When it comes to opening up and stretching our bodies, we don't often think of the lungs as part of that process. But as the days get shorter and the air gets cooler, our lungs need a little extra love. And it makes sense if you think about it: In the fall and winter we are more likely to catch colds and respiratory infections; therefore, it's essential that we strengthen the lungs and large intestine in the fall to prepare. We want to keep both of these organs clear and flushed out.
When we take shapes in the body that create more space in the lungs, we can literally breathe deeper, clearing these passageways and stretching the organs to keep us healthier. Here are seven yoga poses that will nourish your lungs:
1. Standing side bends.
Standing upright, interlace your hands above your head. Bend over to one side, and take three deep inhales and exhales. Slowly shift to the other side and repeat.
2. Upward-facing dog.
From plank pose, slowly slower all the way down to your belly, then tuck your toes and lift your knees off the ground, making sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Breathe deeply. Upward-facing dog is a stretch of the front side body and makes more space to stretch the lungs and deepen breath.
3. Sphinx pose.
From lying on your belly, prop yourself up on your elbows with your legs extended behind you. As always, make sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears and breathe deeply.
4. Low lunge grabbing for opposite elbows.
Starting in downward-facing dog, lift one leg up and bring it between your hands and lower your back knee down. Interlace your arms above your head, grabbing for opposite elbows. Repeat on the opposite side and breathe deeply. Grabbing for opposite elbows above the head is a beautiful stretch for the side body and lungs and makes for fuller, more complete breathing.
5. Child's pose with side stretches.
From child's pose, crawl your hands over to one side, making sure to keep your head and neck relaxed. Take a few deep healing breaths there, then crawl to the opposite side. Side bending in child's pose and standing creates more space for the lungs to stretch and expand, which strengthens them.
6. Cat-cow with flipped wrists.
Starting on all fours, flip your wrists 180 degrees and gently start to move through cat/cows, arching your back and looking down and lowering your belly and lifting up. If at any point the wrist flip is too much for you, go ahead and flip them the other way, but at least give it a try! When we flip the wrists in cat-cow, the external rotation of the shoulders physically pushes the lungs more forward. As we move from cat to cow we flush the lungs.
7. Forward fold with side stretches.
From forward fold, crawl your fingers to the left side and breathe deeply. Then slowly crawl to other side and repeat.
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