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!
Fifteen years ago, I was not acting my age. Since I would recoil from any form of exercise, as well as any green foods, I was overweight, inflexible and debilitated by lower back pain. The 40 extra pounds on my frame — plus tight, shortened back muscles and weak abs — left me moving like an 80-year-old version of myself.
I suffered daily from sciatica, back spasms, limited mobility, weakness, you name it. When I got stuck in my car one day, unable to swing my legs out because of my sciatic pain — at age 23 — I realized, “Something’s gotta change.”
I started reading up and realized a shocking number of people suffer with chronic back pain, partly from hours spent sitting in a way that flattens the lower back curve. (BTW, Gaiam’s Balance Ball Chair, the very one I’m sitting on as I write this, is a great tool to help build core strength and re-align your spine.)
Then, I found yoga. Over time, using some of the same poses I’m showing you here, I built a lean and pain-free body.
Oh, how difficult it is to get out of bed on these winter mornings, flop to the floor into Downward Facing Dog, and address the stiffness. Once the morning slumber spell is broken, it all begins to feel right, but there is always that obstacle in your mind to break through.
INVERSIONS are coveted among yogis. Yoga is one of the few systems of health that suggest you regularly turn yourself upside down for extended periods of time. The health claims are astonishing: it reverses aging, increases blood flow to the brain, regulates pituitary and pineal glands, relieves constipation, tranquilizes and mellows the nervous system, and the list goes on. Responses vary from person to person, but a regular practice of turning upside down to one degree or another is soothing and balancing, and it can be a necessary step for many to stop their chattering minds prior to meditation.