Yoga for Caregivers
Six Stress-Relieving Postures that Anyone Can Do
November is National Family Caregivers Month
For many caregivers, it’s easy to focus on taking care of others and forget about taking care of yourself. You intend to exercise, eat well, and make time for both you and your family and friends, but it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. And as far as planned activities like yoga classes? Forget about it! You barely have the bandwidth to take a walk around the block.
We understand, and we’re here to help. Yoga is one of the best practices in the world for our mind, body, and spirit, and you don’t need fancy clothes, expensive classes, or even much time to take advantage of the benefits it has to offer. These six poses, or postures, can be done any time, anywhere, by anyone, no matter how much or little yoga you may have practiced in the past.
Don’t worry about doing these postures “right.” Simply moving your body and being mindful of your breath will help you feel more relaxed and keep you strong, centered, and stress-free.
1. Child’s pose
What is it: Child’s pose is a resting posture that stretches the back, shoulders, and hips – all places where we hold tension. By channeling your inner child and connecting your forehead to the earth, you’ll quiet the mind and focus inward more easily. It’s also great for the stimulating the nervous and lymphatic systems.
How to do it: Starting from a kneeling position, lean forward with your arms outstretched and your forehead to the floor or mat. Think about lengthening through the spine and creating a long line of energy from your tailbone to your fingertips. Breathe deeply and hold for at least one minute.
2. Forward fold
What is it: A simple forward fold is a great way to stretch out the lower back and legs while gaining the benefits of an inversion (a posture in which your head is below your heart.) You’ll release tension in your thighs, hips, hamstrings, and lower back, and increase blood flow to the head, relieving stress, fatigue, and even mild depression.
How to do it: Stand up straight with your feet hip distance apart. Slowly bend forward from the hips, keeping knees slightly bent, and reach for the ground. Allow your head to hang heavy, release your shoulders, and fold in half by bringing chest to thighs. Reach your hands to the ground, or bend your elbows and grab each elbow with the opposite hand to hang in “ragdoll” pose.
3. Legs up the wall
What is it: Another simple but effective pose, legs up the wall reverses blood flow from your lower body back towards your heart. Physically, it helps reduce swelling, recirculate blood flow, and clean out the lymph system, while emotionally, it’s said to reduce stress and slow the aging process by balancing our bodies’ energies.
How to do it: Lie flat on your back with your arms at your sides, palms facing up. Scoot your hips forward to meet a wall so that your upper body is perpendicular to the wall, then rest your legs up the wall. Heels should touch the wall, while toes point straight back, as if you’re walking on the ceiling. Hold for at least one minute.
4. Cat and Cow
What is it: Actually two poses performed together, cat and cow help open up the front and back of your core, soothing and stretching your abdominal and back muscles. These postures lend themselves particularly well to matching movement and breath, making them a great starting point for new yogis working on slowing down and focusing on the mind-body-breath connection.
How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees, with wrists below shoulders, knees below hips, and a flat, neutral back. Move into cow pose by inhaling as you drop your belly towards the mat, open your hips to the back of the room, and open your heart to the front of the room by moving shoulders away from ears. With your exhale, transition into cat pose, rounding your spine, pushing away with your fingertips, and releasing the crown of your head toward the floor. Repeat 10 times, flowing between cow and cat with your breath.
5. Supine twist
What is it: Pretty much exactly how it sounds, a supine twist helps you stretch the lower back, outer hip, chest, and hip flexors by twisting from the low back while lying on your back. Twists are especially good for detoxifying any physical or emotional toxins that have built up in your body, releasing the gunk to make more room for the good stuff.
How to do it: Lie on the ground with your legs straight ahead and your arms spread into a T. Hug your right knee into your chest, then allow it to fall to the left, crossing your body. For a deeper stretch, turn your head to look over the opposite shoulder. Hold for at least five breaths, then repeat on the other side.
6. Corpse pose (Savasana)
What is it: While “corpse pose” doesn’t sound particularly pleasant, the deep relaxation that results from this pose can be truly enlivening. By remaining completely still, the body is able to slow down, lower blood pressure, and quiet the nervous system, generating a state of peaceful mind/body rest.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your feet stretched out in front of you and your arms at your sides, palms up. Close your eyes, resist the urge to fidget, and feel the support of the earth beneath you. Take long, deep breaths and attempt to clear your mind of any distractions. Hold the pose, with a clear mind, for at least three minutes. It’s harder than it sounds!
All images courtesy of Yoga Journal
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