Hello! I would like to introduce you to Liz and Nathan who are also Peace Corps Volunteers here in the Philippines with me. Liz was wonderful and agreed to write a post about yoga and how it can be used for self care, whether you are in the Peace Corps or not. Her and Nathan (her husband) then took a series of pictures to demonstrate 27 simple yoga poses anyone can do for relaxation and self care (only a few are more advanced). Enjoy!
Frequently, the first advice we are given when showing signs of stress is to “slow down and breathe.” This advice is a great reactive measure, but did you know it can be preventative as well? Intentionally taking time to slow down, breathe, and observe ourselves and our bodies can mitigate the effects of stress and heighten our abilities to manage stress before we even feel it.
Though I’ve heard repeatedly “oh, I can’t do yoga – I can’t even touch my toes!” it’s important to discuss that yoga is not necessarily for those flexible of body. My potbellied neighbor, when his daughter asked if he could touch his toes, stood up and, with a twinkle in his eye, lifted his foot up to his hand. It was hilarious! In this show of humor, adaptation, and self-awareness, he was more yogi than he realized.
Given that yoga is so popular in the States, and Westerners that we are, we have a tendency to try to become “the best” at something (especially athletics), it can be intimidating for a new yogi to scroll though instagram and see countless forearm stands, pendant poses, and splits. (If you’re like me, you may feel a bit competitive – or that your practice isn’t “good enough.”) However, for those interested in starting a yoga routine, or even experienced practitioners, the trick is not not get attached to achieving a particular goal via your practice. Our bodies, natural inclinations, and propensity toward unique expressions of practice all influence how we experience yoga. Instead, we must trust in the practice, and do our practice diligently, and one day we may become aware of its benefits. One day we may even stand on our head and hardly realize its significance, so enveloped we are in our practice. The practice will reveal your own path and simultaneously guide you down it, if you are flexible enough of mind to accept it.
For those with practice in the States who have maybe been missing not having a studio or regular practice opportunity living abroad, it’s similarly important to reflect that yoga is as much a state of mind as it is expression in the body. We can practice yoga while leading sessions/classes, waiting in a hard plastic chair for a form to get signed, or in the bus to the city where we hope there is wifi fast enough to Skype with our families. The asana, or physical, practice is only one expression of yoga. (All this being said, I frequently forget to practice yoga when not doing asana – especially lately – and need reminders.)
So! Ready to start your own yoga journey? Or at least check it out? I’ve included photos below of a couple of my favorite calming poses, as well as some more challenging ones. Hold each pose for 5-10 breaths, and don’t harm yourself by trying to achieve what your body isn’t ready for yet. It will come :-). My advice is to start your practice seated or kneeling, with 10 calming breaths through the nose, to end the same way. Consider extending gratitude or compassion for yourself or others during the sitting, and it will become easier to extend it when you are away from your asana practice.
My favorite yoga app is Yoga Studio ($4). Also, websites like clipconverter.com will download YouTube videos for you – look up guided classes there! Lastly, if you can stream or are willing to pay to download full-length classes, check out www.doyogawithme.com. There are classes for all levels there!
If you have any questions about any of the poses, or about yoga in general, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!