Yoga mental health benefits: guide to at-home practice


If you think a yoga practice needs to include a headstand or a standing posture that sees one leg practically touch your head, think again. Ahead, how to bring yoga into your everyday routine – whether you’re just starting out, looking to improve posture or simply in search of a better night’s sleep.

Starting out

New to yoga? Yockers recommends starting with a practice like Sun Salutation, which is repetitive and works with basic movements. “Take your time and go slow,” she says.

“Yoga is a practice of listening more than anything,” says Yockers. “If something is painful, which is different from discomfort, ease away and re-evaluate how deep you are going and if there is something you can change to ease the pain.”

Practicing yoga at home can be a different experience to a studio, but the intimacy of a home practice is something to embrace. “Put it in your calendar as if you were going to a studio class,” says Yockers. “This creates accountability and a designated time you know you will practice.” Creating a sacred space and incorporating music is also important. “Get a mat you love, some plants, and anything that uplifts you,” says Yockers.

To assist in building a consistent practice, find an online studio like One Hot Yoga & Pilates which provides 30-45 minute classes. There are also plenty of Youtube classes available like Yoga with Adriene, which offers a catalogue of classes based on the amount of time you have to work out.

While you work

You know the importance of scheduling meaningful breaks, short walks and stretches into the working day, but things don’t always go to plan. Still, it’s possible to move your body without leaving your workspace. Yockers recommends three simple movements:

Standing forward fold with shoulder stretch. An easy, soothing stretch that’s great for the hamstrings and opening up the chest. Start by standing up and take the feet hip-width distance apart. Interlace the hands behind the back. Take a slight bend into the knees and begin to fold forward bringing the belly towards the thighs. Reach the fist and arms up and over. Hold for a minute or two and then exit slowly.

Heart melting pose. An antidote for slouching at your desk, this stretch improves posture by opening up both the shoulders and chest. Come on to your hands and knees on the floor so that your wrists are beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Begin to walk your hands forward and melt the chest towards the floor into a backbend. Rest the head on the floor if possible.

Neck stretch. Bonus: you don’t even have to leave your desk. Sit in a comfortable seat and grow tall through the spine. Interlace the hands behind your back. Take your interlaced fist to your right hip and drop your right ear to your right shoulder to stretch the left side of the neck. You can sit in the stretch or take any gentle movement lifting or lowering the chin to access different parts of the neck. Hold for a minute or two and then repeat other side.

Nighttime routine

As you wind down for the evening, Yockers recommends a slow, calming flow or a yin-style practice which involves holding postures for a longer period. “Avoid anything too active right before bed as it may agitate the mind into a state of restlessness.”

Create a calming atmosphere by lighting a candle and putting on some music. Yockers suggests two yin postures combined with some mediation before bed.

Dragonfly. A forward fold that encourages you to turn inwards. From seated on your mat, widen your legs into a wide-legged forward fold. Start to fold forward between your legs. Stack up a few pillows or bolsters inside your legs so that you can lean in and feel supported. Hold for 3-5 minutes.

Reclined twist. A spinal twist that you can even do in bed! Start by lying on your back, hug your knees into your chest. Drop the knees over to the right into a twist and relax the left shoulder down. Repeat on the other side and hold each side for three minutes.

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‘Let Go’ meditation. If you feel your mind is attaching to a specific thought, mantra meditation is a way of replacing thought patterns with something more positive.

For this meditation, says Yockers, use the mantra “Let Go.” Sit in a comfortable seat or lay down. As you inhale, mentally say “let” and on the exhale, mentally say “go.” Repeat in combination with the breath. On every exhale, allow yourself to release a little more.

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