Yoga can be highly beneficial for both your physical and mental health. Here are some tips to get you started!
Yoga for Physical Health
Yoga is incredibly beneficial for stretching muscles, gaining flexibility, and staying healthy. Plus, it can conveniently be done right in your home. While there are many different yoga positions and techniques, here are some basic exercises we recommend to get you started:
- Surya Namaskar: This exercise is commonly used in India and involves strengthening your back, leg, and arm muscles – it’s a wholesome yoga exercise. For instructions, watch this YouTube tutorial.
- Back Stretches: These are the most basic back exercises out there. Start with your palms together in a “namaste” in front of you, standing with feet together. Raise both arms (you can break the namaste pose) above your head. Bend your arms and back in a curve to the left and hold. Repeat this to the right and hold. Lower your arms till they’re parallel to the floor, stretched out straight to either side of you and hold. Finally, lower your arms, placing your hands on your hips and bend backwards and hold. When you’re just getting started, you might only be able to hold these for 20 seconds each, but as you build up stamina, you can hold these positions for longer and longer. (Disclaimer: ask your doctor – if you have back/spine problems, these may aggravate them!)
- Leg Stretches: Start with your palms together in a “namaste” in front of you. Lunge forward with your right leg and hold. Then switch to your left. Stand up again and this time lean forward till one of your hands touches the floor and your back is parallel to the floor. One of your legs should be standing on the floor while one leg stretches out behind you to balance this pose. Try this on both legs. Finally, stand with your feet a few feet apart and start bending your knees while keeping your back straight and hold. As you start holding these positions longer, your legs will become more flexible/toned.
These exercises are obviously not all of them out there but are a great way to start. If you only have five minutes a day to go through exercises, you can quickly run through these. If you want to mix up what you do every day, try out this free thirty-day program we recommend.
Yoga for Mental Health
The physical practice of yoga in itself cannot save you from contracting diseases. But it can help you stay healthy and balanced. Here are the four basic features of yoga:
- Yoga is not just a satisfying workout through asanas (postures). It is the practice of transformation through self-inquiry, the effective use of your creative energy, self-forgetting, discipline, and much more.
- Yoga helps you realize who you truly are. It took seven complete strangers (other yoga students) to help me (Ritika) recognize that I am pretty introverted and learn to accept that because I was a learned extrovert for my sales job.
- Non-Violent Communication (NVC): Project your feelings when you’re offended, hurt, even happy. If you internalize your emotions and stress, your body will keep score. It took throwing up all night, after being in fish pose for 15 minutes during a Yin Yoga practice, to realize this (Ritika). My body was fed up of internalizing. Yoga has its way of detoxifying the body.
- Activity Means Life Force: Inactivity and the lack of exercise literally “dries up” the capillaries. This restricts the flow of nutrients to your organs, thus hampering the ability to look or feel younger as you age. Yoga can help you look and feel younger and your muscles more supple.
Absolutely nothing can be accomplished through stagnancy. According to Dr. John Schindler, every human has six basic needs: Love, Security, Creative Expression, Recognition, New Experiences, and Self-Esteem. Through yoga for mental health, you can fulfill these needs.
- Visualize. Picture a goal you have in mind and imagine yourself already accomplishing that goal. This will cultivate that “winning feeling.” Without a goal, or a “project,” life becomes meaningless. Ideally, this can be done before going to bed at night.
- Meditate. “First, love yourself,” said Buddha, “and then just watch.” Meditation is imperative. If you can’t meditate, you don’t love yourself. You don’t have to close your eyes, you don’t have to make steely attempts at concentration, or even keep your back militarily straight.
- Practice gratitude, as a form of self-care. Try to reflect on 5–10 reasons why you’re grateful for today. It can be as small as having a roof over your head. Try doing this everyday for 21 days (the habit-forming time frame).
- Flex your muscles with empathy and vulnerability. When checking in with anyone and especially those affected by the circumstances, be specific with your questions, especially if the person you are reaching out to is grieving.
“How are you today?” vs. “How’s it going”/ “How are you?”
Get over yourself and make a spontaneous call. Ask the coworker you barely know how their family is doing.