Created over 5,000 years ago in Northern India according to yogabasics.com, yoga marries strength, balance and mindfulness of the body. This means that it benefits not only your bod, but your brain as well, making it the perfect active study break after you’ve been sitting for hours.
Best of all, the poses below can be performed by a beginner with no experience. Those interested in a longer session should check out the classes at the Wallman Wellness Center, as well as the many ones offered around town. If you prefer to practice alone, Yoga With Adriene is a great YouTube channel with tons of free lessons — it’s where I got my start!
Below are my top five poses to combat dead/finals week stress.
Extended Child’s Pose
A modification of regular Child’s Pose, this move is great for stretching out tired, tense shoulders. To get into this position, come to your hands and knees on the floor. Spread your knees as wide as the yoga mat, or a little wider than your hips if you do not have one. Then slowly come back onto your lower legs while stretching your arms out, palms to the earth. Rest your forehead on the floor and hold the pose for five breaths.
There is no excuse for this move — you can literally do it lying on your bed. Simply scoot your booty up to the wall while lying down and stretch your legs up. Try to straighten them out, but don’t force the stretch. Spread your arms wide to either side and feel the blood run down your legs. This popular move is said to help move blood and lymph drainage back to the heart. Hold this for five to ten deep breaths.
These two poses are great for the back and spine, especially when coupled. Come to your hands and knees, starting with a straight back. To move into cat, arch your back and move your head towards the floor, while trying to keep your neck long. Breath out as you do this to get your blood flowing. Then come to Cow by slowly reversing the posture, so that your head reaches towards the sky and your back makes a concave curve. Breath in, and repeat this sequence five times.
Downward Facing Dog
This is the classic yoga move and an essential part of the Sun Salution flow. It has many purported benefits, including mood improvement, energy increase and fatigue relief, according to yogajournal.com. At any rate, it is excellent for stretching arms and legs, as well as a great gentle strength move.
To do it, come to a plank position, with your arms extended so your palms are supporting your weight. Then lift your booty up toward the sky and your chest gently downward so you get a great stretch in the shoulders. Pedal your feet for added stretching. Hold for five breaths.
Standing Forward Bend to Mountain Pose
Part of the Sun Salution, a yoga sequence used to get the blood flowing early in the morning (or whenever, really), these two poses form the perfect break from sitting. By transitioning between touching your toes and standing up straight, it really gets the blood flowing and builds heat in your core.
To start, stand with your feet together and reach down towards your toes. If you cannot touch them, that is totally fine! Keep your knees loose, avoiding locking them. Then rise up slowly, curling your spine. Keep your arms loose by your sides as you come to the top to stand straight with your head stretched towards the sky. Rotate your shoulders if it feels good. Do this three to five times, breathing out as you go down and in as you head back up again.