I ’M WRITING this on Blue Monday, officially the most depressing day of the year. I’m not going to dwell on this, however, as I’m sure you can all figure out why it might not be a day that is naturally full of joy, sweetness and light.
Instead, here’s what you can do to see you through dull old January, when the lure of the sofa is high. It really is imperative to get your body moving and ward off all the dreaded flu and colds flying around, improve energy levels and lift your mood.
A good old-fashioned walk would be my first suggestion — nothing complicated or expensive — just stomping along, feeling the air in your lungs and the ground under your feet. Choose a decent, bright day and you’ll get a hit of vitamin D, too.
After that, I’m all for sun salutations. There’s not enough sunshine around, so let’s honour what little we do get with this classic yoga sequence. It might look complicated, but even beginners will get the hang of it if they go slow. The benefits are huge: sun salutations stretch and strengthen the entire body, raise the heart rate and increase energy levels. Do them regularly and you will be stronger and healthier, both mentally and physically.
A study by the International Journal of Yoga confirmed its benefits. Researchers divided 124 stressed students into two groups — one did 20 minutes of sun salutes a day and the other did nothing. After two weeks, the sun saluters reported a quiet mind, feelings of joy and less worry.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to how to do them.
1. To get started, pop the feet together and take the hands into prayer position.
2. Inhaling, swing the arms out to the sides and join the palms over the head, taking a back bend if you like.
3. Exhale and fold forward, bringing the hands towards the ground.
4. Inhaling, extend the spine, bringing the hands to the shins to do so.
5. Exhale and fold forward once more.
6. Continue the exhale to step back with the right leg into a lunge position.
7. Inhale and step back into plank position. Take a full breath here.
8. Exhale and drop the knees, chest and chin to the floor.
9. Slide forward onto your stomach as you inhale, lifting the chest into cobra pose.
10. Exhale and push back onto your knees, engage the tummy muscles and push up into downward-facing dog, lifting your hips high and pressing the hands firmly into your mat. Stay here for five breaths.
11. As you inhale, lift the right leg high and swing it forward so you step between the hands and come back into a lunge. It might need a little wiggle to get it here!
12. Exhale and step the left foot forward to come into a standing forward bend.
13. Inhale, press into the soles of both feet equally and lift your upper body, swinging the hands up to join over the head.
14. Exhale and bring the hands back to prayer position before repeating the sequence on the other side.
If you’re new to yoga, don’t worry too much about your breathing — get the movements sorted first and the rest will follow naturally — and you can build up to as many rounds as you like. If it all looks a bit complicated, watch my video of the sequence here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8Z-yvde6sw&t=34s