Raw, adjective: 4. painfully open, as a sore or wound.
In the last two days, I've spent upwards of 5 hours on the phone for conference calls and conversations about some family estate stuff going on. Me and phones - well, you can just imagine how much I lurved that. 5 hours on the phone for me = 5 hours getting a root canal at the dentist or 5 hours stuck in traffic in 100 degree weather when your A/C is broken or 5 hours making small talk with a 12-foot tiger. Erghh.
So when I finally hung up the phone last night at 7:58, I grabbed my mat, threw on my yoga pants and ran down the street to catch the 8 o'clock class. I'd already practiced my usual 2 hours that morning, but after a draining conference call, every muscle in mi cuerpo was sore and tight. Even my lips were tense. I burst into the studio, checked my monkey mind at the door, and rolled out my mat just in time to catch the last few rounds of pranayama before the practice began.
It was an immediate tonic. And I made sure to finish out the practice, lying there in the dark, not with my usual stretching, but with a long series of quiet inversions. Now, I don't really believe in the whole concept of "stress;" I think "stress" is something we create ourselves, something we can choose to be "under" or not; but I do know that we carry our tensions and our fears and our sorrows and our struggles in our bodies, and if we don't find some way to consciously work those out, be it via dance or kickboxing or swimming or whatever, they'll accumulate in our tissues over the years and morph into something more insidious like cancer or arthritis or what-have-you. So it's important to find a useful method that you feel really does loosen up and release the tension you're storing in your body from things like estate tax conference calls or arguments with your boss or nasty commuter traffic on the NJ Turnpike.
Inversions really do it for me, and if you carry a lot of tension in your shoulders and neck, I bet you'll find they help you, too. The beauty of these asanas is that gravity does much of the work for you; you just roll into them, breathe deeply, and stay. And before you know it, you're calmer, your circulation has improved, your lymphatic system has flushed, and your heart has slowed its racing. And your tense muscles have gotten an organic massage, aided by the weight of your own body. Pretty cool.
Yoga Journal has an excellent, very thorough article on inversions in general, on the physiology and philosophy of this upside-down action, and the benefits you'll see from spending a few minutes a day with your heart above your head. You don't have to be some super-yogi to do this shit. Just pick a couple of poses where your head's down low, roll into them as best you can, and stay there. And don't forget to breathe.
Everybody Upside-Down (YJ)
And check out this inversion if you're feeling particularly bendy: Standing Split (Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana)