Ryal-sthenics for Relaxation
Even at the Happiest College in the Nation, the approach of finals week is stressful. Don’t let pre-exam madness beat you down: use these simple yoga moves to keep your mind calm and your body relaxed. You don’t even have to leave your desk to feel refreshed and ready to crack open your Bio textbook. Just breathe, bend, twist, and smile. The Poppa Pigeon Sitting in a chair, keep the left foot flat on the ground. Lift the right foot up and cross the right ankle over the left knee, making a “4” shape with your right leg. Inhale and sit up tall. Exhale and fold straight forward over your crossed leg, only going as low as you can while maintaining a flat back. You should feel a stretch in the right hip. Breathe into the stretch for five breaths, then inhale back up to center, switch the legs, and repeat.
Modifications: If your hip is very tight, don’t fold forward at all, focusing instead on sitting up tall and making the breaths deep and slow.
Benefits: We tend to hold a lot of stress and tension in our hips; this pose will release that stress while relaxing the body and mind.
The Library Lift Sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, grip the edge of the seat on either side of your hips. Inhale and with an exhale straighten the arms and press down on the edges of the chair, lifting your body off the seat. Breathe deeply for five breaths, holding yourself up, then gently release. Repeat if you wish.
Modifications: Sit cross-legged for an easier lift. If you can’t lift up, just focus on pressing down firmly and breathing, with the intention of lifting. The benefit will be the same.
Benefits: Enhances focus and calm, energizes the mind, tones abdominals, glutes, and arms.
Bauer Breaths Standing with feet hip width apart and arms by your sides, take a deep breath and roll your shoulders back, opening the chest. On the next inhale, take the arms out to the sides and lift them slowly overhead, palms facing upward, until the palms meet in the middle above your head. If you like, gaze can follow the palms upward until you are looking up at your hands. Exhale while slowly reversing the movement and lowering the hands in a sweeping arc until your palms meet together in front of your heart. Release the hands down by the sides again, repeat on the next inhale.
Modifications: Make your breaths as deep as possible, and your movements as slow as possible, as if you were moving through water. If you can do these movements outdoors in the fresh air (like the balcony of Bauer) the benefits will be even greater. Another option is to do the breaths while seated in your chair.
Benefits: Calms the mind, relieves stress,and increases focus.
The South Lab Side-bend Place both feet flat on the ground and sit up tall in your chair. With an inhale, raise the arms overhead, bringing the palms together overhead. Clasp the fingers together, releasing only the first fingers to point straight up. Straighten the arms strongly, and with an exhale, bend your torso straight towards the left, letting your left shoulder come toward the ground without leaning forward or backward at all. Lengthen out both sides of the torso with each inhale, imagining that you are breathing more space in between each rib. Stay here for 5 to 10 breaths, then inhale back to center, sit up tall again, and repeat, bending to the right.
Modifications: Place the left palm down flat on the chair next to your left hip, raising the right arm only, and bend toward the left once again. Repeat opposite side.
Benefits: Tones arm, spine, and abdominal muscles. Also opens the rib cage, giving the body more room to take in oxygen and have deeper, more calming breaths and get that freshly oxygenated blood to the brain to help you study.
The Tea Garden Twist Sitting tall on a chair (or on a bench in the Tea Garden), place your left hand behind you, fingertips pointing away. Twist your torso towards the left, gripping the left side of the chair by your hip with your right hand and pulling gently to increase the stretch. With every inhale, sit up a little taller; with each exhale, see if you can twist a little more to the left. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then slowly untwist, and repeat twisting toward the right.
Modifications: If you can’t place the left palm down flat behind you, come up on the fingertips of the left hand: this will give you more space to twist.
Benefits: Spinal twists are extremely relaxing and calming. Twists give a massage to the nervous system and make the body and mind feel fresh.