Welcome to “commercial break yoga.” Short, dedicated spurts of movement and breathing. No excuses. Breathe mindfully. Focus on each movement. Listen to your body; stretch to resistance but never pain. Do these in the order given. Smile. Repeat.
Pose 1: Cow/Cat (or spinal waves)Promotes fluidity in the spine. Be sure to sync your movements with your breath cycles.
2. With a slow inhale, drive your chest toward the “window” of your arms and lift your tailbone toward the ceiling.
3. With a slow exhale, move to lift your spine upward, pushing the floor away. Relax the back of your neck and tuck your tailbone.
Move with your breath, always inhaling into the cow and exhaling into the cat. Take your time, observing your hips, shoulders, side body, neck, and spine.
Pose 2: Down DogStrengthens shoulders, arms, and wrists. Lengthens tight hamstrings. You can also try a modification with your knees bent.
2. Tuck your toes and, on an exhale, lift your knees away from the ground, keeping them slightly bent (or very bent; see the picture above and at pose six below).
3. Gently lift your sit bones toward the ceiling.
4. Slowly lengthen your legs, moving into your hips.
5. Move your awareness to your shoulders; make them firm and broaden them away from each other.
6. Notice which side or part of your body feels tighter and breathe into that side.
MODIFICATION: Keep your knees bent to release your low back, especially if you have particularly tight hamstrings. Hold for at least ten breaths and work up to holding for two minutes.
Pose 3: Lateral Hip ReachGets at the hard-to-stretch TFL at the front of the hip and the top of the IT band, as well as your quad. Opens side body; promotes bigger breaths.
2. This is critical: tuck your tailbone/pelvis under (like a scolded dog). This will help you feel a stronger stretch to the top of the thigh.
3. Put your right hand on your right hip or thigh and reach your left arm overhead, away from the leg that is being stretched.
4. Hold for three breaths, then release and switch sides.
Pose 4: Thread the NeedleSuperb outer hip opener.
2. Cross your left ankle over your right thigh, making sure that your anklebone clears your thigh. Actively flex your front foot by pulling your toes back so that the center of your foot will line up with your kneecap rather than curving into a sickle shape, which can stress the ligaments of the ankle and knee.
3. Maintaining this alignment, pull your right knee in toward your chest, thread your left arm through the triangle between your legs, and interlace your fingers around the back of your right leg or right shin (not the back of your knee). If you can hold in front of your shin without lifting your shoulders off the floor or rounding your upper back, do so; otherwise, keep your hands clasped around your hamstring or use a strap. (The goal is to avoid creating tension in your neck and shoulders as you open your hips, so choose a position that keeps your upper body relaxed.)
4. As you draw your right leg in (making sure to aim it toward your right shoulder, not the center of your chest), simultaneously press your left knee away from you.
5. Hold for ten breaths or longer; switch sides.
Pose 5: BridgeA beginning backbend that strengthens legs and hips, massages the spine, and opens the heart. Counterbalances compressed chest.
2. Rest your hands near yours hips with your palms up. This helps open the front of your shoulders and collarbones.
3. Rock gently to roll and slip your shoulder blades under, tucking them toward your hips, creating space between your ears and shoulders.
4. Push up through your feet to bring your hips off the floor.
5. Clasp your hands underneath you to help ground your shoulders and roll open your chest. Your clasped hands should continue to push toward your ankles while engaging your legs; continue to open your chest in backbend.
6. Do NOT tuck your chin; keep your throat open and bring your front ribs toward your face.
7. Hold for five breaths. Release to the floor and rest. Repeat two times.
Pose 6: Straight Leg Reclined TwistBreaks the lateral plane of everything we do. Regains some range of motion in the spine and “detoxes” or “squeezes + soaks” the organs. Also a nice outer hip release.
1. Lie flat on your back with your arms out to the side.
2. Bring your left leg straight out to the left side. Stack your right leg on top of your left leg, keeping both straight.
3. Play with how high you bring your feet toward your left hand. (The higher your legs go, the higher the twist goes up your spine. Adjust as comfortable for you and where you feel you need a deeper stretch. Proceed with caution and listen to your body! It will be different on any given day.)
4. Look over toward your right hand, trying to keep your right shoulder grounded into the floor/mat.
5. Relax and release into the twist; let go for up to five breaths. Switch sides.
There you have it! Now keep it up; regularity is key. Make time for it. You’ll be glad you did.
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Photo credits: YogaJournal.com, RealYoga.co.il, Gaiam, YogaSimple.net,TrainRogue.com