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Elections can cause enough stress to make anyone want to curl up into child’s pose. But elections and yoga do actually have something in common: They can help you understand your moral compass and speak your truth.

Rather than letting the stress of the last few months consume you, opt for taking a few minutes to do this simple, accessible, and relieving practice instead.

Dirgha Pranayama

This breathing exercise is known for its stress- and anxiety-reducing qualities; it also increases the oxygen supply to the body.

  • Start by sitting in a comfortable seat or lying flat on your back on a yoga mat.
  • Notice your natural breath. No need to judge or change it — simply become aware of where it goes. Does it travel through your belly, ribs, or chest?
  • Practice slowing down and deepening your breath with each inhale and exhale.
  • On an exhale, completely empty out all the air in your lungs. Release the muscles squeezing the air out and inhale, noticing as your breath naturally moves deeper into your belly. Repeat.
  • On your next exhale, completely empty out all the air in your lungs. Inhale, and this time, as the air swells into your belly, sip in more air to fill up your ribs and feel them spread.
  • On your next exhale, exhale out your nose, seeing how slow and smooth you can make it. Squeeze every ounce of air out.
  • Inhale into your belly, this time sipping in even more air so you feel begin to feel pressure building in your upper chest. Take a few extra sips.
  • Slowly and smoothly exhale until the air is completely emptied. Inhale, continuing to fill up with as much air as you can. Repeat until you feel comfortable with this pattern.
  • Continue to repeat as you move through the following poses.

Sequence No. 1

These shapes help your body warm up, and bring oxygen into the high-stress areas of the shoulders, neck, and jaw.

  • Position yourself on your hands and knees. Take a moment to make sure you haven’t lost the quality of your breath.
  • Exhale all air, and on your inhale, extend your spine by dropping your belly and lifting your tail and sternum. This is known as cow’s pose.
  • Stay in this shape for a few breaths, pressing the pads of your fingers into the ground and away (the heel of your hand may even lift off the ground).
  • Notice the muscles through your wrists, shoulders, back, and shoulder blades firm up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. Take three complete breaths.
  • After your third exhale, move into child’s pose. Drop your hips back on your heels, spreading your knees hip-width apart. Lower your seat onto your heels and your torso to the floor, stretching your arms out straight in front of you and resting your forehead on the mat. Stay in this pose for three breaths.
  • Move back into a tabletop position, positioning yourself on your hands and knees.
  • Repeat this entire sequence two more times.

Sequence No. 2

This pattern will dig deeper into the stress being held in your shoulders, neck, and jaw, while also incorporating your hips. It may feel a little confusing the first time you read it — that’s intentional. It’s good to do something that challenges your brain every day.

  • Place your right foot in between your hands on the mat. Inhale, bringing your hands up to your right thigh or placing them on your hips. Extend your left leg behind you with your knee on the ground, creating a form of a low lunge. Depending on your mobility, you may need to slide your left knee back to create more sensation in your hips.
  • On an exhale, shift your hips forward and down, bringing more sensation into your left hip flexor. Take three breaths.
  • Keeping your hips in place, inhale while lifting your arms over your head and extending your spine.
  • Exhale, bringing your arms behind your back to interlace your fingers. Lift your sternum and chin so the front line of your torso feels open, but your neck doesn’t feel crunched.
  • Stay in this position for three breaths. On each inhale, lift your sternum. On each exhale, reach your knuckles away from your glutes.
  • Exhale, bringing both hands to the inside of your right foot. Walk your hands past your left knee, so you are facing the long side of your mat. Allow your left shin and foot to naturally rotate behind you.
  • Keeping your left hand planted on the ground, straighten your right leg and extend your right arm over your head, creating a straight-ish line from your right foot through your right arm. Hold for three breaths.
  • Exhale, bringing your right hand down next to your left, and pivot to change directions on your mat. Bring your left foot in between your hands with your right knee on the ground behind you.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat entire sequence on both sides two more times.

Inhale Retention

This breathing technique mindfully adds stress to your body, which helps to wake up your parasympathetic nervous system. The key to calming your nervous system is a slow and smooth exhalation.

  • Find a comfortable seat. Exhale all the air in your lungs, then inhale to fill up your belly, ribs, and chest. Take three more sips of air in, tuck your chin, and hold the air for five seconds.
  • Repeat, this time holding the air for eight seconds. Release the air calm, slow, and smooth.
  • On the third and final time, hold the air for 10 seconds. Release the air calm, slow, and smooth.
  • Allow your breath to find a natural rhythm. Sit and watch your breath for 10 breaths, longer if you prefer.

This practice is similar to sequences we go through in Life Time’s ROOT yoga class. If you could use some additional stress relief, consider attending a class or trying it on demand.

Tory
Tory Schaefer

Tory Schaefer is the national director of yoga operations at Life Time.

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