SIMPLE YOGA EXPLAINED AND 7 WAYS TO PRACTICE SIMPLE YOGA FOR A LESS STRESSFUL LIFE
Yoga can be confusing.
It’s a comprehensive system of philosophical teachings and physical, breathing, and mental practices that help us understand ourselves, and in doing so, achieve our highest potential.
There are 10 behavioral guidelines, 1300+ physical posture variations, dozens of breathing and meditation techniques, as well as countless types of yoga and methods of applying the insights and practices. Here’s a chart that attempts to illustrate:
A simple way to understand all of this is to compare yoga to spaghetti sauce.
Stay with me.
When YOU think about spaghetti sauce, it’s a certain combination of ingredients, perhaps the way it was made at home growing up.
It probably includes tomatoes, but may also include other veggies, perhaps garlic and certain herbs. It might be cooked on a stovetop and then blended so that it’s smooth. This is spaghetti sauce to you.
When someone else thinks of spaghetti sauce, they might imagine a tomato based sauce with baked meatballs and no garlic, that’s chunky and thick. Someone else’s combination might have roasted veggies and some ground meat with fresh herbs. Another recipe might have just tomatoes and lots of garlic and dried herbs. Some may think of sauce in a jar warmed in the microwave.
(Italians, please forgive me.)
No matter what the specific combination of ingredients and methods of cooking, they’re all spaghetti sauce.
All of the different teachings and practices of yoga are the ingredients.
The types of yoga are recipes using different ingredients and cooking methods.
No matter what the specific combination of ingredients and cooking methods, they’re all yoga. They’re all paths to help you understand yourselves, and in doing so, achieve your highest potential.
Simple yoga is a way of including the ingredients; the teachings and practices of yoga, in what you’re already doing in your life.
For example, take the posture mountain pose.
This is a fundamental standing posture that creates alignment in the skeletal system and space within the body. Practicing this posture also steadies the mind and cultivates both groundedness and openness. All of this looks like just standing on the outside, but the inner awareness and intention is absolutely yoga.
So how many times every day are you standing?
When you brush your teeth, washing dishes or folding laundry, in any line, maybe you stand at work.
And you don’t have to be standing still or even standing at all, to practice the qualities of mountain pose. You can bring your inner attention and intention to aligning the skeletal system and making space within the body and mind, you can cultivate both groundedness and openness, and still, brush your teeth, stand in line, walk your dog, drive a car, do your work, eat dinner, even watch tv!
Simple yoga is about using the ingredients of yoga in your everyday routines to cultivate awareness and intention—to get to know yourself—and recognize that each moment of your life is a practice where you can choose the flavor.
Simple yoga, like sauce on spaghetti, is the perfect compliment to a tangled and sticky stressful life.
Ok, I may be pushing the metaphor a bit much here, but what’s important is: you can make the teachings and practices of yoga part of your life and in doing so, achieve your highest potential. You can do simple yoga.
Here are 7 ways you can practice simple yoga for a less stressful life:
1. While waiting in a long line at the grocery store, bank, etc practice Mountain Pose.
Stand with an even weight in feet and toes pointing forward. Move hips front to back, side to side then come to the center. Press down to lift up out of the pelvis. Align ribs over the pelvis, shoulders over ribs, skull over shoulders. Stand with gentle attention.
2. At your desk when you’re sitting at the computer all day practice Seated Cat/Cow.
Sit with legs parallel, knees at 90° and toes pointing forward. Place hands on knees and pull chest forward between arms arching spine and keeping elbows in. Then press into hands and round spine tucking chin to chest and stretching upper back. Repeat several times.
3. When leaving your bedroom for a long, hard day practice Doorway Heart Opener.
Stand in a doorway facing in. Place palms on walls on either side of the door frame at about shoulder height. Keep hands in place and step forward gently as shoulder blades move together and the chest opens. Maybe lean forward a bit.
4. At the dentist, doctor, etc. practice I Breathe In, I Breathe Out Meditation.
As you breathe in say to yourself, “I breathe in calm or relaxation or peace.” As you breathe out say to yourself, “I breathe out worry or tension or fear.” Use whatever words work for you and when you get distracted, start over with the next breath.
5. In a traffic jam when you’re running late practice Lovingkindness Meditation.
Repeat to yourself, “May I be safe. May I have ease of body and mind. May I be at peace.” Then direct the same sentiment outward to others in traffic with you. “May you be safe. May you have ease of body and mind. May you be at peace.”
6. When your mind is racing and you can’t sleep practice Self Hug + 1:2 Breath.
Wrap your arms around yourself grabbing opposite shoulders and squeeze. Inhale to the count of 3 or 4 and exhale to the count of 6 or 8. Be gentle with the breath. Take 3 breaths then repeat self hug and 1:2 breath with the opposite arm on top.
7. During a heated debate, difficult conversation, or argument practice Hakini Mudra.
Spread your fingers and thumb. Holding hands at about navel height, bring the just the tips of your fingers to like fingers on the opposite hand keeping space between the palms. Evenly press tips of fingers together with a gentle effort.
NOW YOU TELL ME, HOW COULD SIMPLE YOGA BE HELPFUL IN YOUR LIFE? WHICH OF THESE ARE MOST APPLICABLE TO YOU? WHAT STRESSFUL MOMENT NOT LISTED NEEDS A SIMPLE PRACTICE? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
HI, I’M STEPHANNIE.
I’m a Certified Yoga Therapist on a mission to make yogic wisdom, movements and breathing practices simple so that you can make them part of your routine and be less stressed, more confident, and experience more cam every single day.
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