Wednesday, May 5, 2010

3 Yoga Poses to Spark Afternoon Energy (Plus a Caffeine Confession & a Quick Video)

Hi, everyone . . . My name is Rebecca . . . And, I’m an addict. My drug of choice is caffeine, specifically, steaming, piping hot black tea with soy milk. Tame, I know. It’s not even coffee, which- let’s face it- has more street cred. Nevertheless, I am a shell of a person without it.

Writers before me have had their vices. For Kerouac, it was Benzedrine; Hemingway had his booze. Oscar Wilde got wild on absinthe. Meanwhile, I reach for assam—preferably organic, however, in a pinch, a good old Tetley tea bag (British Blend, please) will suffice. I can’t help but wonder whether a more substantial substance might elevate my writing chops to the level of my predecessors. Maybe the hard stuff makes for a literary heavyweight? Alas, there’s something more than a bit hypocritical about a yoga writer who regularly slugs back absinthe while encouraging readers to practice a path of balance and moderation. So, I stick with tea.

When energy wanes, I admit, it's often my pick-me-up trick of choice, but I have others too, including a decaffeinated selection of asanas, ideal for the late afternoon hour of desktop slumping, catnap longing, and proper teatime drinking (traditionally around 4 p.m.).

Allow yourself to steep in one of these yoga poses for as long as needed:

Start with a Simmer

Spark a little energy spurt by warming up the body with this simple variation on utkatasana (above) or try some invigorating breath work. I learned to do a Breath of Joy from my first yoga teacher more than 14 years ago and have kept it in my bag of tricks ever since. To my own students, I describe it as the asana-equivalent of espresso (no disrespect to tea). The beauty of this movement is that it can be done anywhere (no mat needed) and by anyone (even yogi kids love the energizing effects of this powerful breathwork): begin standing. Next you will inhale three times while moving your arms like the conductor of an orchestra (inhale once arms together to the level of your navel; inhale twice arms open wide to the level of your chest; inhale three times arms together overhead). Finally, you'll exhale all the breath out with an emphatic "ha" sound as you transition into a low squat, reminiscent of a downhill skier (arms behind you, as shown in the above video).

Flip Me Over . . .

Backbending postures, too, provide an excellent source of energy, particularly if you sit at a desk or spend large amounts of time driving a car. Both of these activities can constrict the chest, with shoulders hunching and posture caving forward. To counterbalance this blocked energy, add a few repetitions of urdhva dhanurasa (wheel pose) to your yoga practice. Or, try a standing back bend (also referenced in today's video) by scooping your hips forward, lifting your chest, looking up, and possibly letting your head fall back gently, opening your chest and throat. You can do this with your arms overhead or supporting your low back with your hands. Be sure to breath in your backbends, through your mouth, if needed. Otherwise, use ujayi breath.

And Pour Me Out

Few poses have my heart like inversions, particularly sirsasana (headstand). Anatomically, the benefits are simple: tip yourself over (yes, like a tea pot) and you receive a rejuvenating supply of fresh blood to your brain. However, you need not be a seasoned yoga student to experience the benefits that headstand creates. A more accessible approach includes a standing forward bend (uttanasana), often referred to in yoga classes as “rag doll.” Spend a minute or two in either of these postures, and once you return to an upright position, your uplifted energy and clearer thinking will remain.

1 comment:

Joslyn said...

Om gal!

My friend (a yoga instructor and former Bostonian)recommended your blog, and I think it's fantastic!

I also share your obsession with tea -- seriously. I'm planning the display of my tea pot collection in old age. Some recommendations: Matevana (loose leaf at Teavana -- has a chocolate note), Rooibos Peach Bloom (for decaffinated days), and if you need iced, Steaz w/blueberry, pomegranate, acai (in a can, found it at Whole Foods).