Anxiety Relief, Meditation, Self-Care
Why you should practice easy yoga everyday
|Posted by Jinnene| Photo by Ginny Rose Stewart on Unsplash
Try out a New Year’s resolution for all seasons: Practice easy yoga everyday.
One need not run in the field of natural health professionals to understand that yoga offers countless benefits. For decades, mainstream media has sung this ancient Indian practice’s praises: improved energy and sleep, aided heart health, back pain relief, enhanced strength and flexibility, reduced arthritis symptoms, deceased anxiety, depression and overall stress, and on goes the list.
On this front, and to get a vibe for the specific research, you might enjoy this article put out by University Health News entitled, “Yoga for Concentration, Cognition, and Memory: Studies Show It Works,” by Lisa Cantkier.
To be sure, we’ve seen yoga studios become fads, and online instruction videos pop up more in the last several years. Who wouldn’t want easier access to health benefits, with resources like affordable or even free yoga classes at their fingertips?
But despite that more and more folks (including children and men) are taking to yoga classes when they can, they might not yet be at the point where they can reap a fuller extent of what yoga has to offer. For example, regular focus and thus increased productivity may be easier to achieve with a yoga practice that’s carried out everyday.
The power of routine
In an article published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine entitled, “The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine,” Katherine R. Arlinghaus, MS, RD and Craig A. Johnston, PhD make a case for using daily routine as a preventative measure for what may become lifestyle disease later on in the aging process, versus waiting for the disease to show up, and then treating the condition.
While this isn’t new advice from doctors—Live a more healthy life, suffer less disease later—it’s interesting to learn what Arlinghaus and Johnston argue may allow individuals to take up more healthy daily habits: slow (or accessible) change to bring about healthier habits.
According to Arlinghaus and Johnston’s article’s abstract, instead of health care providers working to convey that change be immediate, they could work with patients to “develop a routine to slowly incorporate those changes.” The writers go on to suggest, “[this] perspective may enable greater long-term adherence to lifestyle change recommendations.”
In essence: we’re likely not readily going to do what’s hard, and we’re certainly not going to do it everyday. Yet we may have a higher likelihood of “success” toward improved daily habits if we change gradually over time, and make these changes minor.
Where yoga is concerned, if we’re hoping to reap its benefits, we’re best to do it on the reg, and simplify it while so doing.
Routine yoga should feel good
As we can tend to suffer as a culture from the cutthroat approach to living: Go big or go home, we may need to shift our perspective to cash in on said rewards.
I am certainly no stranger to this cutthroat paradigm, backwards that it may be, as I’ve spent a great deal of time in the “hot yoga” world: religiously practicing at Bikram studios in preparation for a marathon, triathlons and other high-endurance events.
Bikram, if you don’t know, is a style of yoga that is practiced as a stock set of postures in a heated room (105 degrees).
Unless you’re a hot temperature junkie (which I most certainly am not), this is an exceedingly difficult practice for two reasons: 1) the practice itself consist of some difficult shapes for certain bodies to get into, and 2) any form of exercise done in 105 degree heat would make a person run for the door.
At the time in my life stage that I was practicing this form of yoga, it must have been the right mix of challenge, discomfort, and pay-off, otherwise I never would have stuck with it.
Practice yoga with mindful intention
These days, I’ve become wiser about how I practice yoga. I find myself staying away from heated yoga entirely in favor of a more mindful Hatha practice, one that’s set at a pace slow enough for me to notice the minutiae of sensations that result from each movement.
Much to my chagrin, hot yoga studios have become wildly popularized far and wide. Some argue that it helps them “get into” postures more easily, while others claim it “helps them sweat,” which makes them feel they are doing something “good” for themselves.
My hope is that folks choose this practice because it feels good while they move through it, not because it’s trending, or because they’re addicted to this disillusioned message that occupies their thoughts: “anything worth its salt must be hard, and for the body to build strength, it must suffer.”
But what if yoga didn’t have to be hard? What if we could develop a routine that felt light and springy, one that was tailored to our individual needs?
How do we learn how to practice easy yoga daily?
I’m so glad you asked.
As a Yoga Alliance-certified, RYT-300 yoga instructor, I recommend that folks who practice yoga don’t do it to serve as their main cardio-vascular program, to change their physical image, or to yield cosmetic results, but rather to feel good from the inside out. In this way, one hones their ability to listen to what their body needs on a day-to-day level.
More specifically, a five-minute practice every morning is a great place to start. Wouldn’t you know it, Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene offers a YouTube video called, 5-Minute Morning Yoga. Check it out!
If watching videos isn’t your jam, and you know the basic yoga asanas (postures) for a Hatha yoga class you’d get in a modern yoga studio, you might try the following regime:
- easy seat (sukasana) for 1 minute, follow the breath
- simple neck rotations; tip chin to chest and trace the path of sternum (with your chin) from shoulder to shoulder (5-6 times)
- cat-cow rotations (5-6 times)
- child’s pose (include hip swaying if you like)
- low lunge to runner’s lunge (2-3 times of this dynamic motion)
- 1-3 sun salutations
- seated wide legged forward fold
If videos are your jam, please keep your eye out for short videos that I’ll soon be offering on the yoga pages of my website.
Listening in breeds success for an easy yoga practice
The key is to listen to how you feel when you practice yoga. For my own short morning practice, I move through a similar sequence that I’ve described above. If I don’t have the energy to move through the seven bullet points, then I simplify the practice.
Some days, I feel like I need more neck care, so I’ll spend more time there, and back off some of these other movements. Other days, I don’t want to do inversions (if I’m feeling weak or light headed), so I’ll chuck the downward dogs in favor of more postures in a seat.
Give yourself permission to listen to your body. The more you train the mind to operate in this way, the more you will want to return to the practice each day. Set yourself up for success. And always go easy.
If you have questions on any of this content, I’d love to hear from you–message me here. Let me know how you’re doing with your new intention to practice easy yoga everyday!
Castillo, Michelle. “Yoga may improve focus, ability to remember new things.” CBS News. 10 Jun. 2013.
Lott-Schwartz, Hannah. “4 Ways to Deepen Your Concentration and Improve Your Focus.” Yoga Journal. 5 Oct. 2018.
“2 Big Ways Yoga Improves Concentration and Focus.” Time to Log Off. n.d.