3 Simple Poses For Peace And Calm
Photo by Viktor Gladkov, Illustrations by Jeffrey Longo
Did you know that just putting a smile on your face, even if it’s fake, can instantly raise your level of happiness? Yoga does that for your whole body. After a 60-minute class, you will come out smiling from head to toe.
You can start a personal home yoga practice of just 10-20 minutes per session with very little prep. Place your yoga mat on a carpeted space or use two mats to give extra padding for your spine. If you don’t own a yoga mat, just use a blanket on a carpeted space. Consider creating a designated calming space in your house where you can leave your mat spread out or folded up with the blankets if space allows. This will give you access to this peaceful oasis in your own house any time you want it.
It is important to be comfortable during yoga. Keep a few thick, extra blankets nearby when you are practicing to help support your neck, head, back, arms and legs comfortably in each pose. If it doesn’t feel good, adjust your body or add an extra blanket or two where support is needed until the pose feels comfortable. If it’s painful, skip it altogether.
During poses, do some deep breathing by using slow mental counting: breathe in to the count of four, breathe out to the count of six. This simple practice can help focus your mind better. At some point, the counting drops away and you can simply begin to notice the slow, smooth, effortless breaths coming and going through your body. Watch these breaths like you would watch ocean waves, sitting by the beach, without any judgment. Allow yourself to be present in each moment with each breath as you enjoy this process of connection between your body, breath and mind.
The following three simple poses can help encourage your body into a big, wide smile. Try one or more to help you feel stretched in a gentle way and filled with gratitude for the beautiful body that you have the privilege of owning.
- Start on your hands and knees. Keep a folded blanket under your knees to give them extra padding.
- Keep your knees wide and lower your hips towards your ankles. You can also use a folded blanket between your hips and ankles to make the pose more comfortable. Allow your belly to rest in between your legs.
- Keep your arms stretched out in front of you on your mat and bring your forehead to the ground. Use a blanket under your forehead if your head does not comfortably reach the ground. Alternatively, you can place your hands on top of each other with palms facing down, then rest your forehead on your hands.
- Bring your inner eye gaze to the center of your forehead and focus your attention on your breath. Simply observe the flow of breath in and out through the nostrils.
- Open and close your mouth a couple of times to release any tension from your lower jaw. Soften your facial muscles and let this smile spread to the rest of your body. Notice your shoulders, spine and hips beginning to relax.
- Stay in Child’s Pose as long as it feels good. To come out of the pose, get back onto your hands and knees and make gentle movements in your hips and neck.
- Lie down on your belly with arms crossed in front of you and your forehead resting on top of your hands. After 1-2 minutes of resting in this position, lift your head up a little bit and place your arms by your sides.
- With your legs together, squeeze your buttocks to keep the legs engaged. Feel your elbows gently pressing towards your hips. Feel your spine and neck reaching towards the top of the mat. Your neck should be in a comfortable, flat position, neither looking too far up nor down. This is a great pose to decompress and lengthen your lower back in a very gentle and controlled way.
- Stay in this pose for 4-5 deep breaths. See if you can manage a gentle smile on your face.
- To come out of this pose, lie down on your belly again, roll over to your side and then roll onto your back.
HAPPY BABY POSE
- Lie down on your back and bring your knees to your chest, holding them with your arms if you’d like. Rock side-to-side a few times massaging the spine and take some deep breaths.
- With your knees towards your chest, open them wide and bring your arms inside the knees.
- Grab hold of your ankles, or your feet if you can reach them, and spread them apart. Keep the ankles aligned with the knees. Feel your tailbone resting on the ground. This is a great pose to stretch and open the hip muscles, which in turn helps lengthen the spine.
- Keep a big smile on your face as you gently rock side-to-side or stay still. After 3-5 breaths, bring your hands down to your knees and rest your feet on the ground with your knees bent. Take a few resting breaths. Stay here as long as you want.
Start with these beginner-friendly poses at home or try out different classes and teachers to determine which style of yoga will have the most benefit for you.
Ritu Kapur is the owner of Sohum Yoga and Meditation studio in Westborough, MA. She has been working as an occupational therapist for 25 years and is a Registered Yoga Teacher. You can reach her at Ritu.Kapur@Sohum.org or visit www.Sohum.org.