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Yoga to Calm Your Nerves

Before: Whether you're apprehensive about your little one’s first day of school or your teen learning to drive, stave off jitters by spending a few minutes in corpse pose (savasana). "Most people think it's just a final resting pose after a long [yoga] class, but it can be used [for deep relaxation] any time of day," says J. Michael Taylor, instructor at Yoga Among Friends in Downers Grove, Ill. Lie on your back, angle your arms slightly away from your body, and separate and extend your legs. "You [will] become aware of the internal buzzing of your body, which slows your breath down," Taylor says. If your mind wanders, bring yourself back to what you're doing by focusing on your breath. Inhale and exhale slowly through the nose, trying to extend or inhale to four or even six counts per breath. Stay here for a full five to 10 minutes.

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During: When you find yourself in said stressful situation, it's important to realize that, however it goes, all you can control is your reaction. Which makes this an opportune time to squeeze in a modified version of standing forward bend (uttanasana). Approach this differently from the hamstring-opening deep stretch you'd take in yoga class. This time the pose is about letting go. "With your head supported, [the forward bend] calms your nervous system physiologically because your body feels the support and releases tension," Taylor says. Excuse yourself, duck into the nearest bathroom, and lock the door. Then sit on the toilet and fold forward, supporting your head with your knees. Lengthen your spine, extending from your hips to the crown of your head, and rest only your forehead on your knees to keep airways open for your breath. Inhale and exhale slowly through your nose for five to 10 minutes. Focus on your breath—not whether they're wondering what's taking you so long.

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After: Post-semi-traumatic incident is an optimal time to practice letting go. Instead of wasting time wondering what kind of impression you made, spend a little time in legs-up-the-wall pose (viparita karani). Grab a blanket or a firm pillow for support and place it next to a wall. Then position your hips on top of it and lie down, sliding your legs up the wall. Let your arms rest comfortably at your sides. Your hips are supported by your prop; your head and shoulders, by the floor. This pose opens up your chest, increasing circulation and soothing a frazzled nervous system. Plus, yogis say raising your legs above your hips lets gravity aid your lymphatic system in flushing toxins (like that extra gin and tonic you had to ease your nerves) out of the body. Breathe through your nose here for 10 minutes.

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