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Lack of control is stressful

With so many changes ongoing in our communities, you may have started to notice subsequent stress in your body. Tight muscles, stiff joints, clenched jaw, aching back, tossing and turning in bed.

 While there is much beyond our control, we can control our attention. It’s important to take time to focus inward with compassion to reduce stress and recenter. Yoga is an effective tool to aid you in this process.

As you gently move through the yoga poses below, focus your attention on your breath, your movements or your surroundings to remain present. Center your thoughts on the healthy, mindful choice you’re making.

Notice how your body feels in each position without judgment. It is okay for a muscle to feel tight or to shake in a pose that’s challenging. If you find yourself feeling frustrated or angry, try engaging your abdominal or glute muscles more.

Chair Pose

  1. Begin in a standing position with your feet together. You can bring your heels apart slightly.
  2. Gaze straight ahead, pull your shoulder blades together and lift your arms directly overhead. Be sure to keep your shoulders pulled down away from your ears.
  3. Focus on opening your chest. Allow the front of your body to stretch out. This area can become tight from working at a computer and reading.
  4. Engage your abdominal muscles.
  5. Sit your hips back and engage your glute muscles to keep your hips, knees and ankles aligned. Try to keep your knees behind your toes.
  6. Remember – only sit as low and you can maintain the correct posture. Be gracious to your body for what it can do today.
  7. Gaze ahead and focus on breathing slowly and deeply.

Tree Pose

  1. Begin in a standing position with your feet together.
  2. Gaze straight ahead and pull your shoulders down and back. Engage your abdominal muscles to stabilize your posture.
  3. Prepare to stand on your left leg by shifting your weight to your left foot and engaging the muscles in the back of your hip and front of your thigh. This engagement keeps your hip, knee and ankle in line, protecting the lower extremity.
  4. Lift your right leg and place your foot on the inside of your inner thigh or shin. Do not place your foot directly against your knee.
  5. Rest your arms at your sides or press your palms together at your chest in a prayer.
  6. Gaze straight ahead and breathe slowly and deeply.
  7. Gently lower your foot and repeat on the other side.

Warrior II

  1. Begin in a standing position. Step your right foot forward about four feet and bend your right leg to enter a lunge position. Keep your back leg straight.
  2. Use your glute muscles to keep your hips in line with each other and your knee stacked over your ankle. Make sure you can see your toes beyond your knee.
  3. Point your front foot forward and turn your back foot toward the side at about a 45-degree angle.
  4. Engage your abdominal muscles. Turn your torso so your chest faces the left.
  5. Lift your arms into a T shape, parallel with the floor and at an even height with your shoulders. Reach your right arm toward the front of the room, and reach your left arm to the back of the room.
  6. Relax your shoulders down to elongate your neck.
  7. Gaze straight ahead and breathe slowly and deeply.
  8. Gently lower your arms and return to a standing position. Repeat on the other side.

Cat Cow

  1. Begin on your hands and knees with hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.
  2. Keep your arms straight and pull your shoulders down, away from your ear lobes. Gaze downward and hold your head in a neutral position.
  3. Cat pose: Inhale as you drop your belly toward the floor. Lift your chin and chest and gaze upward. Pull your shoulder blades down, away from your ears.
  4. Cow pose: As you exhale, draw your belly toward your spine and arch your back up toward the ceiling. Gently drop the crown of your head toward the floor.
  5. Continue to move through cat and cow poses as you inhale and exhale. Repeat 5-20 times.

Child’s Pose

  1. Begin on your hands and knees and push your hips backward onto your heels.
  2. From this kneeling position, lower your chest toward the ground and extend your arms forward. Allow your thighs and the ground to support the front of your body.
  3. Walk your hands over to the right, stretching the left side of your body.
  4. Slowly walk your hands through center and to the left to repeat the stretch on the right side of your body.

Bird Dog

  1. Begin on your hands and knees with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades back and down your back. Reach the crown of your head forward and gently gaze just in front of your hands.
  3. Engage your abdominal muscles and draw your bellybutton toward your spine.
  4. Extend your right leg behind you and use your glute muscles to lift your foot off the ground. Think about reaching through your toes.
  5. At the same time, extend your left arm in front of you. Keep your shoulder back and down.
  6. Return to your hands and knees. Repeat with your left leg and right arm.

Figure Four

  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees to place your feet flat on the floor. Keep your heels close to your hips.
  2. Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
  3. Interlace your hands behind your left thigh. Lift your left leg to stretch the back of the hip.
  4. Return both feet to the ground. Repeat on the other side.

Mary Jean McKinnon, PTA, is a physical therapy assistant with OrthoCarolina’s SouthPark Physical & Hand Therapy office. 

We're here to help you stay healthy, informed and uplifted as we navigate unprecedented change in our communities together. 

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