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Mood boost: 10 steps for a clear mind

Anna Ashby has been practicing yoga for over 20 years, and teaching for over 10 of those years. Here are her tips to clear your mind

by Psychologies

Anna Ashby is a senior faculty member of Triyoga’s teacher training programme, Europe’s largest yoga centre. She has just launched a new yoga DVD, Yoga 3D, which is available from yoga-3d.com.

For more information on Anna's classes, workshops and retreats visit annaashby.com

As with all physical exercises do not attempt these poses if you have a condition or injury.

1. Grounding - Stand in the mountain pose; place your feet hip-width apart and parallel. Spread the soles of your feet and spread across your toes. Root down and ground yourself.  As you press the feet down, softly extend upwards through the crown of your head. Move your shoulders back and soften them down away from your ears. Take 2 or 3 deep breaths. Keep the spine long and the shoulders relaxed and back. Use the inhale to centre yourself and ground; use the exhale to release unnecessary tension and thoughts.  Allow yourself to settle into the present moment.

2. Neck Release – Inhale, and on the exhale release your right ear towards your right shoulder. Keep the shoulders back and don’t force the stretch.  Stay here for several breaths. Gently breathe into the stretch at side of the neck. After several breaths, inhale the head back to centre and, on the exhale, release the left ear towards your left shoulder. Do not force the neck. Rather, softly breathe into the sensation of stretch and use the exhale to soften and lengthen the muscles.

3. Arm Sweeps – Continue to stand in Mountain Pose.  Inhale and sweep your arms up and over your head, exhale and release the arms down. Do this several times synchronizing the breath with the movement. Open the torso on the inhale, and release tension on the exhale. Enjoy the sweeping movement of the arms and breath.

4. Forward Bend – Inhale and reach the arms up as in the arm sweeps, on the exhale, bend your knees and release the torso down towards the floor, and place your fingertips on the floor. Bend your knees as much as you need to, in order to place the fingertips on the floor. Release your head and neck down. Keep the legs steady and strong and the feet grounded as you release your spine. Take 2 or 3 deep breaths in the forward bend. With each exhale release the spine a little more. Then, bend the knees more deeply, place your hands on your hips, inhale and lead with the head to come up. Take a few steadying breaths in the upright posture.

5. Standing backbend – Keep the feet hip-width apart and parallel. Place your hands on the back of the pelvis with the fingers pointing downwards. Roll the shoulders back and bring the upper arms parallel to one another. As you press the hands lightly downwards lengthening the lower back, lift the chest upwards. Look softly upwards keeping the neck long. Take 5 even steady breaths into the ribcage and heart, expanding on the inhale, softening on the exhale. Keep the gaze soft and the neck long. On the fifth exhale, release the arms down and stand upright.

6. Standing Cat Cow – Bend your knees, lean forward and place your hands on your thighs. Lengthen your spine and look softly forwards. On the inhale, push the hands down onto the thighs and softly round your back. Draw your tailbone in and release your head down. On the inhale, dip the back. Broaden the buttock bones, open the chest and look gently upwards. Do this several times. Inhaling and rounding, exhaling and dipping. In this way releasing tension in the back.

7. Eye of the Needle on a chair – Come to sitting upright on the front edge of a firm chair. As you sit upright, ground both feet. Take a couple of centring breaths. Then place your right ankle on your left thigh and open the right knee to the side. Place your hands lightly on the legs. Inhale and lengthen upwards, on the exhale, gently fold forwards. Thread the right arm through the legs, and interlace the hands around the back of the left thigh. Spread the sole of the right foot and lightly press your right elbow into the inner right thigh as you come forwards. Softly round the back and feel as if you are breathing into your right hip. Stay forward for 2 or 3 breaths. On an inhale come up, and change sides.

8. Chair twist – Again sit forward on the front edge of the chair seat with both feet grounded. Sit upright keeping the shoulders relaxed and the spine long. Reach around with the right arm and grab hold of the chair seat or back. Place your left hand on the outside of the right thigh. Inhale and lengthen upwards, on the exhale gently twist towards the right. With each inhale lengthen upwards, with each exhale twist a little more starting from the bottom of the spine and working your way upwards. Roll the right shoulder back, widen across the top of the chest and keep the chin level and the back of the neck long. Take 2 or 3 deep breaths as your sustain the twist. Inhale back to centre and proceed to the other side.

9. Chair forward bend – Now softly fold forwards and rest your torso on your thighs. Release your arms down to the floor. Relax your shoulders and release your neck and head. Take several full and soft breaths into your back. After 5 breaths, inhale and come up.

10. Meditate – Continue to sit up on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor and grounded. Place your hands lightly on your thighs. Move the shoulders back and relax them down away from your ears. Softly elongate your spine. Feel as if you head is lightly balanced atop your spine. Close your eyes. Relax the skin of the face, particularly across the eyebrows. Relax your lips and your tongue. Take smooth and even breaths through the nose. Give your full attention to the breath following it along with your awareness. Completely relax the breathing process. As thoughts arise, use the exhale to dissolve them. Gradually bring your attention to your centre however you may experience it. Keep your focus in your centre as you continue to follow the breath for a few moments. When you are ready, you may open your eyes.