The holidays can be a time of fun and family. But for many, it can also be a time of added stress — good and bad! One of my favorite ways to stretch tight muscles and relieve stress is yoga. Speaking as a type-A, high-energy person, yoga is the perfect antidote to this stress-filled, anxiety-ridden, wound-up-tight-as-a-drum world we live in. For me, yoga is like personal therapy!
Yoga, which is simply a series of standing, seated and lying postures (or asanas), has been practiced around the world for more than 5,000 years as a way to increase range of motion, promote relaxation and enhance self-awareness. And there’s a reason it has such staying power throughout time. It’s been known to improve sleep, circulation, digestion, blood pressure and cardiovascular function. How do you argue with that?
My favorite pose: Downward facing dog
A great yoga pose to start off with is Downward-Facing Dog, one of my favorites. As you might guess, its name comes from the fact that it resembles the shape a dog takes when it is stretching out. The pose will increase strength in your upper arms and shoulders over time while giving a great stretch to your back, hips and chest. You will also get a nice stretch in your calves and hamstrings if you gently push down your heels into the floor.
Give it a try
Begin on your hands and knees (see photo above). Place your feet hip-width apart, toes tucked under. Space your hands shoulder-width apart, and press the weight of your body onto your palms, spreading your fingers like starfish. Straighten your legs (beginners can bend their knees), and lift your tailbone toward the sky while pulling your navel toward your spine and gently pushing down through your heels. (Feel the stretch through the backs of your legs). Open your upper back by rotating your shoulder blades slightly outward. Keep your shoulders away from your ears, and relax your head between your arms. Start gently — with time you will be able to hold the pose for longer durations.