NAMASTE THE STRESS AWAY
8 poses to open your lungs and help you stay calm and strong as we head into flu (and coronavirus) season.
While I do not clam to be a yogi by any means, I am aware of all the spiritual, mental and physical benefits of yoga. Many times I have placed myself into Child's Pose or Balasana, either as a time out, to stretch my back or to improve my digestion. But the purpose of this blog is because I noticed or should say I can feel the immense amounts of stress in the air right now. So I felt a calling to do a bit of research and share what I feel are a few or 8 of my favorite yoga poses that will help you stay calm and strong during this time we are in right now.
Slow, rhythmic yoga not only relaxes the body and mind, but certain poses can also release congestion and enhance overall well-being. Relaxation and stress reduction have actually been linked to a stronger immune system. Worried about all the bugs and viruses going around nowadays? Try the following postures to stay healthy and calm.
Before you begin: Gather your props: two blocks, one strap, one bolster, two blankets, and an eye pillow. Don't worry if you don't have these props, these poses can be modified to fit your needs and comfort level. Warm up with 1-2 rounds of slow, rhythmic Moon Salutations.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)
Stand with your feet about 4 feet apart. Interlace your fingers behind your back (or use a strap), and straighten your arms. Fold forward, lifting your arms up toward the ceiling. Keep the weight evenly distributed in your feet, with the legs engaged. Breathe deeply, inviting your chest to open and lungs to clear. This inversion can be wonderful for draining mild chest congestion (excess kapha dosha). With each exhalation, loosen up and invite the day’s tension to release.
Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana (Revolved Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)
From Wide-Legged Forward Bend, place your left hand on a block (or a stack of blankets) at a comfortable height, in line with your sternum. Twist to your right, ensuring an even spiral from the tailbone through the back of the neck. Direct 3-6 deep breaths into your side ribs—inviting the intercostal muscles to loosen and the lungs to open. This is an excellent pose for removing tension and congestion from the chest! Carefully unwind and repeat on the other side.
From Tabletop, curl your toes under, and bring your inner feet to touch. Spread your knees wide, sit back on your heels, and raise your arms overhead. Interlace your fingers and turn your palms toward the sky. Soften your shoulders, tuck your chin, and pull your belly in. Breathe evenly into your side rib cage, gently stretching your intercostal muscles and airing out the lungs. Hold for 6–10 deep breaths. This simple pose tends to be quite challenging as heat and sensation build in the feet and legs. Try to soften in order to receive the enhanced warmth, circulation, and alertness. Mindfully release back to Tabletop.
Balasana (Child’s Pose, variation)
From hands and knees, lower your hips onto your heels, and press back to Child’s Pose with straight arms. Walk your hands to the left until you feel a good stretch along your right torso. Gently breathe into your right side ribs to loosen and stretch the side torso. Hold for 6-10 soothing breath cycles. Invite your entire body to soften and relax. Repeat on the other side.
This warming inversion helps drain excess lung congestion (kapha dosha) while developing arm strength. With your forearms grounded, spine straight, and legs lengthening down through the heels, close your eyes and take 3-6 deep, full-body breaths. Keep a tissue handy to clear out mucus from the lungs and sinuses after you come out of the pose. Explore the enhanced openness of the breath! (Note: avoid during sinus infection.)
Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose)
Keep a strap (or belt) handy. Sit with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and lower it to the floor, placing the sole of your right foot on your left inner thigh. Bring your left hand to your right knee and your right hand to the floor by your right hip, twisting to the right. Elongate both sides of your torso, then extend your right arm alongside your right ear and move into a side bend, reaching for your left foot (or use a strap wrapped around your foot). Take the inside of your left foot with your left hand, and turn your chest toward the ceiling. Breathe fully into your left rib cage for 3–6 breaths. Then, carefully release your left foot and sit up. Repeat on the other side. This twisting side bend is a challenging pose—great for opening the chest, stretching the legs, and enhancing pranic circulation. And please do not worry if you can not get all the way into the pose. I know I can't! It is all about stretching and making slow progress.
Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose)
Purvottanasana is an excellent pose for opening your chest and freeing your lungs! From seated Staff Pose (Dandasana), place your hands on the floor behind your hips with fingers pointing toward your seat. Lift your hips, and press the balls of your feet into the floor. If comfortable, drop your head back. Take 3-6 deep breaths, allowing your front ribs to gently flare as your body warms up from this strength-building pose. This pose helps counter the tendency to round the spine during daily tasks, like typing, sitting, and driving. Though it’s a challenging pose, the afterglow tends to promote deep relaxation and ease.
Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose, supported)
Stress can wreak havoc on your immune system, so soothing the nervous system and calming the mind is key to overall health. Place a folded blanket at the top of a bolster or stack of pillows or seat cushions. Sit between your heels with the bolster behind you, and lie back on it, head resting on the blanket. Make sure to stay warm—cover up with a blanket before melting into this rejuvenating pose. Cover your eyes. Turn your palms up. Hold for 1-3 minutes, doing a gentle but deep full yogic breath to promote good circulation. Gently release.
As with any type of exercise or physical movement, please make sure you consult your doctor and also listen to your body. Please stay hydrated before and after trying any of these poses and you will be releasing toxins from within and will need to flush them out. And of course, please stay healthy and keep your family healthy.