voting tips

Before You Vote, Do This

The best voting tips? Stretch and breathe before you hit the polling booth.

By Leah Zerbe

In the hours before you head to the voting booth, instead of flicking to your favorite cable news show for your latest fix of exit poll numbers, turn off all of your devices and use some simple yoga tricks to ease stress and promote a more honest vote. Using just three easy go-to yoga moves will help center you, raising your inner awareness so you can vote mindfully on the issues that matter most to you. "Yogis bring something unique to the process," says Kerri Kelly, cofounder of YogaVotes , a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote organization. "It's not just about voting as an action. It's about how we vote—a vote that comes from the heart."

In fact, yoga merged with the political world in a big way earlier this year when Off the Mat, Into the World helped launch the Oasis yoga booths at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Kelly says attendees included Minority Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), political strategist Donnie Fowler, Republican House of Representatives hopeful David Gerson, of Minnesota, and many members of President Barack Obama's staff.

As it stands, about 20 million Americans practice yoga. Studies have found people who practice yoga regularly enjoy many health perks, along with boosted levels of happiness and improved relationships. Kelly says working yoga into the politics mix can also help people to better understand their core values and vote based on them.

YogaVotes urges yoga buffs to take your values off of the mat and into the voting booth on Nov. 6. And whether you're new to yoga or not, spending a few minutes with the simple yoga poses and breathing exercises below will help clear your mind so you can cast a mindful vote. "In an environment that is cluttered with divisive rhetoric and attitudes, yogis bring a commitment to truth, an informed perspective, and compassionate concern," Kelly says. "They are also participating in a way that is authentic and embodied—they are true to who they are and what they stand for, and their actions reflect that."

Balasana (Child's Pose)

Begin by kneeling on the floor. Put your big toes together and open your knees slightly wider than your hips. Lay your torso onto your thighs and let your head rest on the mat. Bring your arms back by your sides, palms up. Remain in this pose for 1 to 3 minutes.

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Begin by standing with your feet together, spine straight and head erect, shoulders down, arms along the sides of the body, fingers spread and active.

Begin to shift the weight over to the right foot, lifting the left foot off the floor. Bend the left knee, bringing the sole of the left foot high onto the inner right thigh. Press the foot into the thigh and the thigh back into the foot. Place your hands in prayer position in front of your chest or take your arms overhead while drawing your shoulder blades down toward your waist. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths and change sides.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Begin by finding a comfortable seated position and hold your right nostril with a finger. Inhale and exhale through the other one. Now release your finger and repeat the same activity with the left nostril. Do this for 5 to 6 minutes regularly, as it is a great yoga position for concentration that clears your mind and helps you to concentrate.

Relaxed? Now get out and vote!