Almost every one of my 17 blog readers (Yaaayyy! Thanks, guys!) is either a teacher or a parent of a school-aged child. This time of year is brutal. Bah-ru-tal. School is almost out, but not quite. Everyone is FINISHED. Teachers, students, and parents alike are worn out. School is really great (right everyone?), but the end of May and beginning of June are the weary times.
Since I'm in the same boat as the rest of you in this situation, I've been playing around with some stress-busting, energizing, and mood enhancing good yoga ju-ju. Does anyone out there need any of that? Thought so. As with any form of exercise, check in with your doctor before beginning if you haven't already. For these poses below, especially proceed with caution if you have back or dizziness issues.
Below are three poses to help you to chase away the end of the school year stress and to invite some energy into your body and mind. Even if you are not in the end of the school year scene, these poses are good for any lessening stress and inviting energy. Let me know how it goes for you in the comments below, if you are so inclined.
Seated Twist (Marichyasana III) - Twists are great for reducing stress. I like to think of them as wringing myself out to get rid of what is bothering me. That's not quite how it works, but all the same, twists are good to reduce stress. For this one, begin in a seated position with your legs out straight. Bend one leg and bring it over the other, keeping your foot of your bent leg flat on the floor. The foot of the straight leg is flexed with toes spread apart. Inhale and lengthen your spine (don't arch your back). On the exhale, begin to twist at your belly button toward the bent leg. On each inhale, lengthen. On each exhale, deepen the twist. You can hug the bent knee with the opposite arm, if you'd like, or you can place your arm like Aidan has his. Stay within a level of twistiness that is not painful. Take 4 or 5 nice, deep breathes here. On an inhale, turn back to the front and come out of the twist. Repeat on the other side.
Halfway Forward Fold (Monkey) - Forward folds are said to be energizing. This pose is half of what you could do. The fullness of the stretch wakes you up, and the forward folding increases blood flow to your brain. I'll run you through the whole little sequence. Start standing tall on an inhale with a long spine (no arching that back) and lengthen more as you inhale. On the exhale, fold foward at your hips. Bring your fingertips to the ground, bending the knees if necessary. The purpose is to bring your belly toward your thighs (not to bring your nose to knees). You hopefully feel a nice stretch here. If this is too much for you on any given day, back off. Only fold to where you feel a nice stretch. Breathe here for a couple of breath cycles. Then, on an inhale, lift halfway to Monkey (like Delaney below). Notice how her feet are parallel and toes are pointed forward. Your hands are on your shins (or fingertips in front of you on the floor), back is flat, and gaze if forward. Exhale back to forward fold, if desired. On an inhale and with a flat back, rise to standing straight, arms above head. Exhale arms to sides. Energy! (And you can do this one anywhere....ignore the looks from co-workers. They are just jealous of your mad yoga skills.)
Cat / Cow - Love this one. There are so many benefits to gain with it. And it's pretty simple. The deep breathing that goes along with this pose promotes calmness. It is also good for relieving stress in your shoulders and back. Cat / Cow is said to be good for digestion and to alleviate menstrual cramps. Start in Table Pose. Wrists are under shoulders with fingers pointing forward. Spread your fingers and evenly distribute your weight throughout each hand. Knees are apart so that they are situated under the hips. On an inhale, push away from the ground to round the back. Head drops toward chest. This is the Cat part of the pose. Exhale and hips come down, shoulders go back, chest goes forward, and head goes up. Your belly drops as you move into this pose. This is the Cow part of the pose. With slow, deep breaths, move back and forth from Cat to Cow a few times. A note: Aidan's hands are farther apart than you would want them to be. Also, I don't curl my toes under like he's doing. (I do my best to ignore the cat and cow noises that my kids like to make while I do these poses. No one steals my om.)
These were three basic poses to help you survive the end of the school year. If you need a little more, I'm here and happy to help. Next week, I want to share some of what I learned in Costa Rica last week and to offer some help with hip tightness. Desk sitters, commuters and people who drive for their job, runners, and just about everyone can benefit from some good hip opening poses. So, you have THAT to look forward to until next time. :) Wishing you a happy Memorial Day, a peaceful end to the school year, and / or a lovely entrance to summer!