by Marian Thornley

Who says that living the good life here in the Pyrénées-Orientales is stress free?  Whether it’s paying your tax bill, moving house or worrying about the kids, stress is a constant presence in all our lives today.

In this series of articles Marion Thornley will set out some simple yoga techniques for dealing with stress and the mental and physical problems it can create. All of the exercises will be straightforward and easy to do at home. As with any exercises, however, if you have any specific problems or worries they might not be suitable for you, always check with your doctor first.

A common response to stress is to hunch the shoulders, and nearly all my yoga students complain of aching or painful shoulders and neck. If you take a few minutes every day to practice the following exercises you should find, over time, an easing of the problem.

Start by standing or sitting in a comfortable position. If you choose to sit, make sure your feet are flat on the floor, your thighs parallel to the floor and your back straight, without resting back against anything. Have your hands relaxed in your lap.

1. Start by taking a deep inhalation and drawing the shoulders up towards the ears as far as possible. Hold for a second and let go of breath and shoulders with a gasp. Repeat this between three and six times.

2. Next, on an exhalation let your head gently move towards one shoulder, as you do so, make a long sigh – “aaaah”. As you inhale bring you head back to centre. Repeat on each side between three and six times.

3. Keeping the back straight and with the head in a neutral position, inhale and very gently look upwards. Be careful not to push the head back too far – just enough to stretch the front of the neck. Then, exhale and bring the chin towards the chest. Can you feel a lovely stretch in the back of the neck? Repeat three times. More exercises for the neck and shoulders next month.

Marian is a qualified yoga teacher, although she is not currently teaching.

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