When I first went public with my intention to open a yoga studio, several people who knew me responded with, "You? But you’re so energetic and fast-paced!” As right as they were about my true nature, the beauty of yoga is that it brings out the focus and “chill factor” some of us aren’t outwardly known for.
And, while more advanced poses like crow and king dancer are amazing tests of one’s concentration and balance, it’s not necessary to master them right away. Here I share my seven favorite, simple, practices and poses to help slow your crazy mind.
1) Pranayama - Yoga is the practice of linking inhales and exhales with movement, and this is that breath component. As we go about our days, we tend to breathe in the mid-zone, not completely inhaling or exhaling completely. By simply noticing your natural breath, controlling your rhythm by counting, or engaging in alternate nostril or circular breathing techniques, pranayama is the first step to focusing on the present moment.
2) Drishti - Meaning “focused gaze,” this action of finding a non-moving item or focal point to stare at can be used to deepen stretches and help with balance poses.
3) Tadasana (Mountain Pose) - This pose may look like you’re just standing there, but feet are firmly pressed into the floor, legs are engaged, heart is open, and core is activated. Close your eyes to see how your balance changes!
4) Vrksasana (Tree Pose) - The most popular one-legged standing balance pose, and a wonderful right/left brain exercise.
5) Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) - Begin with knees bent, and let your torso rest on your thighs, relaxing the head. This simple posture stretches the entire back body, stimulates the internal organs, and encourages an inner focus.
6) Sun Salutations - The choreography of this set of movements varies by instructor, studio, and style, but the traditional linkage of breath and asana brings your focus to the mat and enhances body coordination.
7) Savasana - Final resting pose. So difficult for many of us yet so beneficial. Find your “brain shut off method” and allow yourself to relax and be present.