Cleanliness, work-deadlines, kids, family household chores, money, salary, grocery, beauty, the endless worries of being a woman can take a toll on women’s physical and mental health.
These life stressors are exhausting and can speed up aging. Additionally, women over 40 must deal with a wide a variety of physical ailments, such as menopause symptoms, arthritis, thyroid, weight gain and fatigue.
“Today I refuse to stress myself out about things I cannot control or change.”
Though health should be a priority for women over 40, it takes a backseat to other priorities. Ironically, then, the lack of self-care becomes one of the main causes of more stress!
“To be a powerful woman, you don’t have to be aggressive or forceful. Like a tree, you have to find your roots and then you can bend in the wind.” – Angela Farmer
If you have been practicing yoga and have been physically active in your twenties and thirties then you will certainly never mind the age, be it 40 or 60!
However, if for some reason you could not take some ‘me’ time out for yourself in the past few decades, then starting at 40 is perfect too! You can start yoga at any age.
Research shows that your metabolism can slow down to up to 5% every passing decade after your 40th birthday. Cartilage, tendons and ligaments become less elastic and muscles tighten and shorten, which increases the chances of injury or joint/body pain. Thus the need to increase flexibility and stretch increases with age.
“Yoga is the fountain of youth. You’re only as young as your spine is flexible.” – Bob Harper
Yoga teaches us to hold stretches for a longer time and also breathe simultaneously , which helps us further relax the muscles, and stimulate pressure receptors in the skin, which in turn helps reduce heart rate and nervous system and boost immune system.
This chain reaction completely reverses the damage caused by stress on both body and mind, such as lower immune function, slowing down body’s healing process, adrenaline pushing the heart beat faster and increasing blood pressure, etc..
The following are a list of 10 easy-to-do asanas that women over 40 can practice daily to beat stress. Those who practice regularly, can include these asanas in their daily practice to de-stress.
If you are suffering from high blood pressure or any injury, it is advisable that you seek an expert’s guidance before attempting the below listed yoga practices.
- Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath)
This is an effective dynamic breathing technique. Practice of Bhastrika reduces the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, increases oxygen supply and balances and strengthens the nervous system. It helps induce peace, tranquility and one pointedness of mind.
Sit in any comfortable meditation posture (Padmasana, Vajrasana, etc) and rest your hands on your knees. Keep the head and spine straight and keep your eyes closed (if comfortable).
Take a deep breath in and exhale forcefully, contracting abdominal muscles. Immediately inhale with the same force, expanding abdominal muscles. Repeat this forceful inhalation and exhalation for 10 breaths to complete 1 set.
You can practice up to 5 sets with awareness on rhythmic breathing.
- Utthita Lolasana (Swinging While Standing)
Forward bends have a calming effect on the body. Here is an effective and easy variation for a forward bend. This practice helps remove tiredness by stimulating blood circulation and toning spinal nerves. It stretches the hamstrings and massages visceral organs. It helps reduce anxiety and stress like in any inverted asana and revitalizes body and mind.
Stand with feet three feet apart. Inhale and raise your hands above your head and bend/drop the wrists forward. Bend forward from the hips, exhaling forcefully through your mouth, allowing the arms and head swing through the legs.
Release any tension in upper body and allow the body to gently and naturally swing a few times as the body hangs down from the hips and maintain the balance in lower body. Inhale while returning to the upright position. Repeat this 5 times.
- Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Tree pose is a foundational balancing pose which has therapeutic benefits on body and mind. Apart from strengthening your lower body, it helps you ground yourself and induce a feeling of calm by helping you keep your focus on the present moment. It balances the flight or fight response and helps curb anxiety and stress.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and focus on a fixed point. Bend the right leg, grasp the ankle and place the sole of the right foot on the left inner thigh.
The right knee should point to the side and the close the right heel to the perineum the better. Once you find the balance, you can place your hands in namaskar mudra in front of the chest or even raise them above your head. Release and repeat by standing on the right leg. With practice, you can hold the posture for upto 3 minutes.
- Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
This is an excellent asana to induce relaxation and can be practiced for a longer duration (5 to 10 minutes) to alleviate tension, anxiety and tiredness. It also improves posture and removes stiffness around neck and shoulders.
Sit with legs bent in front and right knee above the left knee. Stretch the left arm to the side and bend it to place the back of the left palm on the spine. Stretch the right arm up and bend it to bring the right palm on the spine.
Try to clasp the fingers of both hands behind the back with spine erect and the head pressing against the right elbow. You can further extend the pose by bending forward. Repeat the same asanas on the left side.
- Janu Sirsasana (Seated Head To Knee Pose)
This forward bend helps calm the nervous system, reduce stress and anxiety as it helps increase flexibility in hip joints and give a deep stretch to hamstring muscles. It is also helpful for those suffering from insomnia.
Sit with legs extended and feet together. Bend the left leg and place sole of the foot against right inner thigh.
The closer the left heel to the perineum the better. Inhale and place hands on the right knee. Exhale and slowly begin to bend forward, sliding the hands down the right leg. If possible, grab your right foot or toes.
Stay in the forward bend for a few exhalations. Repeat with the right leg bent and left leg straight.
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
This pose has a calming and soothing effect on the mind and also helps relieve tension in the spine and neck by stretching and strengthening back muscles. It is usually practiced as rest-pose during vinyasa.
Sit in vajrasana and fold forward from the hips, stretching the hands forward, letting it rest on the floor. If possible, allow the forehead to rest on the floor as well and continue to breathe gently.
- Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
This is a very effective restorative posture which can be modified with the help of props like blanket, bolsters, etc to match one’s flexibility. It also helps relieve symptoms of menstruation and menopause.
Sit in Baddha Konasana or butterfly pose. Exhale and lean back, using your arms as support. Continue to recline and bring your torso all the way to the floor.
Widen your knees away from the hips and allow your spine to lengthen and pelvis to sink. You can rest your hands on the inner thighs or stretch them back and let them rest on the floor.
If you feel any strain on thighs or knees, support your thighs on a block or bolster.
You can stay in this pose from 1 to even 10 minutes.
- Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand Pose)
This inversion helps balances the entire body and mind, from circulatory, respiratory system to endocrine and nervous system. It stimulates thyroid glands, boost immune system and helps calm the mind and relieves emotional and mental stress. One can also practice Viparita Karani asana (inverted pose) instead.
Begin by lying flat on your back and relax. You can place a blanket under the shoulders for cushioning. Slowly begin to raise the legs off the mat, followed by buttocks and spine. Bend the elbows and place the hands behind the rib cage to support your spine.
In the final position, the legs are vertical and together and the arms continue to provide stability.
- Savasana (Corpse Pose)
This deep relaxation pose can be practiced any time of the day to de-stress and relax and should definitely be practiced after asana practice. It helps relax body and mind completely and increases inner awareness.
Lie flat on your back with arms and legs relaxed and palms facing the ceiling.
You can place a yoga blanket or headstand pillow under the head for support and comfort. Shift the awareness from the body to the breath and continue to breathe in a natural relaxed manner.
- Bhramari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath)
One of the most effective pranayama practices for anger, stress and anxiety, Brahmar can be practiced at anytime of the day to relieve mental tension. Best time however, is early morning or late at night (there are fewer external noises).
Sit in any comfortable posture with hands resting on the knees. Close your eyes and keep your teeth slightly apart (mouth remains closed). Raise the arms sideways, bend the elbow and close/plug the ears with the thumbs, resting the other fingers on the head. Inhale through the nose and exhale slowly in a controlled manner, making a deep, soft and steady humming sound. You can begin the practice with 5 to 10 rounds and slowly increase to 5 to 10 minutes.
Apart from the above suggested yoga tips, eating a healthy diet will also have a positive impact on your mood and overall health. Any particular asana you practice daily to destress? Share your feedback as comments below.