Thursday, 16 February 2017

Yoga for the brain -Part 1- Stress

Stress negatively affects your brain in several ways.  Firstly cortisol, one of the hormones released in response to stress, generates free radicals which damage or kill brain cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus which is to do with memory. These free radical also lead to the brain aging. Formation of new brain cells is also inhibited by stress. Add to that depression and anxiety which are linked to chronic stress and you realise that it is really important to get on top of stress.

This forward bending sequence will help - it calms your mind and takes your focus in.  It also brings blood to your brain which is calming for your brain.  You will need two blocks or equivalent

You will need two blocks or equivalent.

To start - warm up your spine and hamstrings with the following poses

Supta padangusthasana - lie on your mat and draw your right knee in towards your chest. If you have lower back issues bend your left leg, otherwise press the back of your left leg into the mat. Take the strap around the ball of your right foot and holding the strap in both hands start to straighten the back of your leg.  Work with the breath with each inhale press through your right heel, with each exhale you may be able to draw your leg closer in. Continue until you find your 'edge' - that place where you feel a stretch but not a strain.  Now hold both sides of the strap in your right hand and place your left hand on your left hip.  Breathe in and as you breathe out engage your core and take your leg out to the side and up.  If you cannot get your leg higher than your hip, bend your knee slightly.  To come out of the pose bend your right knee, breathe out, engage your core and draw your leg back to centre then down on the mat. 

Repeat second side.



Cat/Cow - come onto all fours.  Breathe in and lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin and arch your back.  Continue working with your breath.  

Half Monkey God - come back to all fours and bring your right foot between your hands. Breathe out and walk your hands back as your toes lift .  Continue until the back of your leg is straight then bow to your front leg. Hold for 5 breaths the walk your hands forward again as you bend your knee, lower your toes and lift your head.  Return to all fours and repeat second side.




Downward Facing Dog to Standing Forward Bend - from all fours, tuck your toes, breathe out and lift your hips. Hold for 5 breaths then walk your feet forward until your shoulders come over your hands.  Have your feet at hip distance, outside edges parallel.  Work towards straightening your legs placing your fingertips on the mat or on a block (remember a block has 3 levels) if you need the ground to be nearer. If you have high blood pressure or heart issues do not have your head lower than your heart otherwise release the crown of your head down.   To come out of the pose take a deep breath in and slowly roll up.  Come to the top of your mat.



Intense side stretch -  step your left foot back, straighten your legs and level up your hips to the short edge of the mat.  Take your hands into Reverse Namaste by placing your hands behind your back, palms together fingers pointing down then reverse so that your fingers point up.  To modify keep your fingers pointing down or you may hold your elbows.  Breathe in, lift your chest, breathe out come into a flat back position, pressing your left hip forward if it starts to move back.  Stay here if you have high blood pressure or heart issues or if not take a breath in and as your breathe out release the crown of your head down.  To come out of the pose breathe in, slowly come up, breathe out release your hands to your hips, bend your front knee, breathe in, step your feet together.  Repeat second side then roll your shoulders up by your ears then back and down.

alternative hand positions for intense side stretch

Wide leg standing forward bend- stand in the middle of your mat, hands on hips and step your feet wide, outside edges parallel. Inhale lift your chest, squeeze your elbows together. Breathe out come into a flat back position and release your fingertips to the mat or to a block. Stay here if you have high blood pressure or heart issues otherwise breathe in and as you breathe out release the crown of your head down.  To come out of the pose breathe out, take your hands to your hips, breathe in a come up slowly. Come to seated on your mat with your legs outstretched (sit on a block if your lower back is rounding) .



Janu sirsasana - bend your left knee in towards your chest  then release it out to the side. Support your knee with a block if it doesn't release to the ground.  Twist slightly to the right so that your breast bone lines up with your extended right leg.  Breathe in stretch your arms up, breathe out fold over your extended leg, releasing your arms to either side of your extended leg and bringing your forehead to a block.  Stay here for 5-10 breaths, then breathe in to come up slowly.  Come back to legs extended then repeat second side.



Seated Forward Bend - sit with your legs outstretched, a block between your legs.  Breathe in stretch your arms up, breathe out fold over your legs bringing your arms down either side of your legs and your head to the block. Stay here for 5-10 breaths, then breathe in to come up slowly.  Rest back in savasana for a few minutes.



Namaste,


















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