You’ve spent weeks, if not months, studying. You’ve stayed up myriad nights reading, highlighting, making flashcards, and learning the names of grapes that you cannot even pronounce. You’ve canceled social engagements, turned off your phone more often than not, and aside from work, you have disappeared into a solitary world of geography, geology, and enology. But then you wake up one morning and realize that you did it. The day is finally here. It’s time for the big exam.
Feeling prepared or not, it’s time to ready your body and mind during the hours before your exam to maximize all those hours invested in preparation. No more studying now. This is the time to clear your mind and to let everything come together. Yoga essentially means union, and uniting your body, breath, and mind will help eliminate anxiety, improve focus, and give you a determined calm.
Practice these three asanas pre-exam and then go conquer.
Cat and Cow
Cat and Cow awakens your spine and produces a state of calm. This asana creates emotional balance and stimulates intentional focus. As you lengthen your spine, you improve the circulation to the discs between your vertebrae and open up your chest for deeper breathing capacity. On your hands and knees, come to a tabletop position. Your knees should be hip width and your hands spread out directly under your shoulders. Your back should be in neutral. Inhale as you drop your belly and simultaneously lift your gaze and tailbone upwards.
Tree pose requires complete focus. Practicing this asana occupies your mind and helps to eliminate anxiety. Take five deep breaths while holding the pose and you will feel energetically grounded as your fight or flight responses balance out. Allow your central nervous system to calm itself and to prepare you for whatever comes next.
Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Distribute your weight evenly across both feet. Inhale and bring your hands together at your heart center in Anjali Mudra.
Exhale and ground down through your feet. Shift your weight onto your right foot. Bend your left knee, and use your hand if necessary to place the sole of your left foot on the inner right thigh or calf. Do not rest your foot against your knee, only either above or below it. Adjust your hips so that your right hip and left hip are aligned. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor to stand tall. Focus on one unmoving point in front of you. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
Trataka is Sanskrit for “to gaze.” While this exercise strengthens the tried eye muscles and helps to improve vision and focus, Trataka also enhances concentrative powers and mental resolve. Other benefits are increased greater clarity in mind and improved decision-making ability. Place a flame at eye level, an arm’s length away from you and sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes for a moment. Open your eyes and gaze at the flame, focusing on the tip. Relax your eyes as much as possible. Only blink when absolutely necessary. After a minute or two close the eyes and gaze at the afterimage in the space front of the closed eyes.