Something I learned about myself in 2017 is that I do not like to (and cannot) sit still. For me, regular movement means I’m happier, healthier and feel more energized overall. However, I find myself sitting for long periods of time on the computer or traveling in a car way more than I’d like. After a while, things start to hurt, crankiness sets in and…well…it all goes downhill from there.
Maybe you can relate to this. Most of us do because as a sedentary culture, we are starved of the regular, nourishing movement that our bodies and minds need to be well. As a yoga instructor and lover of movement (motion is lotion! Is that weird? I’m sorry) I prefer to do a few easy and rejuvenating poses at home or in private to tune things up.
The poses below are simple, accessible and go a long way if you’ve only got 10 or 15 minutes to be on your mat. Since the holidays have just come to a close, chances are you feel a bit burnt out and tight like I do right now. So, hopefully you’ll appreciate the simplicity of these poses. Remember to focus on your breath and meet yourself where you are. There’s no need to try and change a thing. Just breathe.
Happy New Year!
Restoring, calming and grounding. Child’s pose is a great place to begin any practice. For this sequence, grab a block or something to rest your forehead on and feel the tension of your face, jaw and neck muscles melt away. Come to hands and knees, bring your big toes to touch and slide your hips back on your heels. With arms outstretched and your forehead on your block/prop, stay here for 5 full rounds of breath.
Lay down on your back with your feet on the floor and cross the right ankle over the left knee. Clasp both hands behind the left leg and flex the toes on both feet to stabilize your knee joints. Slowly draw the left leg closer towards you and breathe fully and deeply for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
After reclined pigeon, you can go a little deeper in releasing tight hip muscles by doing pigeon pose face down. From downward facing dog, bring your right knee forward behind the right wrist and lower down onto your elbows. Use a block under the forehead here to soften down even more and gently hug the outer hips in to stabilize your pelvis. Stay here for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Hand to Big Toe Pose
Flip over onto your back and place both feet down on the mat. Sitting for long periods of time shortens and tightens the hamstring muscles. This pose is a great way to open up the back side of the body. Pull your right knee into your chest and grab your big toe or wrap a yoga strap or belt around the ball of the foot if you can’t reach. Stretch the right leg straight up overhead and start with the left knee bent. You can begin to straighten your bottom leg if that’s available to you and stay here for 5 full breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Squatting is so underrated. To further release the muscles of the low back, hips and even stretch the often overlooked calf muscles (so important) stand with your feet mat-width distance apart and turn the toes out slightly so your knee is aligned with the big toe. Fold a blanket underneath your heels for support and slowly lower the hips all the way down. With hands together at the heart, gently lift the belly and chest forward. Stay here for 5 full breaths.
After all this opening, finish things off with a neutralizing twist. Twists bring a rush of fresh blood to the body and when done mindfully, can feel amazing. Sit with legs crossed and draw your belly in to support your spine. Inhale the right arm up and exhale to twist and grab the left knee. Lightly walk your left fingertips back behind you and soften your gaze, breathing deeply into the lungs. Gently squeeze the shoulders together and keep drawing the belly in. Release and switch sides. Stay here for five full breaths.