I love doing yoga. I love the easy, relaxy poses that everyone thinks are all frou-frou and girlypants, and I love the difficult, heart-pumping stuff that brings strong men to their knees.
I believe yoga is a fantastic way not only to unwind/relax/focus, but also to stretch out muscles that our modern lifestyle tends to ignore … causing a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering in later years.
I’m trying to convince my mom to get into yoga, and I figured I could share my emails to her with you guys. And I do mean “guys”. Mr. Moore yogas with me, and he’s one of the unstretchiest guys out there. He’s seen MASSIVE improvements in his back pain and flexibility since doing them, and both of us feel a much-needed relaxation from doing these.
Since we’re following along the path I expect my mom (a very non-yoga person) to be taking, I’ll be starting out with the easy, relaxy poses and gradually getting into more difficult poses.
You’re going to think it’s dumb, probably, but the end result of basic yoga should be that you feel relaxed, so I’m going to give you the start and end stuff for our yoga routine and when you’re ready for more, I’ll add in a few moves.
This should honestly take you less than ten minutes a day. I recommend doing it either in the morning after waking up or just before bedtime.
Sit comfortably. If you cannot sit comfortably on the ground, you can sit in a chair. This isn’t a stretching pose, it’s a relaxing/calming one and I always always start yoga with it. I actually do this one at my desk at work several times throughout the day.
I’m going to make this one seem more complex than it is, because you probably don’t know what a yoga breath is yet, so there’ll be a lot of text. Do not be frightened.
A “yoga breath” is a deep breath in through the nose — not full to bursting, but deeper than you usually breathe. Slowly inhale, then exhale also through the nose in such a way that you can hear the breath in your head (it might sound like ocean rushing. I hear this kind of in my throat/mouth rather than in my nose). If this feels weird, just do deep breaths and you’ll be fine. Most yoga poses should be done WITH the breath … meaning that you’ll do one thing while inhaling and another while exhaling. The breaths take longer to do than a normal breath, so a typical yoga pose is measured in “breaths” rather than time. I’m going to recommend six yoga breaths for each pose. It’s a good balanced number that’s often challenging on some of the balance-style poses.
This first “pose” (Breathing) you can do for as many breaths as you like. At work, I try to do three — doesn’t take long, I’m not wasting time, and I feel a lot more rejuvinated after it than really seems possible. Also, I’m not twisted into a pretzl on the floor of my cubicle and nobody knows I’m doing it. =]
So yes. Back to the pose. Breathe.
Sit comfortably. Gently lay your hands on your knees. Palm up or down doesn’t matter. And no, you don’t have to put your thumb and forefinger together and say “OOOOHHHM” unless you really want to. Do at least six yoga breaths when you’re doing this as part of the routine.
2. Cat Pose
This is one you don’t do in mixed company. *wink*
This one is moving with the yoga breath. Get on your hands and knees in a comfortable position. Start with “neutral spine” (which just means kinda flat and loose). On the inhale, arch your back DOWNWARD, and your head and neck upward (look upward). On the exhale, transition smoothly into arching your back UPWARD, with your head and neck down.
This is a great starter pose, and your back will thank you for it. You’re just stretching the spine a little, and gently stretching some of your back muscles. This should not hurt or feel strenuous at all.
3. Mountain Pose
Stand up, legs comfortably apart (not together and not wide). Put your hands together in sort of a “prayer” pose. (Alternately, you can have them all the way down at your sides, palms facing forward. The point is just that they’re DOWN, since they’re going to transition UP on the inhale).
Start standing comfortably. Now, before you begin the pose, correct your posture (everyone has bad posture these days). Pull your shoulders back (yes, you will feel like you’re jutting your boobs out. It feels weirder than it looks. It just LOOKS like you’re not slouching. Menfolk? Same goes for you, only with “pectorals” instead of “boobs”.). Now (and this is an odd one) also thrust your hips forward just a little. You’ll feel the transition, and you should be straight and strong from your thighs through your hips.
This is your “start” and “end” pose for Mountain. Mountain’s another that moves with the breathing and that shouldn’t hurt or even feel strenuous.
From start, INHALE. As you do, draw your arms up and around from the sides (arms straight), like you’re drawing a big circle. The end of your exhale should find your hands overhead, arms still straight, with the palms together. (As dumb as this sounds, I ALWAYS feel pops and stretching when I do this one. It’s just swinging your arms overhead, but there you have it). Also as part of this transition, your hips should shift so that your butt is jutting out instead of pushing inward, giving your spine a nice curve.
So! Recap. Inhale, drawing a big, stiff-armed circle around your side to meet at the top while your spine relaxes into a strong, butt-jutting curve.
Then, for the exhale, reverse all that. Arms wide circle down and back to the prayer hands at your chest, and hips back to jutting forward instead of curving back.
That’s All For Today, Class!
I’m going to stop there for now. Those are three “poses” (honestly, the first one’s kind of just to help you clear your mind, but it’s just lovely) but it’s a lot of text and instructions and I don’t want to overwhelm you.
Try doing these once a day for a few days, to get into a routine. Next time, I’ll probably add neck rolls (okay, those aren’t technically yoga, but they’re SO NICE) and standing forward bend and maybe a big chunk of time on the various ways to do Corpse Pose. (tee hee. They can call it “Final Resting Pose” all they want.)