A excellent reason to practice yoga:
It helps develop focus, which spills over into the rest of your life
It’s September! And my favorite season has started: Autumn.
Ok, so chronologically summer isn’t over, but I am ready for cool nights and warm days, vivid color in the trees and cinnamon-pumpkin everything.
Summer has been a race this year. We dashed from weekend to weekend, trying to squeeze in as much time on the boat while trying to get things done at home, and then sprinted through the week at work to do it again.
Since this is the time to start slowing down, I figure it’s the perfect time to do a yoga month. I have been thinking about it for quite a while, but with the rush of summer I haven’t been doing much of anything but getting through my workouts.
I realized that I really haven’t done any real yoga for several months, just adding some stretching poses in my other workouts. I always feel that yoga is beneficial to everyone, regardless of their primary sport.
So this month, I will focus on yoga and practice some everyday. And I bet I will feel so much more relaxed and composed at the end of it.
I am re-publishing this from Fitness magazine. They titled it Yoga for Runners, but I think there are a lot of disciplines that could use some cross training with yoga. After the accident last year, yoga was what I could do in a relatively short amount of time. I got more flexible than I ever have been, honestly.
But the moment I started adding other sports–walking, weights–my muscles contracted and I lost quite a bit of bendiness. If one bikes, runs, enjoys HiTT sessions, lifts weights, whatever, they probably have tight muscles. Even if one stretches before and after a session, it is not quite the same as doing yoga to lengthen the muscles.
These ten moves, done once or twice a week, can help your muscles keep an even tension. Just keep in mind, as Sara Ivanhoe (my fav yoga teacher) says, yoga is not a competition. And you are not necessarily good at yoga if you can complete the pose, it is the breathing during the pose that makes you good at yoga.
Holding the pose for three deep breaths, unless it is uncomfortable, is usually a good starting point. If anything hurts, stop!
For a video showing each pose with trainer Traci Copeland, go HERE
I used to hate this one, but it’s my friend now 🙂
Instructions: Start on hands and knees. Place your palms a handprint’s distance in front of your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and lift knees off floor. Pull your hips up and back away from your hands. Keep knees bent and focus on lengthening your torso — press down into your hands, pull up on your arms — then shift your weight onto your legs. Without losing that sense of direction or length in your torso, begin to lift thighs up as you reach your heels back and down, which will straighten your knees. Engage your quads by pulling your kneecaps up. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Lightly lower both knees back to floor.
Benefits: Down Dog stretches the hamstrings and calves, and creates length in the spine.
feels great, opening my shoulders and chest
Instructions: Lie on your abdomen, facing floor. Bend your elbows and place your hands on mat in line with your lower ribs, wrists aligned under your elbows. Reach legs back and press tops of your feet down into the floor. Press down into your hands and straighten arms, pulling your chest up toward ceiling and lifting fronts of your thighs and hips away from floor. Take a few breaths, and roll back down.
Modify this pose by keeping your toes tucked instead of pointed, which will help activate and lift your thighs. If your lower back feels tight, rest your knees on the mat, which will help lengthen your tailbone.
Benefits: Up Dog opens the hip flexors and stretches the whole front of the body. It’s also a chest and shoulder opener, which can help expand breathing
arms are so much more difficult than the legs!
Instructions: Stand with feet wide apart. Turn left toes in slightly and roll right thigh open to turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Align your feet on mat so that heel of your right front foot is in line with arch of your left foot. Press down into feet and pull up on your thighs. Inhale and stretch arms out to your sides at shoulder height. As you exhale, shift hips toward your left heel and simultaneously stretch torso forward toward your right foot. Place your right hand on your shin, ankle, or a stable support (like a yoga block or the seat of a chair). Take five breaths. Then press down into your feet and lift up with your thighs to come to standing. Turn your feet in to parallel. Repeat on left side.
Benefits: Triangle Pose stretches the hamstrings and inner thighs. It allows you to open and expand laterally (to the side), which is a great release for runners who move solely in the sagittal (vertical) plane.
huh, have to give this one a try
Sugarcane in the Half Moonlight
Instructions: Start standing with feet together near a table or chair placed to your right. Bend your left knee and hold onto your foot with your left hand, or a belt. Lift muscles of your standing leg and contract muscles of your standing hip to support yourself. Fold forward from your hips, resting your right forearm on table or chair. Look toward right kneecap, which should be facing forward, aligned with your standing foot. Maintaining that alignment, open your left hip, lifting your left knee out to left side. For balance, you may lower your right hand to chair seat, yoga block, or floor depending on your flexibility. Hold for five breaths. Carefully release your left foot and lower it to floor, then place your hands on your hips and come up to standing. Repeat on other side.
Benefits: This pose packs a one-two punch — it opens up the standing hamstring and the opposite leg’s hip flexors and quadriceps. Take as much support as you need so that you can breathe normally without any strain.
make sure to keep your “sit” bones evenly on the floor
Bound Angle Pose
Instructions: Sitting on floor, bend your knees and touch soles of your feet together. Start by placing your hands behind you for support, lengthening your spine up toward ceiling. If your knees are high off floor, or if you feel like your tailbone is being pulled underneath you, try sitting on a folded blanket. Think about spreading your inner thighs open toward inner knees, and imagine drawing outer knees toward outer hips. Place your hands on your ankles and hinge forward over your feet. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Come back up to sitting and use your hands to close your knees together.
Benefits: Bound Angle is great for opening the inner thigh
never tried this one, but I have done Standing Eagle
Hero Pose with Eagle Arms
Instructions: Start with knees together, feet just outside of your hips. Sit down between your feet with soles of your feet facing the ceiling. (You may need to sit on a block or a folded blanket.) Press feet down and release 10 times. Add Eagle Arms by wrapping your arms around each other (double wrap if you can). Lift elbows toward ceiling and move wrists away from nose, squeeze and release your arms.
Benefits: Hero Pose will stretch the tops of your shins and feet, which can get tight from running, and get your blood flowing in your legs. Eagle Arms will give you a good arm stretch and relieve tension in your neck and shoulders.
this one is a wonderful release
Reclined Pyramid Pose
Instructions: Lie on your back and your put right foot in a yoga strap (use the tie to a robe or a towel if you don’t have one). Keep your left leg on the floor and raise the right leg with foot in strap. Walk your arms up strap until arms are straight, then pull arms back into their sockets to gently stretch (not yank!) your right leg. Repeat with left leg in strap.
Benefits: This will open your hamstrings and calves without straining your lower back.
another for me to try
Reclining Cobbler’s Pose
Instructions: Sitting, bring your feet together and spread knees wide. Sit your hips as close to your heels as possible. Prop up your knees with blocks or folded blankets, then lie down on your back.
Benefits: This pose opens the hips and releases tight adductors while also releasing tension. Be sure to prop knees up, so your adductors can release rather than overstretch.
nope, never tried this one either!
Reclined Wide Angle Pose
Instructions: Lie down with your back and hips on floor and legs propped up on wall. Bring your hips as close to wall as possible. Spread your legs as wide as is comfortable against the wall and lift your arms over your head to rest on floor, holding opposite elbows.
Benefits: This pose is a more intense adductor and hamstring stretch that relieves tension without taxing your lower back.
have done it without the chair, will have to try with
Instructions: Place a chair at the top of your mat. Sit on mat with both legs straight out in front of you. Fold left leg, bringing foot as close to your body as you can while opening your knee out. Fold your body forward over your straight right leg. Rest your forehead on chair, resting your arms over the chair.
Benefits: This pose releases the entire back of your leg and also relaxes the entire body. Take a few deep breaths to calm your nervous system.
C’mon, like you could have resisted them? From now on, it’s down-rabbit 🙂
I have dug out all my yoga dvds again, finally. I have been doing yoga from memory for the last year, as there are moves on all the sessions that my knee couldn’t do. Sometimes I did the session as the dvd did, but more often I strung moves together depending on how I felt that particular day.
Having been doing yoga for over 15 years now, I have a strong understanding of the difference and reason for doing strength versus stretch-y moves. So I felt that I was able to tailor my poses to what my body needed.
Some days I had a plan-Forward Bend to Wide Leg Down Dog to Warrior I Pose to Tree, etc. Other days I’d come out of Warrior and think, hey, let’s do Plank here, with, maybe, Scale after?
Now I bet that you are all thinking, so why did you need the dvds again?
The joy of my dvd sessions is that there is a voice reminding me of all the little techniques that I sometimes forget. When we do Sun Salutation and I reach my arms up with my palms meeting, I am terrible at pressing them together. I mean, they’re touching, isn’t that enough? I need that little voice to remind me. And sometimes I don’t hold the poses long enough. With a dvd, that is no longer a problem.
I also modified quite of few of my poses to compensate for my knee. So I am not doing them all “technically” correct. When I started yoga last spring again, my knee didn’t bend at all. I think it was mid-summer before I could do any Warrior pose. It was fall before any of the Warriors were fun. My Tree started with my foot at my ankle-it has now progressed up to just under my knee. It helps to have the instructor pointing out ways to make the poses better to regain my proficiency.
Lastly, it is fun to not have to worry about my next move. The instructor tells us when to do each pose, how long to hold it and what to do next. That lets us fall into the mindlessness of yoga. To simply enjoy the muscles, the twist, the breath. I love yoga with my eyes closed.
My accident definitely changed my yoga practice. It did not change my need to do yoga, however. So now I search for poses that don’t require a bent knee. Who would have thought there were so many?
In the hospital while I was in the Rehab Wing, I was taken to the “workout” room at least two times a day. Slowly I and others worked our injured limbs. Then one therapist suggested “chair yoga.”
I was surprised how many of us jumped at the chance. I was also surprised–and depressed–that I couldn’t reach my toes while seated (that would be due to my pelvic girdle fractures in the back). The rest of the class went much more smoothly. Once I got home I did some more investigation into seated poses on a chair so that I could practice on my own.
I learned from this experience that yoga is definitely available to everyone if they want to practice it. And grow with it.
If you want to try yoga, but feel that your balance or flexibility is unsure, try starting with a chair. A chair is great to hold onto for standing poses as you progress. I have reached the point where I am looking for poses for straight legs (which has definitely increased my flexibility reaching my toes).
I do, however, use my cane when I need a little extra support for my right leg. Yoga is about flow and balance, and one should never be afraid to use a little help to move on to the next level. The most important thing is to try. And you can be amazed at what you can accomplish 🙂