York County Medicine Summer 2019 - 23

YO R K C O M E D S O C . O R G

Can Yoga Really Relieve My Stress?
Yoga has been the subject of an increasing body of research over
the past several decades. These studies are now providing proof of
what yogis have been touting for over two thousand years - yoga
has many benefits, which includes helping us to relax and de-stress.
Yoga helps regulate our body's stress response system.
When our body is stressed the sympathetic nervous system kicks
into high gear. This is the system responsible for our "fight or flight"
response. When our body feels stressed, it perceives a threat and
thus goes into this protective mode. However, when the stress is
removed, our parasympathetic system takes over allowing us to feel
a sense of relaxation.
Practicing yoga is one proven way to help your body transition
from its frequently stressed state to a state of rest and relaxation.
Yoga helps slow heart rate, relax respiration, and can even lower
blood pressure. To put it another way, yoga helps us to slow down,
breathe, and let go.

A Brief Practice for Every Day Use
To get you started, here's a short sequence that you can do in the
comfort of your home or office in just a few short minutes every day.
If you prefer to use a recorded version of this practice, please go to
https://youtu.be/S3ZSf7gZoyc and enjoy.

1. Breath and Mindfulness - Find a comfortable seat

(on the floor or in a chair), close your eyes softly and begin to
notice your breath. We aren't trying to control the breath, but
rather simply follow it as it goes in and out of our bodies. Feel
the breath fill the belly on the inhale, then feel the belly empty
of the breath on the exhale. As you exhale let go of any specific
stresses or worries occupying your mind at the moment. If you
are a visual person, you can imagine those stresses and worries
melting off of your body onto the floor beneath you. Repeat
this for a few moments, until you begin to feel your breath slow
down a bit and your body begin to relax. Don't rush this step.
Even if this is the only part of this daily sequence that you do, it
will pay huge dividends.

2. Neck Stretches - When you are ready to transition into
the movement part of this sequence, exhale and drop your chin
to your chest. Keep the shoulders relaxed and away from your
ears. You will likely feel a good stretch in the neck and shoulder
area as we tend to hold a great deal of stress and tension in this
part of our bodies. Stay here for 2-3 deep breaths, then inhale,
lifting your eyes toward the sky, stretching the length of your
neck.
3. Shoulder Rolls - Return your eyes forward, relax your
arms at your side and begin to roll your shoulders up and back.
Continue these shoulder circles several times, then switch the
direction of the rotation for a few rounds.
4. Cat/Cow - From your seated position, as you inhale lift

your chin to the sky, bringing your shoulder blades together, and
opening the chest. As you exhale, drop the chin to the chest,
arch the back like an angry cat, drawing the navel in toward the
spine. Continue this flow at the natural pace of your own breath
for 3-5 rounds.

5. Forward Fold - This position can be done either from
the floor or from standing, depending on where/how you are
practicing this sequence.

a. Seated option - Extend your legs out in front of you,
making sure you are sitting up nice and tall with your spine
long. Inhale your arms up over head. As you exhale, hinge
forward at your hips lowering your torso toward your legs,
maintaining a long spine as you fold forward. Allow your
arms to rest wherever they fall (you don't have to touch your
toes). With each inhale, lengthen your spine and with each
exhale, try to hinge forward more if you are able. Hold the
pose for a few breaths, then inhale yourself back up.
b. Standing option - Inhale your arms up over head. As you
exhale, hinge forward at your hips, maintaining a long spine
as you fold forward. Allow the arms to dangle (they don't
need to touch the floor). Allow your eyes to look at your legs
so that the crown of your head is pointing toward the floor.
Lift the tailbone toward the sky on the inhale, and try to
relax into the fold a little bit more if you are able. Hold the
pose for a few breaths, then as you inhale, slowly roll back up
to a standing position, one vertebrae at a time.

6. Child's Pose - This position can be done either from the
floor or a chair, depending on where/how you are practicing this
sequence.
a. Floor option - Begin by sitting on your shins and then
folding forward bringing your forehead toward the ground.
(You want to try and keep your bottom as close to your heels
as possible while you fold forward). If your forehead doesn't
comfortably reach the ground, place a yoga block in front
of you and rest your forehead there instead. (Note - a book
can be used in place of a yoga block if you do not have one.)
Rest your arms back alongside your body, allowing your
shoulders to round, relaxing forward. Breathe here for at
least 2-3 breaths before inhaling and gently rolling back up
to a seated position.
b. Chair option - Begin by sitting up straight in the chair
with feet firmly planted on the floor. If your feet don't reach
the floor, place a yoga block (or some books) under your feet.
Inhale your arms up overhead, then exhale and fold forward,
resting your torso on your thighs. Allow your arms to dangle
alongside your legs and your shoulders to round and relax
forward. Breathe here for at least 2-3 breaths before inhaling
and gently rolling back up to a seated position.

7. Breath and Mindfulness - End as you began,
spending a few moments focusing on the breath as described in
the first step of this practice.
SUMMER 2019 | York County Medicine

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York County Medicine Summer 2019

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