Yoga for Every Body: One Hour Gentle Strength and Stretch
Why Try Yoga?
Yoga offers everyone a beautiful opportunity to experience physical fitness and spiritual awakening. Many people are familiar with the idea of yoga, but resist trying yoga because they aren't exactly sure what to expect.
A lot of people tell me they aren't flexible enough to do yoga. The point of yoga is to start exactly where you are. You don't take a chemistry class because you already know chemistry. You don't take golf lessons because you're already a good golfer.You study something and you take classes in order to improve your knowledge and skill.
Yoga is a practice. It is not perfect. In our yoga practice, we each take a place on our mat or in our space. We close our eyes and tune into our bodies. We listen to our breath, our body, our spirit. Yoga offers you a chance to tune into your body and your highest self while moving and relieving stress.
Continue reading to discover how yoga can help with your stress.
You will find a video of one of my classes at the end, followed by written instructions for each pose. Enjoy!
Benefits of Yoga
1. Body and mind awareness
2. Deep breathing
5. Stretches and lengthens muscles
Many people go through their entire day without ever noticing how they feel. Yoga offers you an opportunity to slow down and tune in.
First, close your eyes. Check in with your physical body. Notice how you feel. Start at the top of your head. Do you have a headache? Is your jaw clenched? Is your neck stiff? Are your shoulders drawn up near your ears?
Continue scanning the length of your body, noticing areas that fell stiff, sore, tense or tired.
Notice your body without judging how you feel.
Next, with your eyes closed, bring a hand to your heart. Take a deep breath and notice how you feel. All of your feelings are valid. Allow yourself space to feel whatever is coming up for you in this moment. Happy, sad, anxious, energetic, tired. Whatever you feel, allow it space to move through you.
Notice how you feel without judging or needing to change yourself.
This awareness offers the first gift of your yogic practice.
The Essence of Yoga: Breath
Your breath provides sustenance for every cell of your body. Your breath allows you to energize or relax your physical body.
Your breath, when matched with your movement in a yoga practice, helps heal trauma and bring you back into your body. Your breath helps you connect to how your body feels. Your breath helps calm your mind and heart.
Breathe deeply. You are safe. With each inhale, lengthen into the stretch. As you exhale, move more deeply into the pose.
Releasing Stress, Anxiety and Tension
Your yoga practice gives you a chance to move your body and central nervous system from the "fight or flight" mode and into the "rest, digest and relax" mode. In science terms, you move from the sympathetic nervous system and engage the parasympathetic nervous system.
The poses demonstrated in this article help you move from cortisol and adrenaline producing stress to an endorphin releasing, relaxed state.
Using the poses offered in the video while breathing deeply and matching your breath with your movement, you can significantly lower your stress levels.
Grow Stronger With Yoga
While the practice described below is a gentle yoga practice, suitable for all ages and fitness levels, it increases upper body and core strength in those who practice.
The poses use your own body weight to build strength throughout your body, and I demonstrate different ways to work harder, if you'd like a challenge.
Stretching Can Reduce Back Pain
Many people suffer from low back and hip pain, shoulder pain, stiff necks and headaches. A gentle stretching practice, such as the one offered here, can alleviate those challenges.
Sitting at a desk, sleeping on an uncomfortable bed, and living mostly sedentary lives gives many of us stiff backs, necks, and shoulders. Yoga offers a way to release that tension.
Description of Practice
1. Begin in Comfortable Seated Pose. Taking a deep breath, look over the right shoulder, then the left shoulder, several times, noticing how your neck feels. Gently lower the right ear to the right shoulder, then bring the head forward and around to the left. Repeat 3-5 times, then go the opposite direction.
2. Bring hands together in front of your heart. With a deep inhale, lift arms overhead, reaching toward the sky, lengthening the spine. Lower the hands, bringing the right hand to the left knee, gently look over the left shoulder, for Seated Spinal Twist. Hold the twist for 3-5 breaths. Release the twist, keeping the right hand on the left knee. Inhale, lifting the left arm skyward. Exhaling, lean gently to the right for Seated Side Bend, stretching the left side of the body. Inhaling, release the stretch, coming back up. As you exhale, cross the left hand over the right arm, bringing the hand to the right knee. Keep hands crossed and on the knees for Seated Cow/Cat Series. Inhaling, lift the chin, lengthen the neck. Exhaling, drop the head and curve the spine, feeling a stretch all the way down the back from the neck to the low back. Repeat this series 3-5 times. Sitting up tall, uncross the arms and roll the shoulders forward and back a few times. Repeat this sequence on the opposite side.
3. Inhale and extend right arm in front of you. Exhale, crossing right arm over the body. Use the left arm as a lever to deepen the stretch in the rear deltoids and rhomboids. Hold for 3-5 breaths and release. Repeat on the other side. Inhale, raising right arm overhead, left hand rests on a block or on the mat. As you exhale, gently lean to the left for another version of seated side bend 2. Inhaling, come back up and exhaling, release the right arm. Switch sides. Inhale to lengthen the spine and sit up tall, as you exhale, bring the right hand to the left thigh, left arm reaches back as you rotate the torso for seated spinal twist 2. Inhale, sitting up tall, as you exhale release the twist. Repeat on left side. Inhale, sitting up tall, walk hands forward for a gentle hip and low back stretch. Hold this stretch as long as feels comfortable.
4. Come to all 4's. Make sure the hands are under the shoulders and the knees are under the hips. Cow/Cat Flow: Inhaling, shift your body weight forward, over your hands. Lift the chin, lengthen the neck and press the tummy toward the mat for Cow Pose. As you exhale, bodyweight comes back toward the hips. Drop the tailbone, arch the spine, and drop the head for Cat Pose. Continuing a long exhale, drop the hips all the way back to Childs's Pose. Repeat sequence 3-5 times.
5. Return to all 4's. Side Plank/Threading the Needle Flow: Inhale, opening the right arm to the sky. To make the pose more difficult, extend the right leg behind you and lift the right toes off the mat for Side Plank Pose. As you exhale, return the knee to the mat and slide the right hand under the left arm for Threading the Needle Pose. Repeat 3-5 times and switch sides.
6. Return to all 4's. Spinal Balance Flow: Inhaling, extend the right arm forward and the left leg back. Fingertips and toes can stay on the mat. For more challenge, lift the arm and leg parallel and make a long line with the torso. As you exhale, bring the left knee forward to meet the right elbow. Pause. Inhaling, extend. Exhaling, contract. Repeat 3-5 times and switch sides.
7. Come to Child's Pose. Breathe for 3-5 breaths. Kneeling Plank Series: Inhale, reach arms forward, and come into Kneeling Plank. You can choose Full Plank for more challenge. Exhale and lower to the mat. For more challenge, choose Chatarunga Pose. Inhale, lifting chest and shoulders into Upward-Facing Dog Pose. Exhale and return to Child's Pose or choose Downward Facing Dog. Match your breath to your movement, inhaling, and exhaling with each pose. Repeat the series 3-7 times to build upper body strength.
8. Return to Child's Pose and breathe here for 3-5 breaths. Kneeling Lunge Series: Step the right foot forward into a kneeling lunge. Shift the body forward and back, bending and straightening the right leg, to warm up the knees, hips, and ankles. Come forward into a Kneeling Lunge. Hold for ten counts. Bring right hand to right knee and look over the right shoulder, for Kneeling Spinal Twist. Hold for 10-15 counts. Return to lunge. Inhaling, open right arm to the right side. As you exhale, release the stretch. Open and close the right shoulder and chest three times. Return to lunge. Walk hands back as you straighten the right leg, into Half Hero Pose. Right toes come off the mat. Drop the tailbone down and away from the body to deepen the stretch in the hamstring and low back. Repeat this sequence on the right three times. Return to lunge. Walk the right toes across the mat toward the left hand. Lower the right hip and knee to the mat for Pigeon Pose. Hold for 30-60 counts. Bring right knee back, to Child's Pose or extend the right leg straight back for Plank, lifting into Downward Facing Dog Pose. Hold a Child's Pose or Down dog for 20 seconds. Come to Child's Pose. Press the forehead into the mat to stimulate the Pineal Gland and ground the Brow Chakra. Repeat full series on the left side.
9. Come to a comfortable seated pose, with legs extended in front of you. Seated Stretching Series:(Hold all poses for 20-30 counts) Inhale, sitting up tall, extending the length of the spine. As you exhale walk the hands forward, coming into Seated Forward Fold. Inhale, lengthen the spine and as you exhale, return to sitting. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh. Inhaling, sit up tall, and as you exhale, walk hands forward for One-Legged Staff Pose. While still leaning forward, wrap the arms around the right shin and gently bring the shin toward the tummy, chest or collarbone for Seated Pigeon Pose. Gently lower the right foot to the outside of the left leg. Inhaling, sit up tall, extending the left arm. As you exhale, wrap the left arm around the right knee. Bring the right arm behind you and look over the right shoulder for Seated Spinal Twist. Inhale and sit up tall, while still twisting. As you exhale, gently release the twist. Keep the right leg bent. Fold the left leg under the right. Inhale, sitting up tall. Exhale and walk hands forward, feeling the stretch in the low back and hips. Extend the legs and repeat sequence on the left side.
10. Come onto your back. Reclining Stretching Series: (Hold all Poses for 20-30 counts.) Bring the knees into the chest and rock side to side. This movement loosens up the lower back muscles. It also stimulates the Vagus Nerve, which activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System and helps relax your nervous system. Rock side to side several times, then extend the legs overhead, pointing and flexing the toes several times. Bring the left foot to the mat. Cross the right ankle over the left knee and bring the knee toward your chest for Reclining Pigeon Pose. Bring the left foot to the mat, keeping the right ankle crossed over the knee. Drop the left knee to the left. The right foot comes toward the mat on the left side. Feel the stretch in your Gluteus Medius and Piriformis. Bring the left knee back up. Slide the right foot under the left knee, bringing your right foot toward your left hip. If you are able, grab the foot with your left hand. Feel the stretch in the Quadricep and Hip Flexor. Bring both knees into the chest and rock side to side. Switch sides.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.