Yoga is everywhere right now – you see it advertised at the mall, it’s at your gym, it’s even making appearances in car insurance and laundry soap commercials. Why you ask? The increasing stress level of our high-tech lives has lead people in search of potent stress-relieving activities. Plopping on the couch for a 3 hour Netflix binge just isn’t cutting it for most of us.
On top of this, the body of research behind yoga is undeniable. When compared to traditional exercise (cardio and weight training), some studies have found yoga to:
- Increase flexibility by 22%
- Significantly decrease disability, pain, and depression after 6 months of practice in those with chronic low-back pain
- Increase function after 12 weeks in those with recurring low-back pain
- Decrease need for oral diabetic medication
- Improve HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
So give it a try! Most gyms offer a few classes each week, and almost all local yoga studios in the Omaha area allow you to try your first class for free. Look for classes with words like basic flow, yoga 101, yin or restorative – these will be beginner level classes.
Not ready to don brightly patterned tights and head to a studio?
Here are 5 yoga poses that anyone can do anywhere, no experience required:
1. Forward fold (utanasana) – With bent knees and active legs, forward fold over your knees and hang gently, releasing any tension in your neck and face muscles. (Increases energy, changes perspective, stretches the low back and hamstrings)
2. Easy seat (sukhasana) – Sit gently with ankles crossed or one ankle in front of the other. Relax the shoulders downward, relax knees toward the earth, and reach the crown of the head upward. (Opens hips, strengthens core, meditative)
3. Bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana) – Lay on your back with soles of the feet planted on the ground, knees pointed up. Press down through the feet and lift your seat up off the ground. Hold. (Strengthens quads and hamstrings, stretches front side of the body).
4. Child’s pose (balasana) – Start on hands and knees. Bring your big toes to touch, widen your knees, and press your hips gently back to your heels. Rest your forward on the earth or a pillow, and allow your arms to stretch forward. (Opens hips and chest, allows the mind to turn inward).
5. Tree pose (vriksasana) – Standing tall, bring your hands to your hips. Ground down through the right foot, and gently rest the left foot against your right heel. If this is easy, bring the left sole of the foot to the right shin. Keep the chest and crown of the head lifting upward. (Strengthens core, improves balance and focus).
Don’t forget to breathe!