Continuing from Yoga the First.
Poses we’ve learned thus far:
- Breathing (sit and breathe deeply and slowly)
- Cat Pose (hands and knees, arch breath down on inhale, up on exhale)
- Mountain Pose (standing, arms from center, swinging wide to above the head on inhale)
Today, we’re going to add Neck Rolls (not technically yoga, but so important in today’s society, when we keep so much tension in our neck and shoulders), Standing Forward Bend, and a LARGE supplement at the bottom about Corpse Pose.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Take a deep breath (I know, you’re surprised, right? More breathing!) from either a seated or standing position. I typically do this before Mountain Pose, so I’m pretty much always standing.
On the exhale, let your head fall gently forward until you can feel a little bit of pull on the back of your neck, then gently roll your head to one side, very carefully letting it weigh down until you feel the gentle pull on the opposite side of your neck.
Notice the overuse of the word “gentle” there. This should be STRETCHY but never ever painful. You do NOT want to tear or pull a muscle in your neck. There are bandaids for that, but they’re called neck braces, and no amount of bling makes them fashionable.
Feel free to hang out there for a few deep breaths if you really need it. Me? I always need it when leaning my head to the left. My right side is my tension headache side, and I give it all the extra work I can to avoid flare-ups.
When you’re ready to roll to the other side, take a deep breath, then roll your head forward and over the other shoulder during the exhale.
If you’re pretty loose, you can finish neck rolls pretty quickly. Inhale. Exhale, head down and to the side. Inhale. Exhale, head roll to the other side. rinse, repeat.
Try to hit each side 3-6 times.
When you’re ready to move on, exhale and roll your head to center, so your chin is tucked. Pull GENTLY to get a nice back of the neck stretch, then inhale back up.
You can also add some rolls around the BACK in addition to the front, but you’re more likely to cause injury rolling that way. It can feel nice if you do it carefully, though.
Standing Forward Bend
From standing (surprise, surprise) inhale your arms up and over your head, like you’re doing Mountain Pose. On the exhale, you’re going to spread your arms wide and slowly swan dive, bending at the waist and keeping your eyes forward for as long as you can, then lowering your arms to your knees, shins, toes, or the floor (depending on your flexitude).
Congratulations! You are now bent forward at the waist, with your arms reaching earthward.
You WILL feel this in the back of your thighs.
You WILL get better at this.
If you try and go too deep the first couple of times, you’re going to be hobbling for days while your thighs heal from the tearing. It’ll hurt. Be nice to your body and let it tell you when it’s time to stop pushing down.
When I started doing this pose, I was in okay shape and it still took me a week to touch the floor. Now, I can lay my palms flat, so long as I’ve been keeping up with it. If I go a few weeks without doing this pose, I’m back to barely getting my fingers on the ground.
You may start out only being able to put your hands on your knees, or your shins (or a yoga block, if you’ve got one handy). Don’t berate yourself for not being “stretchy enough” — do the best you can and celebrate that you’re on the path to happy muscles. Allow yourself to bend your knees if you need to.
You will feel this in the back of your thighs, but also probably in your lower back, which is why you want to be very careful. Those back muscles don’t get a lot of workout in a modern world, so when we call on them, they tend to get torn and hurt like hell.
This pose is GREAT because we keep a lot of tension in our thighs. This allows us to release some of that and stretch out painfully shortened muscles.
Right, back to the breathing.
You were exhaling on the swan dive, and now you need to inhale again before your face turns interesting shades of purple. Inhale and raise your torso up until your back is parallel to the ground. Exhale back down. Let your eyes and head relax on the exhale.
Six yoga breaths, and when you come out of this, roll up SLOWLY and CAREFULLY so as not to twinge your back. Take your time and be safe. You’ll end standing back straight.
Some folks call this the Final Resting Pose, but who are we kidding? This is just laying flat on the ground. (And breathing).
Lay down. Let your arms flop out to your sides. Your fingers will probably curl naturally, just relax. Legs out, comfortably splayed.
You can modify this with a pillow under the knees and something over your eyes (useful in a bright room, since it’s difficult to relax your eyes when you’re squinting).
There are two popular modifications to this pose.
While you’re laying there breathing, imagine yourself somewhere wonderful.
Perhaps you find yourself on the edge of a beach vista, the sunlight warm against your skin and the sand between your toes. As you walk towards the gently shushing frothy ocean waves, you see a hammock strung between two palm trees. You can rest in it, feeling it sway in the salty breeze, or keep walking along the water. (And then if you’re me, you dive into the water and become a mermaid and suddenly it’s less relaxing because there are starfish to be rescued and sharks to dodge.)
Perhaps you see an old stone and marble stairwell leading down into a lush, forest scene. Greens and blues, dotted with cool shadows and yellow ovals of muted sunlight break through the foliage overhead, and the ground beneath your feet is soft with loam and fallen leaves. Around you, the sounds of the forest lift your spirits, from calling birds to singing insects, the rushing wind through the leaves rises around you like a soft blanket. (And then if you’re me, a jewel-toned fairy dragon appears and leads you off to find a band of natives, all of whom are pre-pubescent children, and who need your help to solve the mystery of …)
As you can tell, I’m not great at the Imagery thing. I start out strong, and then it all goes nutso.
2) PMR – Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This one, I’m quite good at, but it takes time.
Laying down, relaxing and breathing, you’re going to THINK about forcing your body to relax, one body part at a time, starting at your toes and leading to your head.
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your feet and hands, thinking about them relaxing. They may tingle.
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your calves and wrists, thinking about them relaxing.
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your thighs and forearms, think about them relaxing.
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your hips and elbows.
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your upper arms and waist/belly/lower back.
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your shoulders and back.
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your shoulders and back again. (I have back relaxation issues, so I do this twice)
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your neck. You may adjust the angle of your head/neck here to get a better relaxation.
Inhale. Exhale, focus on your FACIAL muscles. Relax your eyes, your expression, your jaw.
Now, start moving your fingers and your toes, and slowly come back out of the pose over the course of a few more breaths.
This one ALWAYS makes me feel awesome.
The Current Routine
So! Our new routine is:
- Cat Pose
- Neck Rolls
- Mountain Pose
- Standing Forward Bend
- Corpse Pose
Do those for a while and let me know what you think.