10 Minute Yoga Sequence For Stress Relief

ten minute yoga sequence for stress relief

As we talked about earlier, yoga is more than asanas, the physical poses. While building strength in warrior I and defying gravity in headstand is awesome, it’s not the only reason people keep coming back for more. The empowerment and inner-peace you carry off of your yoga mat is what matters most. As always, consult with your doctor before participating in a new workout. While I’m a certified yoga teacher, respect your body and don’t push into positions that feel sharp or painful beyond the level of discomfort.

Now it’s time for the juicy stuff. Here are my top five poses to not only help you handle the stress you have, but prevent it from coming back. Ever.

Child's Pose
Child’s Pose

Oh yeah. Right into the good stuff. Child’s pose is golden on its own or in the middle of a sequence. In addition to being awesome for the nervous and lymphatic systems, child’s pose is a calming posture that helps quiet the mind, which in turn eases stress and gently releases pressure in the back. My favorite way is to keep the knees wide, let your belly drop down as you push your butt towards your heels. Your arms can be extended long with the elbows for a more active pose, or hand can lay down next to your heels to rest the shoulders.

Puppy Pose
Puppy Pose

Extended Puppy Pose is a great follow-up to child’s pose. Often times when too much is on our plate, we unknowingly tense our shoulders and totally abandon our posture. Not only does this crunch our midsection making it more difficult to breath, It also lower our confidence and strains our necks. Puppy pose reverses this damage. It releases the shoulders, where we hold our tension and our stress and lengthens our core to stretch the abdomen, helping us to keep this position when sitting upright. Push up into table top from child’s pose, keep your hips high as you lower your chest and chin down to the mat and walk your arms our straight ahead of you. Having your chin on the mat allows for a deeper shoulder stretch, but you can modify by placing your forehead on the ground instead for a less intense version.

Rabbit Pose
Rabbit Pose

The first time I did rabbit pose, I hated it. Knees pushed into my chest, top of my head crunched, difficulty getting air. The things that dreams are made of, right? No. But that’s the point. Rabbit pose teaches you to breath in tight spaces, to find comfort in being uncomfortable, which ultimately builds up your endurance in handling anxiety-causing situations. The longer you’re able to stay in the posture which brings on feelings of stress, the more you’re able to recognize it and turn inward to bring your anxiety back down. So the next time you’re boss is reaming you out and you feel like you’re suffocating, find ease in knowing that you’ve already practiced how to breath in distressing situations like this. From puppy pose, make your way back to child’s pose and reach your hands around to grab your heels. Place the top of your head on the mat with your forehead touching, or close to touching you knees. Gripping firmly to your feet, lift your hips up towards the sky. Hold for five to eight breaths, lower, and then repeat.

Eagle Pose
Eagle Pose

Eagle pose dependent on one’s concentration and balance, eagle pose forces us to focus on a single object, such as a point on the wall, in order to stay upright. This pose lends itself for when we are boggled down with a million things on our minds, in turn causing us to treat each task individually rather than drowning in to-dos. It teaches us to appreciate the single moment and not to plan for those ahead or worry about those behind. In addition, it also opens up the shoulders, upper back and hips, which can all carry tension unknowingly. To get started, plant down your left foot into the earth and slightly bend both your knees. Bring your right knee up over your left knee. You can double bind with the right ankle around the left calf, but it’s not necessary for the benefits. Right elbow comes underneath left elbow, palms of your hands together. Square your hips to the front of your mat and engage your core to prevent your butt from sticking out. Gaze to a spot in front of you to keep your balance. There’s also the option to take eagle post on your back as a modification.

Savasana
Savasana

Savasana, perhaps surprisingly one of the more difficult poses, considering we’re so used to being go go go that we can’t just be. By placing one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest, you connect to your breath and recognize the control you have over it. When we’re worried or overwhelmed, we’re like to shorten our inhales and exhales. With a hand over your belly, you can be sure to breath in deeply, hold, and then release. By altering the physical response (hyperventilating), we can change our emotional one (stressed). To get into savasana, lay on your back and let you feet fall to the sides. Scan your body from head to toe, surrendering to the position and letting go of any tension you feel (I often unknowingly flex my quads or neck instead of letting them hang heavy). And then, thank your body for carrying you through this practice and promise to come back to your mat the next time you feel your stress rising. Inhale peace, and exhale gratitude. Namaste.

YOGA UPDATES! Are you in the Washington, D.C. area? Do you have a pre-teen or teen that could benefit from practicing mindfulness and yoga (aka all of them!)? I’m offering a pre-teen to teen yoga summer camp at Your Life Energy that will focus on building strength, balance, flexibility and healthy habits for when kids need it most! Find out more info here.

Are you convinced yet? How has yoga improved your stress and overall well-being?

xx,
Juliette

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Why You Only Need To Take One Yoga Class, Ever

benefits of one yoga class

I’ve taken over 500 hundred yoga classes in my life, which might even be on the low end. But with all the yoga classes I’ve shown up to, none of them did more for me than the one where I unrolled my brand spankin’ new mat for the first time, still smelling of fresh rubber and plastic. You might be thinking, there’s no way a single 75 minute vinyasa flow could actually change your life. Yet, that’s exactly where you’re wrong. In fact, it’s only those 75 minutes that will change your life, the classes that follow are simply a continuation of the path you’ve started down. But if you never opt to enter a lavender-scented studio again, here’s why a single class is still worth your time.

Yoga offers a different work-out experience than other fitness classes. Depending on the type of yoga, you can build an unbelievable amount of strength, balance, and flexibility over time. In fact, one could argue that yoga is the only thing you need to stay in shape..but more on that later. Although the results are similar to other physical activities, yoga opens up your mind along with your body. Your first class is, often times, the first instance you view your body as vessel. Which means what, exactly? Well, while we know we have a mix up of bones holding us upright and blood streaming through our veins inside, yoga opens our eyes to the other parts. Ya know, the other things. It’s our bodies that hold our thoughts, our souls, our breath and all of our love (which can be heavy). They might not show up on an x-ray, but they’re in there, #trust.

When you’re on your mat, you are working on more than your physical presence. You’re working on how to use these other parts to make you better as a whole. When our breath matches our movement, when our thoughts reflect how we want to feel, when our love is for ourselves and not just given away, we are far more successful in whatever we wish to accomplish. And here’s the thing that yoga teachers don’t tell you—>Once you’ve opened up this new way of thinking, you can’t go back. You’ll be putting the same intention into all of your routines. Spin class? Are you inhaling strength and imagining your legs moving with ease? You will be now. Stressful meeting? Are you recognizing these feelings and working through them rather than pushing them away to only pop up later? You betcha.

utthita hasta padangusthasana
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (easier done than said)

You view your body as constantly evolving. Rather than always putting yourself at a beginning point and believing you can’t be content until you achieve x, y, and z, yoga meets you where you are. Every pose can be modified or amplified to fit you, not the other way around. One yoga class shows you how so little time can change so much. You’re beginning downward dog will be stiff, calves tighten, shoulders crunched, neck strained. And then, you do it again. And again. And by your fourth downward dog, yous heels dip a bit lower, your shoulders slowly sink away from your ears and you release your neck. An extended amount time is not always needed for growth and progress, just a little yoga-teacher-assist can change the entire way you view your body: the tensing up you have an idea you were doing, the habitual clenching you hadn’t bothered to notice.

You learn to do you best, and recognize how that will differ from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Your best is going to change, and that’s okay. The beginning of class your strength might allow you to hold you plank with the fierceness of a warrior king, but six chaturangas later your best might be belly-flopping to the ground #beentheredonethat. When you redefine ‘doing you best’, you can treat yourself with a gentleness and kindness that replaces the negative talk you have when you didn’t do what you *thought* you should be capable of doing. We are always capable, it’s the objective that you must allow to shift.

Lastly, yoga introduces you to the view that by working on yourself, you on working on everything around you. Your family, your friends, your community. Yoga itself means unity, and by finding the open parts of you and filling them up with the goodness, you are better able to serve yourself and  others. A sentiment I use often in my classes: you can not pour from an empty cup. Looking out for yourself is not selfish, but the most generous thing you can do.

Like a dam with a single crack that inevitably will open up for floods of water pouring out, yoga offers a similar experience within our bodies. Once we allow ourselves to crack, even just a little bit open, it’s hard, nah, impossible, to stop us from overflowing with the benefits yoga has for us.

Taking one yoga class opens all of these modes of thinking, about our bodies, our minds, and everything surrounding them. So even if you never roll out your mat again, you have created a passageway to viewing yourself, and others, with a kindness and sensitivity that can’t be undone. Even more likely, once you step off your mat, you’ll be counting down the minutes until you can step back on it. But hey, that could just be me.

Have you tried yoga? What’s the one thing stopping you if you haven’t? I’d like to know!

xx,
Juliette

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What is Mindfulness and How Do I Get It?

how to achieve mindfulness in your daily life

Capturing mindfulness is like the trying to get tickets to Hamilton. We know it exists, we know that we NEED it in our lives, but we’re not quite sure how to actually make it happen. To make up for it, we drop the idea of mindfulness like it’s the biggest buzzword since Paris Hilton coined “that’s hot”. But despite this sought after concept being forced into us with abstract instructions on how to achieve this elite state, we sit with our disgruntled souls pretending to be more aware of who we are.

Before we can even being to lead more mindful lives, we need to breakdown what it means, exactly, to encompass the teachings of mindfulness within ourselves. It’s vital to note that mindfulness is already within you, perhaps a little beaten down from life itself, but it’s there. Hidden behind the everyday stressers, the underlying fears of failure, and the never ending to-do lists, mindfulness is sulking in the background waiting for you to uncover it’s powers. Thus, this is not an effort to “fix” who you are, changing your personality to fit into the mold of the zenned-out yogi on the mat next to yours. No, mindfulness will look unique for each of us. Though made up of all the parts, it’s construction will be different in each body.

mindfulness

Think of those days where you wake up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, reach for your lukewarm coffee and drive to work. Suddenly, you sit down at your desk and can’t recall a single detail from the morning’s routine. How did your shampoo smell when you washed your hair? Did your coffee taste strong? Bitter? Did your significant other dress in a color that was perfectly reflected in his eyes? Were there clouds in the sky as you went to work?

Without mindfulness, this could sum up our whole lives. Little moments strung together with nothing but routine and order holding it together. And then, one day it’s over.

Scary, huh? So here we find the necessary steps it takes to become conscious and aware of our internal and external actions at any present moment in time. We recognize the good thoughts we have along with the bad ones and know they are simply passing through. We accept that we are human and it’s in our nature to think beautiful and ugly things…but it’s also within our power to accept what these ideas have offered to us, and pass them on without judging ourselves for what we are inclined to see as faults.

mindfulness

Avoid Multi-Tasking
Multi-tasking causes us to give little attention to numerous things, causing all of the above to be completed half-heatedly and without intent. Usually, it takes more time to jump back and forth between projects than it would to sit down and complete one before moving on. Instead of eating your lunch while checking your email, set your phone aside and notice the taste, texture and experience of the meal. When sharing time with others, use all of your sense to be invested in the conversation. Have your body towards your companions, keep your gaze from drifting off to the guy walking ahead of you, your ears away from the sounds of cars whizzing by.

Recognize Triggers
When you become more aware of your tendencies, you’ll start to notice certain triggers that cause you to lose touch with reality. Perhaps it’s a stressful conversation with your boss that causes you to fret about the future, or your schedule changes outside of your control and you can’t plan accordingly. Recognize that the unexpected will happen, do not judge yourself for feeling this pressure, and identify what is within your control. Comfort yourself in knowing that it is not possible to attend to tomorrow because it does not yet exist. Come back to the now.

Abolish Mind Stories
The triggers can lead to obsessive thoughts that can consume our entire mind, causing unneeded stress. Learn to determine what is a true event, and what is just a story you’ve created. Hint: anything in your mind that begins with ‘but what if this happens’, is not based in reality and can be let go. Breath in that you have these worries and breath out that this worry only exists in the mind and therefore can be left behind as you move forward.

Act Without Concern for the Outcome
With anxiety for the future, we start to hinder our actions because we are so concerned with their influence over what is yet to be. To truly be mindful in the moment, we need to detach from the end result. Act according to what is in your true nature in that moment, and let go of your expectation of how you think it should go. When we loosen our ideas of how the picture should look, we have the freedom to draw and paint and color outside of the lines as we please.

Create Habits in How and What You Think
Although it may take more than overnight for a quick turn around, acknowledge your habits and learn what cues you can use to come back to the present. Counting your breaths and listing what you see, hear, smell, touch, taste in the present can root you back to this moment in time and space. A mantra, such as ‘let go’ or ‘just now’ stated while breathing in and out can also bring you back to the now.

Mindfulness allows us to overcome anxiety and inner turmoil by letting us be accountable for this single moment without expectation for the minute that has passed and the minute that has yet to come. Using these steps is not a way to lengthen our days, but to deepen them, giving each second the attention it deserves.

mindfulness

How do you practice mindfulness?

xx,
Juliette

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