Your wedding week will be laced with so much excitement, you might be wondering how you could possibly need an energy boost. But underneath all of the nerves, caffeine, and adrenaline, your body and mind will be exhausted. Even if you’ve never practiced yoga, these eight simple movements help clear your mind, unlock stress from your muscles and joints, boost your immune system by stimulating your lymphatic vessels, and open your chest and shoulders for deeper breaths and more confident posture.
Half sun salutation (Surya Namaskara)
This simple sequence opens your chest and releases tension from your hamstrings and lower back. Stand tall with your feet directly beneath your hip bones, arms at your sides. Turn your palms to face the room in front of you, spreading your fingers wide. Inhale and reach your arms over your head, looking up towards the ceiling, lengthening along the front of your ribs. Exhale and bend forward, touching your hands to the floor—bend your knees as much as you need to for this to feel good. Inhale and lift halfway up, placing your hands on your shins with a straight back. Imagine your torso at a perfect right angle to your legs. Exhale and release back down to the floor. Inhale and rise all the way up to standing. Exhale, bringing your hands together in the middle of your chest as if you were praying. Repeat three more times.
Cat Cow Pose (Marjaryasana Bitilasana)
This pose releases energy from your spine, warming your entire core and leaving you feeling relaxed and energized. Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Your knees should be directly beneath your hips and your wrists directly beneath your shoulders. Inhale and look up, arching your spine and letting your belly drop towards the floor (Cat Pose). Exhale and look down towards your knees, rounding your spine upwards towards the ceiling (Cow Pose). Inhale and flow through cat pose again, arching your back and looking up. Exhale to cow pose. Repeat as many times as feels good.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
This pose is really invigorating with surprisingly little effort, opening your chest and core. Start in an upright kneeling position—“standing” on your knees, not sitting back on your heels. Inhale and place your hands on your lower back with your fingers pointing downward towards (or touching) your buttocks. Firm your abdominal muscles and on an exhale lean backwards as far as feels secure and comfortable. This pose directly counteracts our tendency to hunch forwards at a computer or while driving, and you should feel a delicious stretch along the front of your chest.
The plank pose, which is not unique to yoga, tones your legs, back, core, shoulders, and arms while honing focus and mental clarity. The effort takes your mind off of stress and instantly warms the entire body. Start in a push up position, with your legs straight behind you, shoulders directly over your wrists, body parallel to the floor. Expand your collarbones away from the center of your chest and lift your shoulder blades up from the spine. Don’t collapse your shoulders or your lower back. Keep your neck in a neutral line with your spine, looking down at the floor with your eyes but keeping the chin neutral. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Lower to the floor from plank pose, keeping your hands beside your ribs. The tops of your feet should be pressing into the floor. With an exhale, press your hip bones into the floor, firm your buttocks, and press up gently with your hands as far as feels comfortable without lifting your pelvis from the floor. Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears, and don’t crunch down into your lower back. You should feel a release in your back and core. Breathe in this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor with your arms at your sides. Lift the hips up towards the ceiling and interlace your hands together on the floor directly under your raised body. Breathe deeply for three breaths, lower, and repeat four more times.
Practicing yoga is one of the best ways to bring awareness to your breath. It’s so easy to go through our days and never once think about our breathing. The more stress are body is processing, the shallower our breath tends to become. Take some time to step away from your computer, set your phone out of arm’s reach, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Inhale as deeply as you can, expanding into your stomach instead of your chest to release tension from your diaphragm and increase circulation to your vital organs. Hold your inhale for a few seconds. Exhale as deeply as you can, and imagine wringing every last ounce of old air from your body. Hold your exhale for a few seconds. Inhale deeply again. Exhale. Repeat for several minutes. Almost immediately, you should feel your mind quiet, your thoughts clear, and energy return to you.