Positive Mental Health: Why You Should Try Yoga
Most of us make a point of scheduling regular trips to the dentist and doctor into our diaries to keep our physical health in check but our mental health can tend to take a back seat.
We look at little ways to maintain positive mental health and keep stress under control this Mental Health Week and today we're look at Yoga.
WHAT: Yoga is the physical, mental, and spiritual practices and exercises that can be enjoyed by everyone. Originated in ancient India, yoga was created with a view to attain a state of peace and as a way to experience one's true self.
WHY: Yoga can help tone the body while at the same time reduce your stress levels and relax the mind. By practicing the many styles of yoga you can boost your energy levels and strengthen the core of your body, as well as working on your posture. After practicing yoga, your movements will be freer and you’ll feel stronger, your concentration will get better and you'll also have better sleeps.
HOW: It may seem daunting at first but don't worry, we've got some handy first steps to start you off. Here are five yoga postures you can practice for relaxation or even before you head out for a run.
This posture is deceptively relaxing. Here we’re stretching the hamstrings and simultaneously taking pressure off the heart and encouraging revitalising blood flow to the head. Take your time coming back up. You’ll feel refreshed by the time you get there.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart and fold forward.
- Keep the legs straight or if you feel tight along the back of your legs gently bend the knees.
- Allow your body to hang in this position. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes, try holding onto your elbows instead.
- Relax your head and neck completely.
- To come up release your arms and very slowly unroll the spine back to standing.
Downward facing Dog
One of the most important yoga postures this pose stretches the whole body. I like to call this the free-style dog. Move into it however feels good.
- In position ensure your hands are shoulder distance apart and your feet are hip distance apart. Fingers and toes spread.
- Completely relax your head and neck.
- Press into your hands to propel your hips upward,
- Simultaneously press your heels down toward the ground.
- In position peddle your legs, move your knees and ankles stretching and relaxing the muscles of the legs.
- Softly pivot the upper body moving the shoulders left and right and the hips left and right.
Lunges are great for runners. The fantastic thing about lunges is that there are many variations for you to experiment with. Here we are stretching mainly the hips, groin and legs.
- Stand with your right knee bent above the right ankle.
- The back leg is straight; heel to the floor or you can choose to stay on the ball of the left foot.
- Sink the hips down.
- Arms can be overhead or rested on the front thing
- For variation try dropping the back knee to the ground for an even deeper hip stretch.
- Repeat on the left side.
Wide Leg forward Fold
Here our goal is to lengthen the spinal column and stretch the back of the legs and loosen the hips. Feel the stretch.
- Stand with your feet about your leg length distance apart. Toes pointing forward.
- Hand on the hips left your gaze upward and then start to fold forward with a straight spine.
- Release the hands down and reach for the toes, if you’re not quite there reach for your ankles or shins.
- Look forward to help lengthen the spine further and then fold more deeply into the stretch.
- It’s ok to you bends your knees slightly. In position, aim to straighten the legs and tilt your behind upward.
The quintessential standing yoga posture. Here we stretch the thighs, knees, calves, hips, groin and hamstrings. We also open up the chest which helps calm and steady the heart. There’s a lot going on, try it out for yourself and see!
- Stand with your feet about your leg length distance apart. Turn the right foot to the side. The left foot faces forward.
- Standing lift your arms to shoulder level.
- Take a deep breath in, exhaling move into the right side of the body.
- Reach with the right hand for the floor, if not your knee, ankle or shin.
- The left arm lifts in a straight line upward
- If you feel pressure in the right leg slightly bend the right knee.
- The key is to pull the left hip back and draw the right hip forward.
- Turn your gaze up to look at your left thumb.
For more information on the benefits and various types of yoga, see our health article on the practice here.
Mental Health Ireland are asking the public to text and donate €4 to 50300 in order to help them continue their work.