Even If You Don't Do Yoga, You Should Do These 4 Simple Poses
I have made it my mission this year to spread the word that EVERYONE can benefit from a yoga practice.
So whether you're a yogi or not, there are some simple poses that will enhance your overall well-being.
Regardless of yoga's sweeping popularity, some folks still firmly believe that yoga is beyond their abilities. Whether it is the excuse of injury or lack of strength and flexibility, not everyone wants to, or is able to participate.
So, in the spirit of my mission to spread the word of the universal benefits of a yoga practice, I have put together a simple guide to four poses and their many benefits, that will enhance your well-being, no matter what ails you.
Legs Up The Wall
Simply lie on your back on the floor with your legs resting up the wall. The benefits of this pose are both immediate and long term. First, you will relax. Second, you will feel the swelling go down in your ankles and feet. Third, you will notice a slight hamstring and glute stretch that will release the muscles in your lower back.
Take a deep breath as you stay here as long as you want — you cannot overdo this pose.
But that's not all — in addition to those immediate benefits, if you continue practicing this pose, the blood flow to your heart, digestive system, lungs and brain will improve and your immune system will improve as well, due to the active blood flow to your lymph nodes.
You will also be giving your heart a much needed rest from pumping blood all the way to your feet and back. Before you know it, you will feel your stress begin to slip away.
Forward Fold (Any Variation)
The benefits of forward folds are similar to that of Legs up the Wall. Stress relief, blood flow, release of hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles, and an improved immune system.
But the most important benefit of forward folds is that your hip joints get the message that they have work to do. Our joints stop spontaneously regenerating when we are about 30-years-old, but if we communicate with them by using them (often!), they get the message that they are not done, we still need them, and they will continue to create cartilage and bone cells.
Here are three types of forward folds you can try. Hold each for 5 to 10 long inhales and exhales.
1. Standing: With your legs hips-width apart or spread wide, hinge at the hip joints and hang your body forward. Keep the back of the neck soft as you melt the torso forward, careful not to round in the upper back. You can bend in the knees if your hamstrings are tight.
2. Seated on the floor: With your legs straight out in front of you in Staff Pose, remove any flesh from the sit bones and then fold the torso forward, inviting a bend in the knee again if your hamstrings are tight. Hands can grab for the feet or shins. together or wide spread.
3. On your back: Wrap a strap or belt around your feet and pull them up into the air then pull them toward your head. This one is particularly beneficial, as it keeps the movement in your hip joints and not your spine.
Everyone who is able to stand on their own two feet should spend a few minutes a day standing on one foot. I prefer to do this within a series of yoga poses, but frankly, if you do nothing else DO THIS.
Falling is the second most common cause of death in the world. As we age, our balance suffers. So no matter where you are, maybe in line at the grocery store, try to pop a gentle Tree Pose. Place your foot on your ankle, calf or thigh (never your knee!) and hold for a few breaths. Then, switch sides.
If balance is not your friend (and some days that happens to everyone) feel free to put a finger on a wall or a piece of furniture to help steady yourself. Once you feel steady, you can decide if you're ready to fly solo.
If you are unable to stand without assistance, try holding onto the back of a chair with and gently coming up onto one toe and then the other. Work your way up until you are ready to lift your foot off the ground.
You can twist whether you are standing, seated or lying down. I like to switch it up! Twist gently from the waist and maintain good posture if seated or standing. If lying down on your back, keep your shoulders firmly grounded and your arms out to either side. Bend your knees and let them fall to one side. Rest here for a few minutes, then switch.
The benefits of twisting helps to massage your digestive organs and can help relieve intestinal discomfort. They also will release the back muscles and help calm your anxiety.
Gallery courtesy of Claire Halperin Photography
Lisa Cosmillo is a Registered Yoga Teacher and a former journalist, who teaches Yoga and meditation to folks from 6 to 100, writes articles, edits books and is living and loving life in Olympia, WA.