The mind and body oftentimes are at odds with one another.
While they’re both complex in their own right, bridging the gap between the two is far more accessible than you might think. Regardless of your experience with yoga, the benefits of a few simple poses can be useful to us all.
Decades of diligent studies and empirical evidence support the indisputable interplay between the mind and its obvious effect on the body. This relationship presents itself most evidently through its impact on the function of your white blood cells.
People with high levels of stress have been found to experience a decreased white blood cell response to both cancerous and viral cells. Unfortunately, what would normally be the go-to remedy for navigating this weakened state loses its efficacy when you harbor large amounts of physical and mental stress.
One of the most readily available resources for counteracting anxiety and providing yourself with the necessary tools to combat life’s day-to-day woes comes in the form of the ancient tradition of yoga and meditation.
In this article, we’ll dive into the mind-body connection and give you seven indispensable poses and practices that you can start doing today to boost your spirit, regardless of your yoga experience!
Bridging the Gap Between Mind and Body
Before we get into our yoga poses, it’s important to define the “Mind-Body Connection.” Simply put, this refers to the relationship between your attitude, thoughts, and emotions and their impact on your physical well-being.
The brain is a remarkably complex organ and serves as a command center for your body, dictating how we think, feel, and respond, sometimes even without being aware. One great example of your brain telling your body how to react is through the stress response.
Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline provide us with the necessary energy to remove ourselves from harm’s way. However, in the event that danger isn’t necessarily present, the added stress can negatively affect our health long-term.
By strengthening the connection between the mind and body, you free yourself from having to live in a state of reaction, and you open the gates to a life of positive and intentional action.
Disciplines such as yoga and meditation have long been proven to strengthen the connection between the body and mind, resulting in positive changes in our physical state. By taking matters into your own hands with just a few simple actions, the platform for mental and physical greatness is well within your grasp.
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Pose #1: Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
The Happy Baby pose is a virtually zero-impact beginner-friendly pose that serves as an excellent starting point to increase your mind-body connection through yoga.
To begin, lay down on your yoga mat with your back flat on the ground. Once you’ve laid down, raise your legs to the ceiling and focus on keeping your spine as straight as possible while pulling your knees to your chest. Then grab the outer edges of your feet, and stretch your legs toward the sky.
While in this position, listen to your body! Feel the natural change in sensation within both your hip flexors and joints while manifesting a gentle push of your body into the ground. Breathe with purpose and relax both your spirit, body, and mind.
Not only will you aid your digestive functionality and increase the flexibility of your hips and spine, but you’ll find yourself in a place of centered tranquility that prepares you to engage other areas of your body when performing other poses.
Pose #2: Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Another multipurpose beginner-friendly pose that is great to place at the start of your sessions is the Child’s Pose. Peace, muscle relaxation, and lengthening of the spine are among the most immediately obvious benefits.
While kneeling upon your yoga mat, slowly widen your legs until your knees are touching the mat’s outer edges. Keep the tops of your feet and toes flush with the ground as you extend your arms toward the front of the mat. Do your best to keep your back straight and lower your forehead to the mat itself.
From there: Breathe with intention, let go of your tension, and breathe some more.
Pose #3: Marjariasana & Bitilasana (Cat-Cow Pose)
Whether it be sitting for extended periods or moving to and from on our feet, we often find ourselves neglecting to care for perhaps the most critical part of our body, our spine. The Cat Pose (or Cat-Cow) is one of the most immediately gratifying yoga poses in terms of its instant relief and care for your back.
To begin, come onto all fours on your mat with wrists and knees planted squarely underneath your hips and shoulders. Take a deep breath in as you compress your back inward, raising your chin towards the sky and rotating your shoulders back. Upon exhaling, arch your back upwards and point your chin down almost as if you were fixing your gaze on your belly button.
By alternating between these two positions of the spine, you should notice almost immediate relief and satisfaction. In addition, you awaken your back to be able to engage in more complex and advanced positions throughout the rest of your yoga session if you so desire.
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Pose #4: Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
The benefits of yoga speak for themselves in terms of flexibility and pain relief, but it can also serve as an excellent way to improve your posture!
Studies indicate that adopting a healthy posture provides a healthy boost to your subconscious confidence and overall positive mental state. One of the most effective poses for achieving better posture lies within the Mountain Pose.
Start by standing straight up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Broaden the chest outward and hold your hands with palms outstretched by the hips. As you cycle through breath repetitions, do your best to fully engage all of the body from the neck, shoulders, and down to your feet.
You’ll find that despite its name, this pose is certainly a simple mountain to overcome, and waiting at the peak are countless benefits to your posture and understanding of your own body.
Pose #5: Bhujangasana (Baby Cobra Pose)
While the Cat-Cow pose is certainly effective, it tends to be more demanding in terms of posture and how you need to flex your spine. If the Cat Pose ever proves to be uncomfortable, the Baby Cobra pose is a great way to achieve a similar feeling with less work.
To do so, lie on your belly on the mat with your hands down by your side. When you’re ready to begin, bring your arms up by your ribs and tilt your chin to gaze upwards. With knees just barely off the ground and your feet flush with the mat, push your hips down and arch your back upwards.
This pose achieves a very similar effect to the “Cow” portion of Cat-Cow with a far less accentuated motion of compression.
Always remember that yoga is primarily about connecting the mind and the body, so be sure to do what’s comfortable! Go at your own pace and listen to your own body, no matter what you choose, it’s sure to thank you in the end.
Pose #6: Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose)
Now that you’ve engaged in all the aforementioned poses, your back should be stretched out and relaxed. So what better time to try a pose that will activate the whole of your body and strengthen your core at the same time?
You can transition into a Plank from any position, whether that be Cat Pose, Baby Cobra, or Child’s Pose. You’ll want to step your feet to the back of the mat and plant your hands by your ribs. From here, fully extend your arms to lift your body off of the mat. Similar to a push-up, focus on engaging your abdomen and buttocks to keep a clean angle from neck to heel.
As with every position, control your breaths and focus on the specific parts of your body that are at play. The plank itself is not only an excellent method of strengthening your core, but it also strengthens your mind by teaching you to push past your limits and breathe despite the potential challenge.
Pose #7: Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
It’s no question that Corpse Pose tends to be one of the favorites of Yogis far and wide, regardless of skill level. What better way to cap off a session of mind and body collaboration than by simply releasing all of your tension and embracing the stillness?
As its name suggests, this pose requires very little in terms of positioning your body. Simply lie down on your back with your arms by your side and let go of all tension that might be present. While the body might be inactive, now is the perfect time to engage your mind and spirit.
Take this time to meditate on all of the benefits that you’ve just provided yourself! In the Corpse Pose, nothing else should weigh on your conscious mind. This means no stressing over work, family, finances, you name it. It’s just you, your body, and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve just completed such a grand adventure of health and well-being.
Start Using Yoga Today to Join your Body and Mind
Life can oftentimes be unrelenting in providing us with our fair share of noise and busyness. Navigating all of the factors at play in our individual lives sometimes leaves us neglectful of the relationship between our bodies and our mind.
By taking a quick second whenever you get the chance to simply slow down, embrace the silence, embrace the discomfort, and meditate. This serves as an excellent opportunity to practice Mantra meditation.
Although it might sound foreign and unfamiliar, it’s surprisingly accessible. Simply find a word or phrase that is easy to repeat and really focus on the significance of the words or phrase you choose. This can be anything from an excerpt from one of your favorite poems or even just a positive phrase. Try telling yourself, “I’ve worked hard to achieve success in my life,” or even “I’m worthy of the happiness I’m experiencing.”
By doing so, you not only open the door to internal peace with yoga and meditation, but you also arm yourself with the confidence and tranquility necessary to handle whatever life throws your way.
So what’s stopping you? Whether it be for just ten minutes or a whole hour, taking the time to do a few beginner’s poses at least once a week is sure to provide much-needed self-reflection and solace.