Yoga and Stress

Yoga and Stress

My name is Mandi and I wanted to share how yoga has helped me manage my daily stress. I'm sure you have your own stress triggers, but this is a glimpse into how I manage mine.

I've always been fairly active, but noticed through school I was getting more stressed than usual. I was teaching yoga part time at a studio in the Twin Cities, and noticed after a class I would always feel so much more relieved than days that I was not teaching.

I started incorporating more and more yoga into my daily routine, practicing at home first thing in the morning. I was able to ride out my stressors throughout the day much better, and noticed a pattern: When I wasn't getting enough sleep, or not eating healthy, yoga helped calm me down. My mood would be better overall with more rest and nourishment. I want to share how you can manage your stress, too!

The first step is to find a time and place that works for you. Set realistic expectations for yourself and don't sweat it if you miss a day or two of practice- just start again the next day. It's easy to get discouraged when things don't go your way, and often we feel more stressed that things have been set back or not done at all.

Chances are you will be able to practice every day if you make it a priority and work around your life. It is always there for you- no matter what else is going on in the world or in your life. You can start with a few minutes or even just one pose.

Find the time and place that works for you, and make it happen every day if possible. As long as your heart is in it, you will see results!

It's true: You really can do yoga anywhere! Find what works best for you, where ever you are- set reminders on your phone to help make it a routine, even if it's just for 5 minutes at home or the office.

1 hour before class: Eat a small snack that is not going to upset your stomach (if you have any digestion issues, take note of how you are feeling when eating and find out what aggravates them and avoid these foods). Meditation practice on your own or with a guided meditation app can also help you prepare mentally. I love using the Calm app, it is very relaxing and has an excellent variety of guided meditations for whatever mood you are in.

2 hours before class: Write down 3 things that make you happy today- even if it's just taking time to enjoy your coffee before the day gets busy.

During class: You can get a lot out of just being in the moment, but if you want to use your practice as an emotional release, try this pose sequence and take it slow at first! Kneel with one knee length from your body and step back- make sure knee is directly above top of foot, and your knee is aligned with your ankle. Make sure you have a hand on the ground for support if needed. You should feel this in the hamstring of that standing leg- it can be hard to find balance when first starting out.

5 minutes into class: Half moon pose - This is my go-to pose for shifting my mood. From a squat, get into lunge position with one foot in front of the other. Slowly shift your weight to that back leg and reach the arm on the same side overhead (you can hold onto a chair for balance if needed). You should feel this stretch in the side of your waist. If you are feeling any discomfort- don't do it! There is no competition in yoga- we are all working towards figuring out our comfort level and what works for us. So, if you find this pose to be too intense today, move on!

10 minutes into class: Tree pose - Your balance might not be great in this one at first so make sure you have a hand on the ground if you need it! Bring one foot in towards your other leg, and balance on that side of your body. You are feeling this stretch in your abs and glutes. Try to keep yourself as straight up and down as possible. If you want a challenge, try reaching the opposite arm up to the sky!

30 minutes into class: Seated forward fold - This relieves tension in your neck and shoulders, as well as compresses the spine. It also allows you to take a break from all that standing! Sit down on the ground with legs outstretched in front of you. Bend over at your waist and hang loose with your hands placed on the floor.

4 hours after class: Eat a meal that is full of protein and is light enough not to cause you to feel weighed down. Something like chicken salad with rice or fish and some veggies will do the trick- stay away from eating anything spicy!

Post-class: After your yoga session, take time to reflect on what worked for you during your practice and also what didn't. What poses were you able to do with ease? Which ones gave you the most trouble and how can you make it easier next time?

Before bed: Stretch out again, like in seated forward fold just before class, but this time stand up tall when you feel a good stretch. Make sure to breathe through any discomfort.

I hope this helps you find the tools to make your yoga sessions more than just a workout! I also highly recommend talking to your teacher if you are having trouble connecting with classes- they can help you figure out what is going on in your practice and guide you towards finding what works for you.

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