It’s with the best intentions that the worst work is done, or so the saying goes. When it comes to working out, this can often mean no work at all, especially where time and willpower are concerned. If balancing mind, body and spirit involves a time machine or an act of God; if you’ve got 7, not 70, minutes to get physical, fear not. The following yoga poses (asanas) give more than just a good stretch; they also assuage the insidious side-effects, like stress and insomnia, which come with an addled mind. Pick one, take five and feel instantly calmer. Consider it a moving meditation.
Problem: Demanding deadlines
Pose: Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
Prognosis: The flexibility and balance bought to the body in this pose is mirrored in the mind as it is a surefire stress-buster and shortcut to mental peace. Improved circulation keeps the blood free of stagnant energy which boosts concentration needed for multi-tasking and keeping one’s cool under pressure.
Pose: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Prognosis: Hanging out upside down has its benefits: namely, a release of pressure from the neck, head and legs and an immediate sense of calm thanks to a reversal in blood flow. It also eases the nervous system, alleviating stress, mild depression, headaches, insomnia and fatigue. Try this asana before bed for a more restful sleep.
Problem: Bottled up feelings
Pose: Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Prognosis: Got to get something off your chest? Try your hips. Known in yoga circles as a woman’s emotional ‘junk drawer’, tight hips are associated with pent-up feelings such as stress, trauma, anxiety and fear. Pigeon helps release these negative emotions by opening up the pelvic area. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself suddenly teary-eyed in pose (it happens) but relish in the asana’s blissful afterglow.
Problem: Midday energy slump
Pose: Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Prognosis: ‘Warrior’ stems from a great hero in Indian mythology – the incarnation of Shiva whose fearsome appearance inspires this pose. This vigorous asana challenges concentrations whilst energising the entire body. It also improves circulation (and carpal tunnel syndrome) which helps the desk-bound and the dreaded 3pm brain freeze.
Pose: Half Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Prognosis: According to Chinese medicine, the liver is where our anger resides, which leads to stagnation, especially when we hold onto grudges and resentment. The Half Twist helps wring out the liver and release old hurts and stale energy. Expect tension headaches and irritability to abate with regular practice.
Note: always consult with your health practitioner before undergoing any new exercise regime.
Ann Marie O’Connor