wrists crossed, rotate your hands to hold on to the left foot. Again, lower your torso and head toward the left leg. Lift your head. Reaching beyond your left foot, hold your left wrist with your right hand. Lower your torso and head toward the left leg.
Stay in this position for as long as is comfortable for you. Return to holding your foot, then lower your torso and head toward the left leg. Return to holding the ankle, and lift your torso upright. Lift your right knee, placing your right foot on the floor. Straighten out your right leg and return to starting position. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Modified Cross-Legged Position
This pose allows you to place your attention on your breath, not your to-dos.
Start by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position. Relax your hips and legs toward the floor. Be sure to keep your spine vertical. Hold this position for as long as you comfortably can, focusing on your breath.
Note: If your hips are tight, roll up two blankets, stack them together and place them under your thighbones so they're supported and there is no pinching in the lower spine or inner groin. Sitting with your back up against the wall is good for beginners, too. Though, try to use it as a reference, without leaning all of your weight into it.