For me, 2016 was full of some pretty significant firsts. I moved two hours away from home to live on my own for the first time, rented my first real adult apartment, started my first full-time job, and started paying my first real adult bills (car payments, student loans, and credit card bills, oh my!)
I made my first friends outside of college, planned my first major vacation, and most recently began my first serious relationship.
Because I’m experiencing all of these firsts at once, I’m finding myself surrounded by a cloud of constant stress and anxiety at home and at work as a result of realizing just how many questions there are that I don’t have answers to.
Related: How to Handle Anxiety in a Fast-Paced Career
But through all of it, I’ve remained relatively grounded (on the outside at least). The one thing that has kept me sane throughout this crazy, amazing year of firsts has been my commitment to my yoga practice.
Before the year started, my only experience with yoga was in high school gym class, and one or two free classes at my university’s rec center. My takeway at the time was that while it was certainly restful at the end, there were far too many complicated poses in the middle. At the time, it just didn’t work for me.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized something very important: yoga is all about what is best for you and your practice, not someone else’s idea of what a practice should look like.
Whether you go in person or do a yoga home streaming class, there are so many benefits to having a yoga practice as part of your routine.
Every pose can be modified or omitted entirely. If you’re not ready for Eagle pose, you can relax and get a drink of water or sit back in Child’s Pose, and no one will judge you. With time, you can work your way up to those more complicated poses, but it’s ok if you don’t.
It doesn’t matter what your practice looks like, it just matters that you are there and that you are carving out the time in your busy, stressful day to do something for yourself.
The stress will melt away as you clear your mind of everything but a single intention–any intention–and use the time to focus on your breathing. Pull in positive energy and push out any negative energy.
Related: How Sleep, Yoga, and Meditation Will Improve Your Life
Breathe In, Breathe Out
That breathing technique alone has done wonders for helping me overcome my anxiety at work. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities, I take a minute to sit still at my desk, clearing my mind of everything but my single intention, and I focus on my breathing.
I breathe in slowly, counting to four, and breathe out even slower still, again counting to four. As I breathe in, I visualize myself confidently getting the job done. As I breathe out, I push away any negative thoughts or feelings of failure.
Even if you can’t meditate, you should do some deep breathing during the day. Inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, wait 4 seconds and repeat 3 more times, for a total of 4×4. The deep breathing helps to give oxygen to your brain and can help you to feel a bit more relaxed. — Nicole Booz, 15 Tips To Improve Your Mind-Body Balance
Stretch To Reset
While I’m working on my breathing, I also like to pull out some of my favorite neck and shoulder stretches. This is great for when I’m going crazy after sitting still at my desk for long periods of time.
After a few minutes of this, I always find that I’m refocused and ready for the task at hand.
Yoga has helped me overcome the stress I’m experiencing at work and at home in so many ways. It allows me to carve out me-time to relax and be alone with my breath, and it has given me goals to work toward.
I never thought I would be capable of inversions, but they’re quickly becoming my favorite part of the practice. I’m becoming pretty good at half-shoulder stands, and in 2017 I’m going to be working toward a headstand.
If I can give you one piece of advice going into 2017, I’d recommend giving yoga a try. You’ll be amazed by how quickly the stress melts away when you carve out 45 minutes to an hour a week (you don’t even have to do it daily) for yourself, and how it helps you feel more confident and focused throughout the work day.
Not sure where to get started? Check out our tips for starting a new yoga routine.