Yoga is for anybody and every body! To do yoga, you don’t have to be super flexible, muscular or uber fit. You just have to be willing and able.
A regular and committed yoga practice can certainly build flexibility and muscle tone, but there are plenty more reasons to love it. Yoga also fosters a clear awareness and appreciation of yourself within your own body and mind — and, it boosts your health in a big way!
The following 5 postures can be done by any body with any level of yoga experience. It’s a simple sequence that combines stretching, strengthening, toning and even symptom relief.
Just by having the willingness to try, the ability to be present and a little patience, anyone’s body, mind and wellbeing can benefit from these postures.
1. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Pose benefit: This standing pose calms an overactive mind or nervous system while toning the digestive system and stretching the back and legs.
Stand with your feet about six inches apart and slowly fold the torso toward the legs. Rest your hands on blocks (pictured), your legs, or the floor if you can reach it easily. Stay in a half lift to create extra space in the torso. Otherwise, fold the torso closer to the legs. Root the feet down and press the thigh bones back but keep a slight bend in the knees to protect against back or hamstring injuries.
Stay in the pose until you complete 5 breath cycles.
To come out, place the hands on the hips and with an open chest, slowly rise to stand.
*If pregnant, stay in the half lift with hands on block or shins, lengthen the torso and avoid putting pressure on the belly.
2. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Pose benefit: This backbend energizes and uplifts, while toning the digestive system, opening the chest and strengthening the back plane of the body.
Lie on your belly with palms pressing into the ground near the side ribs, elbows up. Point the toes and press the tops of the feet firmly onto the floor, rooting down. Engage the kneecaps and quadriceps, draw the belly in and reach your tailbone toward the feet. Lift your head and chest as you press the elbows toward one another. Imagine a string is attached to the sternum that gently opens and tugs the heart forward.
Take a few breaths, and then exhale the forehead down. When ready, lift the head and heart again and take a few more breaths.
* If you have low back sensitivity, be careful not to over arch the lumbar spine. Instead, focus on opening the chest and lengthening in the spine, rather than on how high you can get your chest.
*If pregnant, don’t lie on your belly. Instead, do Cow Pose: on hands and knees, gently dip the belly down and lift the head and chest forward and up.
3. Bound Angle/ Cobbler’s Pose (Bhadda Konasana)
Pose benefit: This seated hip opener targets the inner, upper thighs, outer hips and back. It tones and nourishes the reproductive system, gall bladder, liver, urinary bladder and kidneys.
Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet touching and the knees fanned out wide. Sitting on the edge of a folded blanket helps relax the knees and legs down from the pelvis and encourages a lift of the spine. The feet can be any distance from the body to make it feel okay for the knees.
There are several variations to try:
- Remain seated upright and breathe toward any sensation arising in the outer hips, inner groin or back.
- If the knees don’t feel stressed, you can fold forward any amount, which may intensify the sensations.
- Place a blanket or bolster behind you and lie back on it, turning this pose into a restorative backbend.
4. Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsayendrasana)
Pose benefit: This seated spinal twist strengthens the muscles along either side of the spine while massaging and toning the internal organs.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Bend the right knee and cross the foot to the outside of the left leg. (If your foot cannot reach the outside of the left leg, place it near the right buttocks.) Keep the left leg straight or bend the left knee so the foot can rest near the outer right buttocks. If your back starts to round or the bottom of the pelvis feels uneven, sit on a folded blanket.
Place the right hand behind you. Wrap the left arm around the leg and hold the right knee with the left hand, or anchor the left elbow against the outer right thigh. Gaze over your right shoulder.
Inhale and lift from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Exhale, unwind and twist gently toward the right.
Spend 5 breath cycles in this twist. Switch sides and repeat.
*If pregnant, don’t twist against your belly. Modify by twisting in the opposite direction, which will still give a twist along the spine but will keep the belly open, spacious and free from pressure.
5. Legs-Up-The-Wall (Viparita Karani)
Pose benefit: This restorative inversion will passively stretch the hamstrings, support the back, nourish the circulatory and nervous systems, and bring relief for headache, fatigue or stress.
Sit down next to a wall and as you lie back, slide your legs up the wall, so you are in an “L” shape. Wiggle forward or backward until you get the legs at a comfortable angle (legs may be straight or bent slightly at the knees.) Extend the arms alongside you or bend them like a cactus.
Stay for 5-10 minutes and breathe slowly.
Yoga is accessible to every body because almost every pose can be adapted or modified to fit your ability. Experiment with any or all of these 5 poses, then take the time to enjoy how you feel afterward.
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