In our world today there seems to be some buzz about Yoga. It is nothing new, but perhaps newer to us. Although I would not consider myself a yogi, nor do I live by the foundational roots of the practice, I do enjoy the physical and mental results that stretching and intentional meditation can bring into my day. When we are engaged in a regular stretching routine, we not only advance in our flexibility but can increase our range of motion, decrease areas of pain, increase circulation, and expedite healing. Even if I spend just a few minutes in stretching I rise to feel more relaxed. I feel open, aligned, calm, and tranquil. I often wonder why I hesitate to invest in this more as I am always satisfied after my stretching! 6 seconds or 60 minutes-it always feels good!
Stretching poses for runners:
Benefits: Opens the groin and hips; stretches the inner thighs. Forward folding stretches the back.
Sitting tall on your mat, bring the soles of your feet together.
Interlace your fingers and place them around the toes.
Sit tall, rolling the shoulders back, and gaze past the end of the nose.
Lean forward for a deeper stretch, stopping when you start to “feel” the stretch.
With every inhale, feel your spine growing longer (imagine the crown of your head reaching out in front of you to the wall); with every exhale, allow the body to sink lower (the chest is getting closer to the floor).
Tip: Use blocks under your knees if your hips are particularly tight.
Cow Face Fold:
Benefits: Stretch out your glutes and hips–including the hard-to-reach deep muscles–and your IT band.
From a seated position, bring your left foot back by your right hip; stack your right knee on top of your left, with your right foot by your left hip. (If your hips are tight, your top leg/knee might stand rather than lie flat–that’s OK.)
Grab your feet with your hands (left foot in right hand; right foot in left), and lean forward slightly, gazing past the end of your nose.
For a deeper stretch, flex your feet. You can also place your hands on the floor in front of you and lean forward to intensify the stretch.
Repeat on the other side, with the left knee on top this time.
Tip: Make sure both hips stay on the ground in this pose.
Standing Forward Fold with Ragdoll Arms:
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings and straightens the spine.
Inhale and take your hands to your hips as you step your feet hips’ width apart.
Exhale, fold forward. If you can straighten your legs in this pose, grasp each elbow with the opposite hand. If you can’t straighten your legs or need more support, place your hands on a yoga block (or even a chair, if you prefer).
Allow your head to hang down limply–like a ragdoll, straightening your spine. Gaze past the end of your nose.
Tip: Keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight. If you straighten your legs, take care not to lock your knees. For a deeper stretch, engage the quadriceps by lifting up on your kneecap. With its gentle method of stretching the body and relaxing the mind, yoga can be used to calm anxiety and relieve nervous energy running through the body. Rather than jumping into a generic yoga sequence, you should instead use specific yoga exercises for anxiety that soothe the muscles, calm the brain and trigger relaxation.
Stretching At The Office:
Upper Trapezius Stretch:
Your upper trapezius muscles are prone to tension, especially when you get stressed. To stretch these muscles, place your left hand on the top of your head and your right hand down by your side. Gently pull your head over to the left while keeping your right shoulder down and relaxed. You will feel a mild stretch in the right side of your neck. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then change sides.
Upper Back Stretch:
The upper back is prone to tightening up when you sit at your desk. To stretch your upper back, clasp your hands together and extend your arms at shoulder height. Keeping your body upright and arms parallel to the floor push your shoulders forward and concentrate on spreading your shoulder blades as wide as possible. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before relaxing.
Tight chest muscles can cause you to develop a rounded upper back and slouched posture. To stretch your chest muscles, sit up tall in your chair and place your hands behind your head. Without pressing your head forward, squeeze your arms back and lift your chest. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds and then release.
Stretches to Alleviate Stress
Considered a restorative yoga pose, child’s pose helps the body and mind relax as you allow yourself to surrender to the force of gravity.
Begin by kneeling on the ground with your feet together.
Gently sit back onto your heels and move your knees about hip-width apart.
Slowly fold forward at the waist, bringing your torso between your thighs.
Continue lowering until your forehead rests on the ground. Rest your arms beside you on the ground with your hands near your feet, palms facing the ceiling.
Allow every muscle in your body to relax and fall toward the ground.
As gravity pulls you toward the ground, focus on breathing deeply into the lower back.
To help relieve your anxiety or stress, hold the pose for several minutes.
Downward Facing Dog:
An inversion pose such as the downward-facing dog causes a temporary increase in blood circulation to the head. This increased blood flow triggers the body’s calming mechanism, which slows the heart rate and respiration.
Initiate the downward dog by balancing with your hands and knees on the ground.
Your knees should be directly underneath your hips, while your hands should sit just in front of your shoulders.
On an inhale, straighten your legs and lift your butt toward the ceiling.
Allow your entire body to stretch away from the ground; your body should look like a triangle.
Hold the pose for one to three minutes.
When the body is settled into the cobra pose, the chest and heart are opened to positive energy. This pose energizes the heart and helps relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression and fatigue.
Lie on your stomach on a cushioned exercise mat.
Extend your legs behind you with the tops of your feet resting on the ground.
Place your hands underneath your shoulders and spread your fingers against the ground.
On an exhale, straighten your arms and press your torso away from the ground.
Continue lifting until your arms are nearly straight.
Stretch through your chest, neck and head and hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds.
If you have any of the tendencies that I possess, slowing down to make time for stretching and meditation is difficult. Intellectually I cannot argue with the benefits of it. Emotionally I have personal results to prove its worth. Physically I am a better athlete and have less pain when I am ritualistic in stretching. Spiritually I find peace and clarity when I make space to decrease intensity and focus my mind. Why then do
people like us prioritize things the way we do?! Try it Thursday: make time to stretch…daily!