MORRISTOWN, NJ - The experts at Powerflow Yoga know exactly what to do to tap into your zen. So try their expert tips, one per day. You can do these right now, a little at a time, to begin the year with less stress, more happiness and fewer pounds.
Tip 8: Calm Down
When stress is too much—when the traffic, to-dos start to get to you, fold forward to calm down fast. Forward folds slow down the central nervous system, lowering your heart rate and helping you focus inward. Do one now. Stand tall, reach high and fold over slightly bent knees. Grab opposite elbows and let your head hang. You can also get the same benefit by sitting on the floor with legs outstretched. Fold and feel better fast. This is also a great shape to make before you go to bed.
Tip 7: Open Your Heart
The benefits to backbending are endless. You strengthen and lengthen core muscles to keep you safe from back pain. You also wake up your central nervous system and start to feel more alert. Last, but not least, you are physically opening up your heart and chest, which can make you feel softer, kinder and more compassionate. Do three today. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, heels 12 inches from hips. With your arms by your side, press into your feet and lift your pelvis. Shimmy your shoulders together and clasp your hands behind your back. If that’s easy-peasy, place your hands by your ears and press up to full backbend. ‘Tis the season avoid back strain—and also to open your heart to yourself, to others and to festive possibilities.
Tip 6: Go Upside-down
Can’t do a handstand? Most of us can’t either. But you can sit down next to a wall, scoot your buns up close, and straighten your legs upward as you lie back. Legs up the wall gives you all of the benefits of a handstand without any falling over. Your heart doesn’t have to beat so hard, giving it a little break. Your brain rests and resets as you let blood and oxygen flow freely in. If you can do a headstand or handstand, go for it. Or just put your legs up the wall for 5 to 10 minutes and feel like you just pressed reset on your whole day.
Tip 5: Meditate or Pray
You’ve heard it a million times. You’re practically guaranteed to live to 120 if you meditate for an hour each day. But most of us humans can’t get anywhere near that. Good news: You can get the benefits of meditation just by sitting still right now, closing your eyes and listening to your breath come in and out of your nose five times. Call it meditation, prayer, mindfulness. Just get silent a few times every day—for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. You will instantly feel calmer, slow your heart rate and respond to stress much more lovingly.
Tip 4: Take Child’s Pose
What’s the best strength-building pose in yoga? Child’s pose. You have to let your body rest to rebuild muscle tissue. You also need to slow down when your body tells you to. Your body knows best—not your mind! To get into child’s pose, come to a tabletop position with hands and knees on the ground. Bring your toes to touch, sink your hips to the heels of your feet and spread your knees mat-width apart. Reach your hands forward and rest your forehead. This is a great hip opener, too, to help you work on flexibility. Most importantly, it’s a let-it-all-go rest that helps you get right back up with a mood boost.
Tip 3: Be strong
If you want strong bones, muscles and better mental focus, do Sun Salutation A today (and every day). It’s just an awesome, full-body workout and stretch. Inhale, stand up straight, reach your fingers up. Exhale, fold over your legs. Inhale, look up halfway and lengthen your spine. Exhale, plant your hands on the mat and step back into plank as you lower your knees and chest all the way to the ground. Inhale, lift your heart into a baby cobra. Exhale to a down dog. Repeat 2 to 10 times. This is a strength-building, moving meditation. It will clear your mind while it builds your body from head to toe.
Tip 2: Do Tree Pose
It’s hard work getting that tree up—pulling out the ornaments and ribbons and strings. But it’s super satisfying. And so is tree pose. Stand up tall, press your right foot into the floor and bring your left knee into your chest. Open the knee out to the left and place your left foot on your right calf or upper, inner thigh. Avoid the knee. Do both sides for five breaths. Work on your balance now to save yourself from falling down for a lifetime.
Tip 1: Stretch
What’s the first thing a cat does after a nap? It stretches, and you should, too. First thing in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, lengthen. Plant your feet firmly into the ground, reach your hands up and extend through your fingertips. Feel your side body get longer. Feel your muscles lengthen. Why do this? Well, it feels awesome. But even better, morning stretches increase your flexibility, release kinks, improve posture and reduce injury. It also increases your blood flow just like a cup of coffee.