Do you feel sluggish and in need of a wellness recharge? Yoga instructor, CrossFitter and long distance runner, Jenni Tarma, provides tips on how to stay grounded and energized each day through mind-centering yoga poses.
Let’s be realistic: modern life is hectic, and most of us deal with some fairly intense demands on our time and energy each day. Simply navigating the overstimulation and stress of a normal workday can easily turn you into a braindead zombie by dinner time. There are people, though, who appear to make their way through the world in a seemingly unflappable state of zenlike calm, casually brushing annoyances aside. How is that? Well, although these people (probably) aren’t actual zen masters, they are tapping into some special skills to stay grounded in circumstances that would have most of us frazzled and wiped out. The good news is that that the operative word here is “skill,” meaning anyone can learn this and hone it over time. So, how do we stop wasting our psychological energies on needless stress and frustration? The key lies in learning to find contentment in the present moment, rather than automatically disconnecting from unpleasant situations and wishing yourself somewhere else. To quote Eckhart Tolle: “Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’”. In other words, resisting reality is a bad habit that produces stress and psychological friction by taking you out of the present moment. Of course, nipping this kind of negative thinking in the bud is much easier said than done: accepting that you are stuck in traffic doesn’t change the maddening reality that you will probably be late to your appointment. What you can control, though, is your own reaction to the situation. Option A is to allow your frustration and anger to build until you feel ready to explode. Option B is taking a deep breath, and acknowledging that even though things aren’t exactly going as planned, you are nonetheless doing your best amidst circumstances that you cannot control. Yoga is just one of many powerful tools we can use to stay connected to the present moment and help encourage feelings of equanimity even in the most trying situations. The point of yoga is not to be able to contort yourself into a human pretzel, even though that may well be a byproduct of a regular practice. The poses are tools, and their purpose is to help you connect to the moment, effectively grounding you in your current reality, free of the distractions and hypothetical scenarios which otherwise gobble up your mental energy. Balancing poses are especially great for reining in a busy mind: even a brief lapse in focus may cause you to lose your balance, effectively forcing your awareness back to what’s happening at that very instant. Here’s a couple of poses that I like to bust out when I’m feeling frayed around the edges, or just in need of a moment to gather and compose myself. The main thing is to observe what’s happening, and notice how you feel: are you distracted? sluggish? hyperalert? Is the pose easier on one side than the other? Try not to judge or change anything; let it be what it is, and focus back on the simple experience of being in the pose and in your body. Even a few minutes of mindfully recentering like this should leave you feeling a little calmer and at ease.
This commanding pose is all about tapping into your inner warrior power! Step your feet 34ft wide, front foot pointing directly forward, and knee tracking over the toes. Your back foot will be pointing slightly out to the side; press down strongly through the pinky edge and heel. Ground down powerfully through both legs and feel your torso rise, expand and lighten. Lengthen up through the spine as you inhale both legs and feel your torso rise, expand and lighten. Lengthen up through the spine as you inhale deeply, root down through the feet as you exhale. Focus your gaze in front of you, widen your arms like wings, and let the shoulders relax. Stay for 5 or more breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Strength is nothing without flexibility! Think about it this way: a tree roots down in order to be sturdy, but also bends in the breeze without snapping. Ground yourself like the mighty oak, and then let the wind of your annoying boss/ delayed flight wash over you like it’s no big deal! Your lifted foot can be positioned inside the ankle, calf, or inner thigh; just avoid the vulnerable knee joint here. Imagine your standing foot sending its roots down as your upper body gets tall. Bonus points for growing some branches by lifting your arms out to the sides or overhead. Don’t worry if you fall out of the pose. Repeat on the other leg; zone out for as long as you like.
This one will focus your attention like a laser beam anytime you’re feeling sluggish, and the chest opener feels fantastic after sitting at a desk or driving. From standing, bring one heel to your sitting bone, and grab hold of the inner or outer edge of your foot, whichever feels more comfortable. Square your hips and chest forward, engage your lower belly and gently lengthen your tailbone towards the floor; all of this will prevent your lower back from getting crunched or twisted. Inhale your free arm up, then hinge your torso forward as the lifted shin starts to kick back behind you. Don’t worry about making the pose picture-perfect; instead, focus on keeping the standing leg sturdy, the spine long, and the chest open. Slowly come out the way you came in, loosen up your standing leg a little shake, and repeat on the other side. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or just plain out of it, keep these balancing poses in mind to bring contentment into your daily life. By paying attention to how you feel, you empower yourself to take control of your well-being: re-establishing balance, peace and energy in both mind and body. Be sure to keep in mind proper eating strategies and exercise habits (stay tuned!) to feel & stay energized. Namaste!
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