The upcoming holiday season will be jam-packed with activities, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already planning your list of things to do. From attending holiday gatherings to seeing family to celebrating the season, you’ll want to be well rested and prepared for all of it. At the same time, you’ll also need to make sure you’re doing some extra-special stretching and yoga to keep your body strong and healthy. Yoga is one of my favorite ways to learn things like mindfulness, breathing, and strength as well as a great way to relieve anxiety, stress, and pain.
What is the most valuable part of your time? Is it the hours you spend on the computer? The time you spend with family? The time you spend at the gym? The time you waste on Facebook? Whatever it is, you need to spend less of it on distractions and more on your plans or goals.
The practice of yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and is still being practiced today. The practice is basically stretching to build flexibility and strength in the body while calming the mind, and has been proven to be beneficial in improving physical and mental health.
Take a few minutes to visualize all the clutter in your head. Note the size, shape, color, weight, texture and location of stress, anxiety and clutter. Imagine carrying all this for a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a year, a lifetime, or even longer.
Imagine the limitations this imposes on your ability to develop and achieve your goals.
Now imagine for a moment that all the stress, worry and clutter have left your mind. Imagine the space and power you have to manifest what you want. Cleaning up is figuring out what you want to keep and what you want to let go.
While there are no shortcuts in this individual and unique process, it is certainly possible to get a clear mind.
The benefits of a clear mind
A strong, clear mind reduces stress, anxiety and the need for external affirmation. In addition, a clear mind increases self-confidence, concentration, discipline, physical health, emotional stability, memory and the ability to empathize with others.
And what does this have to do with yoga, you ask? The short, true answer is: Yoga helps to strengthen and purify the mind.
Asanas for a clear mind
Inverted Asanas and Front Bends – the inverted body uses gravity to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, which enhances mental performance and therefore clarity of mind.
Yoga postures for balance – Balance forces the mind and body to stay centered while controlling inner balance. To stay upright and not fall, the mind clears away excess clutter to focus on the balance posture.
Seated yoga postures – Seated asanas calm the body and nervous system. Especially when combined with breathing, these postures reduce fatigue and restore mental clarity.
Pranayama for a clear mind
Nadi Shoddana Pranayama – three-part breath control, consists of alternating breaths through the nostrils, can be done sitting or lying down, practiced for 10 breath cycles.
Kapalabhati pranayama – skull burst breathing, a purification technique, generates heat in the body through a short inhalation (short and passive) followed by a rise from the navel to the spine for a strong exhalation (short and active).
Kapalabhati Pranayama is practiced on a comfortable chair with a straight spine, practicing 15-45 exhalations per cycle for 3-4 cycles.
Ujjayi pranayama – victorious breathing, often sounds like the ocean or Darth Vader. Each inhalation contributes to the full expansion of the lungs, and each exhalation is designed to compress the back of the throat and allow air to slowly flow out through both nostrils. This can be practiced throughout the asana.
10 minutes of asana for a clear mind
The next ten-step, ten-minute yoga exercise consists of a slower flow that focuses on the connection between breath and movement. If you are very tired, go to step 10 and concentrate on Ujjayi Pranayama for 10 minutes!
1. Set the intention to flow with the breath.
It can be a word or a mantra. Simply breathing the word/mantra into the body and breathing it out into the space around it cultivates positive energy for the exercise.
2. Sit in a comfortable position, so that your knees are below your hips.
You can do it in cross-legged, half-ligus or full-ligus. In a sitting position, without adjustment or evaluation, observe the first 3-4 breaths, then bring the right hand to the face for 6-7 rounds of Nadi Shoddan Pranayama.
3. Use Ujjayi Pranayama for the rest of the exercise.
Slowly stand on the left leg and bring the right leg into tree pose (Vrkshasana) for 5-6 breaths. You can also try closing your eyes to enhance the psychological challenge of balance and calm.
4. Move the right foot so that the ankle is resting slightly on the left thigh.
Once you have done this, lower your hips back into the standing 4 pose for 5-6 breaths, then go to option a or b :
- a) bend your left supporting leg, place your hands on the mat, use your triceps to support your right shin and float into the flying pigeon pose (Eka Pada Galavasana) for 3-4 breaths or
- b) Move the right ankle to the left thigh ankle in half-lotus pose for 3-4 breaths.
5a. (Option A) From the flying pigeon position, hold the hands in the chaturanga position.
Hold this position while your head slowly lowers and touches the floor, lift both feet to do a headstand (Sirsasana) for 3-4 breaths.
5b. (Option B) From the half-ligus position, stand on your toes.
From the half-ligus position, begin to bend the left leg you are supporting so that the thighs are above the left ankle to perform the pose for 3-4 breaths.
6. (Option A) From pear tree to mountain.
From the head position, slowly lower your body into the child’s pose (bakasana) and stay there for two long, slow breaths. Then jump or hold the mountain pose (tadasana).
7. (Option B) From laying the Condition to laying the Mountain.
Slowly rise from the toe position, spread your right leg and assume mountain pose (tadasana); repeat steps 3-7 on the other side.
8. Drive from the mountain to the chair.
After staying in the mountain pose (Tadasana), slowly begin to sit in the chair pose (Utkatasana) and stay there for 2 or 3 breaths.
9. Lower to boat position.
From the chair pose, pull the hips back and lower them to the ground in boat pose (Navasana) for 2-3 breaths.
Finally, lower your entire body onto the Savasana mat.
How do you practice yoga and pranayama when you want to release stress and clear your mind? Share your ideas with the community below! Ten minutes of daily yoga practice isn’t as hard as you think. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to squeeze in at least a few minutes while you’re brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, or taking a break at work. And if you schedule it during the day, it’s even easier to fit in. But if you want to start a yoga practice that you can stick with, it’s important to find a time and place where you can practice without distractions. While some people enjoy the peace of practice inside their own homes, others have found that it’s easier to focus on the practice in a quiet, well-lit area.