Yoga Nation

When you practice yoga regularly, you learn how to trigger the "relax and chill" part of your nervous system on your own.

Ken Karp Photography (All Photos); Stephanie Di Tullo/Stylist

The incredible workout that has everybody saying “Ommm.”

It’s the end of a long day. You’ve woken up too early, taken a test that was too hard, spilled a Frappuccino on your pants, and against your better judgment, engaged in an hour of group text drama. Your mom bugged you about unloading the dishwasher, and your little brother got you into trouble. Then it’s wake up. Rinse. Repeat. But wait! Wouldn’t you like to squeeze some fitness into your day—a workout that benefits both your mind and body?

Yup, we’re talking about yoga. But don’t just listen to us. Take it from a professional. “Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘relax and chill’ part of your brain,” says William J. Broad, author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards. When you practice yoga regularly, you learn how to trigger that part of your nervous system on your own. That way, your default reaction to stress becomes “stay calm!” rather than rushing into total freakout mode.

And there’s more. Yoga’s not only about getting Zen—holding challenging poses gives you a full-body burn. That means it’s great cross-training if you’re a student-athlete and a perfect intro to fitness if you’re . . . um . . . less athletically inclined. In other words, it’s an all-around win for everyone, because working a little yoga into your daily routine means you’ll get stronger, stretch out your muscles, stand up taller and improve your balance. (Plus, it’s pretty thrilling to work on a difficult pose, like a headstand—and eventually master it!)

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

While You’re Waiting in Line: TREE POSE

Maybe you’re in line at the movies or waiting for your popcorn to cook in the microwave—just think of all the time you spend standing around. Instead of playing Candy Crush, seize these moments to improve your balance (great for sports), engage your core (great for posture), and get a good stretch (great for all-over fitness).

Step 1: Bring your knee up toward your chest.

Step 2: Grab your foot and place it on your inner calf (beginner) or on inner thigh (advanced).

Step 3: Focus on a spot in front of you and slowly bring your hands in front of your heart.

Step 4: Hold for five breaths and then repeat on the other side.

 

 


During Study Break (or When You’re Binge-Watching Videos): BRIDGE POSE

Humans were not meant to be hunched over a computer screen for hours on end. So stretch out your spine and open your hips with the bridge pose. Bonus: You’ll feel a strength-building burn in your legs.

Step 1: Lie with your arms at your sides, your knees bent, and your feet hip-width apart on the floor.

Step 2: Exhale, and as you do, press your feet into the ground and raise your hips.

Step 3: If you feel comfortable, interlace your fingers and walk your shoulders in toward each other. Take five breaths, then slowly release back down to the ground

 


After a Hard Day: CORPSE POSE

Sometimes it’s all just too much to handle! Despite its morbid name, the corpse pose (usually done at the end of a yoga class) has nothing to do with death. In fact, it will leave you feeling ready to tackle anything.

Step 1: Lie down on your back. Relax your feet and face your palms up toward the ceiling.

Step 2: Lie still with your eyes closed and breathe normally.

Step 3: Clear your mind of the thousands of thoughts you’re thinking. This is your time to totally relax!

 


When You Need to Shake it Up: SHOULDERSTAND

We get it: You’re an athlete. You work out every day. But shoulderstands require a focus and coordination between legs and core that you don’t get doing squats or suicides. Plus it’s really fun!

Step 1: Start by lying flat on your back with your palms facing the ground.

Step 2: Bend your knees. Then press into the ground and use your core to bring your knees up and toward your face.

Step 3: Bend your arms and place your palms on your back for support.

Step 4: Slowly straighten your legs up toward the ceiling.

Step 5: Hold for about 30 seconds. Then release gradually, bending your knees and rolling your spine onto the floor.

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