When I'm having a go-go-go kind of day, I can feel the stress rising inside me. But the last thing I want is to share that anxiety with my son, so I turn to yoga. It's my sanctuary, and it helps prevent me from getting keyed-up on even the most frantic days.
Yoga relieves tension by keeping us focused on our breath rather than all the thoughts racing through our heads. Taking deep inhales and exhales stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows the whole body to relax.
I especially like Eagle pose to break through tension because it's like wrapping up inside a cocoon and blocking out the world. Coming next into Warrior 3 challenges our balance, forcing us to stay centered. Finally, a Standing Straddle Forward Bend is great for working out kinks in the shoulders, neck and backâ€”and also makes us feel like we're letting the weight of the world fall off our body and onto the floor. Watch the video above to see me demonstrate these stress-busting yoga poses.
Practice these poses regularly to stay even, and do them whenever you feel tense.
Stand at the front of your mat. Bend knees and wrap right leg over left. If you can, cross foot behind calf; otherwise, tap toes to the floor. At the same time, wrap upper right arm under left arm. Cross forearms and press palms together. Tighten abs and gaze at fingertips. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths. Repeat on opposite side.
Next, come into Warrior 3. From standing, tip forward and lift left leg straight behind you. Keep torso and hips parallel to the floor and left toes facing down. (Imagine you have a cup resting on your lower back.) Reach hands back and gaze at a spot 10 inches in front of you on the floor. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths, then come to standing. Repeat with opposite leg.
Photo: Alex Beauchesne
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Standing straddle forward bend
Now step into a wide straddle with toes facing forward. Fold over, placing hands on the floor shoulder-width apart. Pull elbows straight back as you draw head closer to the floor. Let neck completely release, and engage shoulder blades to keep tops of shoulders relaxed. Take at least 10 breaths here, then stand and feel the serenity.
Photo: Alex Beauchesne
Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Healthâ€™s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.