Monday, November 3, 2014

Five Yoga Stretches to Reduce Tension and De-Stress

Happy Monday! I hope you had a very fun and spooky Halloween! I personally loved driving home from work on Friday and seeing Elsas, Creepers, Dead Brides, Pirates, and cute little Lady Bugs walking down our street. I had lots of fun dressing up, attending a very fun Halloween party with friends, trick-or-treating with Alex, and giving out candies. 

Now November is here (time passes so fast!). And it means that the official kick off of the holiday season filled with friends, family, and festivities is almost here. Every year I say to myself to start preparing for the holiday hubbub early, but that never happens. And, since I do all my preparations during my spare time after I come back from work and take care of kids and home, I get quite exhausted and stressed. I'm sure you can relate. 

So, to reduce stress, I started doing a few yoga stretches at home. Yoga exercises always help me to slow down, focus on breathing, and relax the tense muscles (especially my shoulder muscles!). And I hope I will do them at least 3-4 times a week. 

Here are the five exercises that focus on stretching neck, shoulders, back, thighs and hamstrings. The exercises are simple and don't take much time at all. However, since these are stretching exercises, they must be performed slowly ~ stretch as far as your body can go, and just breath into the stretch (the level of flexibility does not matter!). Never stretch until it hurts.

Mind: Breathing ~ you will be surprised how taking a few slow breaths will ground you and bring you peace. 
It looks like Lucy may join me :-) 
Sit in a cross-legged pose with the straight back, close your eyes, and slowly exhale long and thin through your nose. Pause. Then inhale slowly through the center of both nostrils. Pause. Repeat 6-8 times. 

Neck and shoulders: Slow Neck Stretches ~ to ease neck tention and strain. 
I honestly am not very sure if this is considered to be a yoga exercise, but it helps to get rid of the tension in shoulders and neck we get from staring down at a laptop.  Sit in a cross-legged pose, lean the head to the left and gently pull the it with the left hand. Extend the right hand towards the floor and breathe into the stretch. Repeat a few times on each side. 

Neck, shoulders, spine, and back: Seated Spinal Twist ~   
Sit with legs long in front of you. Bend left knee and put the foot outside of right knee. Wrap right arm around left leg. Exhale as you slowly twist your torso to the left, look over your shoulder, and place the left hand on the floor behind the tailbone. Take one more slow breath in and out. Return to center and repeat on opposite site. 

Shoulders: Thread the Needle ~ since the most tension we keep in shoulders, this exercise feels so so good. 
From all fours, reach your left arm underneath your body, lower your left shoulder and temple to the ground. You can move the right hand a bit to the right over your head. Breathe for at least five deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Thighs, groins, and back: Half Pigeon Pose ~ I love this exercise. Not only it stretches thighs and back, but it also opens chest and shoulders. 
Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, slide the left knee forward and the right leg back. Try to bend the front leg at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to square your hips towards the front of the mat. Sit up tall, push your chest forward, and take five slow breaths. Breathe into the tightness. 

Lower back, hamstrings: Forward Fold
Stand with your feet hip width apart with toes facing forward, knees slightly bent. Fold down at your waist as you exhale. Let the body hang for a few breaths, you will feel the back of your legs opening. 

Phew! Feels so much better. I hope this helps! 

What do you do to relax and release the tension?
xo, Zuma A.

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