Yoga for stress management.

A video by The Mayo Clinic Staff.

Yoga offers many potential health and stress-reducing benefits. This video introduces you to five basic yoga poses. It's easy to follow along and try the exercises, or just watch to get a sense of basic yoga. Let's get started.

Our first pose is the standing forward bend

Exhale and bend forward from your hip joints, not from your waist. As you fold forward, lengthen your torso and move deeper into the pose. Then inhale, and return to a standing position. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you repeat the exercise.

* Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
* Lengthen your torso slightly when you inhale.
* Deepen your forward bend when you exhale.
* Touch your palms or fingertips to the floor. Or touch your palms to the backs of your ankles.
* Hang your head forward to deepen the pose.
* Keep your knees straight.
* If you're injured, bend your knees.

Our second pose is called warrior one

To begin, stand squarely. Then take a step forward into a high lunge position. Keep your feet about hip-width apart. Pivot your back foot to a 45-degree angle from your heel. Your bending knee should be directly over your ankle, creating a right angle between your thigh and calf. You can adjust your feet to be comfortable. Inhale and move your arms over your head, palms facing each other.

Drop your shoulders down and back. Press your chest forward. To go deeper, touch your palms together and gaze up toward your thumbs. You should have a slight bend in your back. Hold for four to eight breaths. To release, bend your front knee and either step forward or, for more challenge, step back into the standing position while inhaling.

Next, we'll do neck rolls

This pose can be done seated or standing, front to back or side to side. Sit or stand comfortably with your eyes facing forward. First, exhale and touch your chin to your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. You can deepen the pose with each breath. Don't pull your head down, rather, let gravity and your relaxed muscles do the job. Return your head to center while you inhale. Then, touch your ear to your shoulder. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return your head to center and repeat on the other side. Again, return your head to center while you inhale.

Our fourth pose is the seated spinal twist

You can do this exercise on the floor or in a chair. This video shows the seated spinal twist while sitting on the floor.

Sit sideways. Keep your knees together and your ankles directly below them. Inhale and lift through the top of your chest to lengthen your core body. Then exhale and twist to the right, keeping your left buttock on or close to the floor. Lengthen your lower back and soften your belly. You can turn your head either way. Turn your head in the direction of the twist, or counter twist by turning your head the other way, over your shoulder and looking toward the floor. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, or three to six breaths on each side. Every time you inhale, lift through your chest. When you exhale, twist deeper and release while you exhale.

Our final pose is the cobra

It's easiest to do this pose on the floor, although you can adapt it to a sitting or standing position. This video shows the cobra pose on the floor. Lie stomach down. Stretch out your body. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug your elbows by your sides. Press your lower body into the floor, inhale and straighten your arms to lift your chest up. Go only as high as you can, while still pressing into the floor with your lower body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout your entire spine. Hold the pose 15 to 30 seconds. Breathe slowly. Then, release and return flat to the floor while you exhale.

The poses we demonstrated — standing forward bend, warrior one, neck rolls, seated spinal twist and cobra — can be done in any order.

Likewise, you can practice yoga at home, and you don't need any special equipment. If you have injuries or if you're concerned about exercising, consult with your health care provider before starting a yoga program.

© 1998-2010 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved.
health care provider before starting a yoga program.
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