When you’re feeling stressed, your body tenses up as a reflex reaction. Imagine a tug of war between muscle and mind. As your body succumbs to the stress, it creates tightness in your neck and shoulders. And if you’re guilty of sitting all day? Expect a stiff back and shortened hip flexors.
But instead of taking a few minutes to relax with a meditation, stretch into zen with this two-minute yoga flow. “Taking short movement breaks improves all body and mind functions,” says Kristin Condon, yoga instructor. Even better: “Get creative! Make shapes and get silly,” Condon says. “It helps to change your perspective and gets your body moving in new ways.”
Stretch Into Zen with This 2-Minute Yoga Flow
Condon’s meditative flow includes three poses that’ll help you bring awareness to tense areas in your body and learn how to use your breath to release them. The result? You’ll feel more relaxed, rejuvenated — and ready to tackle the tasks ahead of you.
Condon recommends starting this flow in the crescent lunge (high lunge) to stretch your legs, align your spine and build balance. “This is a wonderful counter pose after long hours of sitting at a desk, where you’re probably hunched over a computer,” Condon says. Take three to five breaths for each pose and remember to keep breathing as you transition.
1. Crescent Lunge
This heart-opening pose will help you lift tightness out of your chest, while stretching your back and legs and testing your balance.
How to: Standing with your feet hip-width apart, step your right foot forward, aligning your right knee directly over your heel. Keep your left foot behind with your heel lifted, but your toes firmly on the ground. Stand with your torso upright, and clasp your hands together behind you at your low back. Deepen the stretch by extending your back, bringing your shoulders down and lifting your chest to the sky. Look upwards and take a few breaths.
2. Warrior III
Want to command in the boardroom? This pose gives you the backbone to by working your entire posterior, which has a tendency to weaken when sitting for hours on end. “Be an office warrior while you let go of work-induced stress and anxiety with this pose that grounds, focuses and energizes,” Condon says.
How to: From the high lunge position, balance your weight on your right leg and lift your left leg up so it becomes parallel to the ground. Flex your left foot and imagine pressing the wall behind you. Keep your hips square as you bring your torso forward and extend your arms out in front of you. You can bring your hands together and point your index fingers forward or have them in mudra (prayer). Hold this pose for about 30 seconds before releasing back to a crescent lunge and bringing your left foot forward to meet your right foot.
3. Side Bend
The key to getting the most out of this pose is to draw energy up from the ground through your inseam, torso and out of your pointer fingers, Condon says. “Lateral bends help with breathing by stretching the intercostal muscles. Better breath means more oxygen in your blood and in your brain, which relieves stress,” she notes.
How to: Place your feet and hands together in mountain pose (tadasana) and interlace your fingers. Point your index fingers up to the sky. While your feet stay firmly on the ground, take a gentle bend to your left side, inhaling and exhaling for five breaths before switching sides.