Welcome to Day 3 of HuffPost Healthy Living's 14-Day Stress-Less Challenge! In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, our goal is to use the next two weeks to focus on becoming less stressed and more calm. Today's expert is Dr. Terri Kennedy, wellness expert and former Yoga Alliance board member, who will be looking at ways to use yoga to relieve stress. Read through today's challenge, then tell us -- either in the comments, on Facebook or @HealthyLiving -- how it's going. Just joining us? Catch up on what you've missed here and sign up to receive newsletters for the rest of the challenge here.
A yoga class or at-home practice is the perfect mind-body workout: It calms the mind while also increasing the body's strength, stamina and flexibility. Dr. Kennedy recommends yoga as a strategy to let go of technology and daily distractions, and to take a moment to slow down and focus your attention inward.
"Through the focus on the breath and body, we end up steadying the mind, which is the entire purpose of yoga," says Kennedy. "The practice also releases tension in the muscles, increases flexibility, reduces cortisol levels, lowers blood pressure and calms the nervous system."
Scroll through the list below for four of Dr. Kennedy's tips for incorporating yoga into your day-to-day.
- "Yoga-off-the-mat": Bring yoga into your daily activities by simply focusing on your breath while going about your usual tasks. "This is the first step to managing stress," says Kennedy. "The act of focusing on the breath helps to bring you to the present. In addition, the inhalation draws in more oxygen while the exhalation helps to release tension and toxins."
- Mountain Pose: This grounding standing pose is easy to do in many situations, like when you're standing in line or just watching television. To execute the pose, try to lengthen your spine and distribute your weight evenly on both feet, Kennedy advises. "Imagine a string is pulling you up to the sky while your feet are firmly planted in the ground. Use this as a standing meditation by focusing on the balance it creates."
- Chair Yoga: Take a break mid-morning for a few chair exercises at home or the office. "You can wring out tension with a Spinal Twist by taking the back of the chair with both hands," Kennedy says. "Then, as you inhale, lengthen the spine; as you exhale, deepen the twist. Be sure to do both sides."
- Savasana: Kennedy suggests going into Corpse Pose (savasana) by lying down flat on the back right before going to bed. Practicing a "body scan" in this position can relieve stress and physical tension. "Lie on your back and, instead of just falling asleep, mentally scan the body for any tension," she advises. "If you find tension somewhere, mentally tell the body to relax. It's a great way to deepen your mind-body connection and ensure a sound sleep."
Stress-Less Fact Of The Day: Here's a reason to squeeze in some yoga on your lunch break: A 2012 UK study found that practicing yoga at work can reduce stress and lower back pain.