Shorter, colder days can lead to more food cravings. Hitting the mat can help beat them back.
Sad but not surprising: People eat an average of 86 more calories a day in the fall than they do in the spring. And gingerbread lattes arenâ€™t entirely to blame. â€śWhen you donâ€™t get enough daylight, you produce less serotonin,â€ť says Barbara Olendzki, a registered dietitian at the University of Massachusettsâ€“Worcester. And low levels of the hormone can increase our cravings for carbs. But yoga can help. Food cravings are often anxiety-related, and the calming practice may curb our impulse to polish off the office M&Ms. With a regular routine, says Sadie Nardini, a New York Cityâ€“based yoga teacher, â€śyou learn to undergo intense sensations without giving in.â€ť In one study, people with binge-eating disorder made healthier food choices after 12 weeks of daily yoga and mindfulness training. Nardini designed this sequence to strengthen both body and mind.
The Plan: Youâ€™ll need a yoga mat; blocks are optional. Do the routine (the warm-up, flow, and cooldown) a few times a week or whenever cravings strike to minimize impulse eating.Total time: 15 minutes.
What it does: Increases focus; strengthens legs, inner thighs, glutes, and core
How to do it: Sit on the floor with ankles crossed. Extend arms straight in front of you at chest height, clasping hands and pointing index fingers forward (as though you were readying to shoot). Inhale and lift feet off the floor and out a few inches from the body. Exhale and draw knees closer to the chest. Repeat for 10 breaths.
Keep in mind: Press sit bones down to elongate the spine. If youâ€™re having trouble balancing, hang on to your knees.
What it does: Massages the adrenal glands, aiding relaxation; strengthens arms, chest, quads, and core
How to do it: Get on hands and knees, then straighten legs and arms and lift hips up so that body forms an upside-down V, or Downward Facing Dog. Exhale and twist knees to right. Hold for a few seconds. Inhale to center. Exhale, spinning knees to the left. Repeat, twisting on every exhale for 10 breaths (5 per side). Transition to the next pose by swinging your right foot up behind you and then stepping it forward between your hands. Lower your left knee to the ground in a lunge.
Keep in mind: Shoulders remain centered as you twist. Youâ€™ll feel a stretch in your waist and lower back.
What it does: Opens the chest and ribs so you can breathe more deeply, which increases energy; strengthens the legs, glutes, core, shoulders, and back
How to do it: Inhaling, arch your back slightly and extend arms out to sides, lower than shoulders, and behind you, palms facing out and fingers stretched. Exhale, round your upper body forward, and hug yourself. Repeat for 10 slow breaths, inhaling to open, exhaling to close.
Keep in Mind: Keep your chest and belly lifted as you open your arms out to the sides.
What it does: Releases tension through inversion; strengthens legs, glutes, core, shoulders, and back
How to do it: Lift up off back knee and maintain the lunge position with right foot forward, left foot back, right thigh almost parallel to floor. Scoot right foot sideways to the edge of the mat. Reach arms behind you and interlace fingers, palms together. Turn your left toes out to a 45-degree angle and exhale as you fold forward from the hips, reach- ing arms toward the ceiling. Inhaling, gently roll the torso back up. Exhale and fold forward. Repeat 5 more times. Then place your hands on the mat and step your right foot back, pausing in Down Dog.
Keep in mind: How far forward you fold will depend on your flexibility; go only as far as feels comfortable.
What it does: Strengthens the legs and core
How to do it: From Down Dog, gently lower your knees onto the mat and flatten the tops of your feet onto the floor. Sit up into a kneeling position and place hands in front of heart, palms together. Inhale and draw the lower belly up and in. As you exhale, lean body back until you feel your abs work-ing. Inhale, then exhale and pull body forward until the torso is directly over the knees again. Repeat, flowing with the breath, 10 times.
Keep in mind: As you lean back, keep your body in one line from your knees to the top of your head.
Repeat moves 1â€“4, stepping forward with the left foot instead of the right. Finish your practice with the cooldown.
What it does: Centers the mind and calms you; stretches legs, hips, and core
How to do it: Sit with soles of feet together, heels 12 inches or more from your body and knees open wide. Press palms together with thumbs touching forehead, then lean forward from the hips, lowering elbows toward the floor. Hold for 10 breaths.
Keep in mind: If your hips feel tight, try placing a pillow or yoga block under each knee for additional support.