4 Benefits of Yoga You Might Not Be Aware Of
There's a lot to be gained from practicing yoga, and we're not just talking flexibility.
“The main obstacles to a deep sleep are tension in the body and an overactive mind,” says Kim Gold of Still Mind Yoga in White Plains. Gold suggests trying the “Standing Forward Fold.”
1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart.
2. Lift all 10 toes and then set them down one by one.
3. Inhale fully through your nose.
4. As you exhale through your nose, bend your knees deeply and fold forward.
5. Let gravity relax your shoulders, neck, head, and facial muscles.
6. Imagine your cares spilling over your back and into the earth.
7. Shake your head “yes” and “no” for three breaths.
8. Slowly make your way up to standing.
Stressed? Sleepless? Overwhelmed? Gold recommends “ending your day with gratitude” and says that “staying simple and tangible has a grounding and relaxing quality, bringing you into the present moment.”
Step 1: Lie in bed and close your eyes.
Step 2: As you feel your body resting on the mattress, feel a sense of appreciation for that.
Step 3: As you feel each simple, tangible thing, register a heartfelt sense of gratitude: for the blankets, for the air flowing in and out of your body, for your heartbeat, for your body.
Step 4: Luxuriate in this sense of mindfulness and gratitude until you become drowsy.
Force a Laugh
The physical and emotional benefits of laughter, like improving mood and energy levels and keeping your body oxygenated, are well documented. And, according to science, the benefits are the same even when the laughter is intentional, voluntary, forced — or “fake.” Hence, Laughter Yoga.
“When you’re laughing, you’re taking in and expelling a lot of air, and endorphin levels rise,” says Patricia Fischer, proprietor of Riverstone Yoga in Tarrytown. “You basically have to fake it until you make it,” she advises.
While it may seem strange at first: “You will soon find yourself laughing in spite of yourself — it’s contagious.”
Strike a Pose to Strengthen Your Back
Mamaroneck yoga instructor Tobi Kundid, owner/director of Tovami Yoga Studio, offers three easy poses that will strengthen your back.
1. Cat/Cow — Begin on all fours, hands under the shoulders, knees hip-width apart. “Exhale, and round the spine, drawing the navel in; drop the chin and press the floor away with your hands. Inhale, drop the belly, and lift the chin, keeping the spine long.” Repeat 3-5 times.
2. Balancing Table — all fours: “Press into the floor with hands and shins, drawing the navel toward the spine.” Lift your right leg up behind you, parallel to the floor, and flex your toes toward the floor. Then stretch your left arm out in front of you. Hold for 30 seconds.
3. Cobra — “Lie on your belly, reach legs behind you, hands under the shoulders.” Point toes back, and press the tops of your feet into the floor. Then, press your hands into the floor, lifting the upper body. “Hug elbows toward your body, and draw your shoulders away from your ears.” Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
The Five Tibetan Rites is a 2,500-year-old exercise system thought to increase strength, fitness, and energy levels. The series includes torso twisting, recumbent leg raises, kneeling back stretches, hip- and torso-elevation exercises, and repeated downward dogs. The complete cycle takes five to seven minutes and may be repeated.
Yoga teacher and Feldenkrais instructor Annegret Wolf Rice of White Wolf Studios in Sleepy Hollow says the system “is vigorous, addresses every muscle in the body and clears the lymph system. It’s a great sequence to practice in the morning!”