If I Could Only Do 5 Poses Every Day
As a yoga instructor, I am always sneaking in little stretches throughout the day. So much so, that I don’t even notice it. It’s usually a friend that makes a comment or a look I get on the train while I stand in a hip stretch. My body craves movement if I’ve been standing or sitting too long. If I could only do five stretches every day for the rest of my life, which would they be? This list was not easy to come up with, because there are a lot of stretches that I love. But I chose stretches that hit multiple areas (including the nervous system). Try them and let me know what you think.
Benefits: stretches hamstrings, low back, calves, hips; reduces fatigue and anxiety (calms the nervous system); strengthens thighs and knees
How To: Bring your feet wide apart (about as wide as a yoga mat), bend your knees, and fold forward (hinging from you hips rather than bending from back). Keep knees bent as much as you need to. You can reach for elbows and slowly sway side to side; keep hands on the ground and walk over to each side for a little twist; or stay still and let hamstrings gently open with each slow breath.
Reclined Spinal Twist
Benefits: relieves low back pain; opens shoulders and chest; calms nervous system
How To: From your back, hug one knee into chest and guide it across your body. Knee can be lifted off the ground (you can also place a blanket underneath knee for extra support. Stretch arms out wide for a big chest/shoulder stretch. There are lots of variations in spinal twists, if something feels better for your body, do it.
Reclined Hip Stretch (Pigeon)
Benefits: Opens hips; releases low back; relieves sciatic pain/piriformis issues
How To: From your back, ground both feet on the mat (knees up). Cross right ankle over left knee. Flex right foot slightly (so foot does not sickle). Right hand can gently press right thigh away from body. If more of a stretch is needed, thread both arms around left leg reaching for back of thigh. Stay still or rock gently side to side.
Reclined Butterfly (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Benefits: stretches inner thighs; increases external rotation of hips; calms nervous system
How To: From your back, bring soles of feet together and let knees relax out to the sides. If this is too intense on inner thighs, place pillows underneath your knees for extra support. You can also move your feet further away from your body. Close eyes and stay here for at least five minutes taking slow breaths in and out through your nose.
Side Stretch (Optional Cow Face Arms)
Benefits: stretch intercostal muscles and lats; stretches hips and thighs; improves flexibility in spine
How To: From standing or seated, extend both arms overhead. Opposite hand reaches for opposite wrist. Stretch over to one side. If standing, you can send weight to opposite hip to intensify stretch. Arm variations, interlacing hands behind back (cow face arms) for extra shoulder stretch.