Traveling, desk jobs, active jobs, working out, stress…all of these create shortened muscles, kinks and strain on your joints. If you desire to feel your best, live an active lifestyle, increase your performance, improve your posture and decrease injury and pain, let me suggest you incorporate some gentle Yoga poses. You don’t have to be a “Yogini” to reap benefits of the poses. You also can perform them safely and effectively wherever you go! No equipment needed, space can be limited, and it’s a great way to wake up OR go to bed.
Here are 5 simple poses and their benefits. If you’ve been intimidated by Yoga, try these and you’ll see why they should become a part of your weekly routine.
Name of the Pose: Downward Dog
Benefits: By stretching almost the entire backside of your body, you are relieving foot pain (caused by tight achilles tendons and calves) and low back pain (often caused by shortened hamstrings and tight glutes). By creating space and length in the backside, your posture will improve and there will be less stress on your hip joints and knee joints from tight muscles pulling the wrong directions. When done correctly, the shoulders will also get a stretch. Not only does this pose stretch the body, but it strengthens the legs and arms. This is a great stress relieving pose both physically and mentally.
Tips for Performing the Pose Safely: Hands are shoulder width apart. Feet are hip width apart. Draw the belly in and lift the tail bone high. Press hands into the floor pressing chest back towards thighs gently. Open the shoulder blades so as not to cave in your back. Eyes gaze back towards your toes. If you are extra tight, bend your knees slightly and allow your heels to lift. Take deep breaths that fill the entire torso while holding this pose.
Name of the Pose: Warrior 2
Benefits: Another pose mixing both stretch and strength. This one, stretches legs, groin and chest. Often times, you will feel the most stretch through groin and hip and feel the burning work of the thigh. Strong, lean legs are created with this pose. Tight hips and groin also lend themselves to low back pain. Tight chest and shoulder cause increased stress through upper back and neck which can cause headaches.
Tips for Performing the Pose Safely: Open feet at a slightly uncomfortable distance. Turn one set of toes out at a 90 degree angle. Make sure that same knee points towards your second or third toe and is behind the toes. The back foot turns in slightly. If you squeeze through your butt, it will help to open the hips. Keep your ears over your shoulders, shoulders over your hips and hips centered between your feet. Think about your torso as a papertowel roll on a dowel; tall and centered. Make sure to do this pose on both sides.
Name of the Pose: Fierce Warrior
Benefits: This pose strengthens ankles, thighs, calves and spine. It also opens the chest.
Tips for Performing the Pose Safely: Your body should be making a zig zag lightening bolt. There should be no curvature through the spine and your arms are a part of the line created with your spine. Place feet close together and sit back far enough that your knees are behind your toes. Your back line should be parallel to your shin line. Look in a mirror to check. Biceps are placed by ears. Draw the belly in for back support.
Name of the Pose: Half Lotus
Benefits: This pose opens tights hips relieving back pain and aches. This is one of my favorite poses and I say “It hurts so good.”
Tips for Performing the Pose Safely: Sit on your bottom and lengthen your spine through the crown of the head (remember the paper towel holder). You should feel the “sits bones” planted evenly on both sides in the floor. Keeping the length of the spine long, cross your ankle over your thigh with a flexed foot (to protect ankles and knees). Breathe deeply through this pose.
Name of the Pose: Wide Leg Forward Bend
Benefits: If you picture a waterfall, it’s like your body is becoming the cascading fall from hips to floor. And just as a waterfall is an energizing yet peaceful scene, this move is both energizing and peaceful. You will feel your hamstrings and low back release and have a new calmness when you rise.
Tips for Performing the Pose Safely: Feet are wide and parallel. Bend knees if you are tight in your legs, draw your belly in and fold forward at the hip joint. Keep your belly in, allow your head to hang and eye gaze is up and behind you. Hands can go to floor for balance or clasped behind you for more shoulder and chest stretch. See if you can create more space between your vertebrae as you hang.