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|Getting outside or doing some form of physical activity each day can reduce stress, improve balance and increase circulation and mental clarity. At any age, stretching is as important as strength and should be incorporated into your daily routine. Find the path to a more satisfying well-being through these five poses:|
Do this pose right when you get out of bed in the morning. Feel your feet root into the ground. Hold your head high, chin neutral with eyes either open or closed. Feel your head touch the sky, as if there were an invisible string passing through your body up into the heavens. Remember this pose throughout the day; it will keep you from slouching.
Standing forward bend
This can be done anytime during the day to increase circulation and help stretch your hamstrings and lower back. From Mountain Pose, run your hands down your legs toward the floor. It’s OK if you can’t touch your toes; we are all built differently and no yoga should create a painful experience. If you wish, make this more active by following your breath; when you breathe in, rise halfway up your leg, upon exhale, follow your hands down toward the floor again. To further stretch your back, hold each elbow with the opposite hand, arms crossed, and hang; swing your torso from side-to-side and feel the marvelous stretch in your lower back!
This pose provides more blood flow to the head while elongating your spine, strengthening your arms and stretching out your calves. The combo can’t be beat. You can enter this pose via Standing Forward Bend by simply placing your hands on the floor in front of you while shifting your body into more of an upside down V-like shape. Again, if you can’t straighten your legs all the way, it’s fine; you should feel a stretch in your calves, but no pain. You can take your dog out for a walk right in your living room by alternating the movement of your feet toward and away from the floor.
Warrior / Reverse warrior
As we get older, balance becomes even more important. Warrior is a great pose for beginners and advanced yogis alike because it helps improve balance while not being overly-complicated. It also helps open the hips, an area that gets tight from activities such as running and cycling which, if not checked can contribute to back tightness. To get into this pose take a giant step back from Mountain Pose and angle your rear foot outward at 75%. Bend your forward knee to accommodate while raising your arms outstretched in the air, palms facing in, slightly in front of your ears. Feel the stretch in your straight leg – hip-flexors, psoas and quads – coupled with strength as it roots into the ground. Make sure to switch sides.
Sometimes, we just need to relax. It’s the opportunity for your body and mind to absorb the benefits of the yoga practice. The position – lying on your back, your body anchored to the floor, palms facing up – seems simple, but for some it’s the hardest pose. To benefit from this pose, you must completely relax your body and your mind. Sometimes this can be done by reciting a mantra or envisioning a beautiful, positive image. The objective is to clear the mind of junk and absorb the good. This pose brings the day full circle.
Extra credit: twists
Twists are fantastic ways to cleanse your body of toxins. They rotate the spine, stretch the muscles in your back and aid digestion. They can be more challenging and, depending on your situation, they can be harmful and need to be approached with caution. For example, if you are pregnant, twists are not recommended. A good beginner twist is Marichi Pose. Sit on the floor, legs outstretched. Pull your right knee towards your chest. Place your right hand on the floor next to your torso to help lengthen the spine. Breathe in. As you exhale, twist to the right and hook your left elbow to the outside of your right knee with palm facing away from your body. Breathe slowly and feel your body relax into the pose. Make sure your body is warmed up before doing any twist poses and always remember to stop if you feel any pain.
**Please consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen.