Aug 31, 2015
Three Yoga Poses Anyone Can Learn
We could all use a little yoga in our lives. Whether we're simply trying to keep fit, limber, or just need to relax, the benefits of yoga are limitless.
In the piece below, we tapped into the mind of Lia Catanzaro from Ward Village's CorePower Yoga to break down three basic yoga poses that everyone should know.
Downward Facing Dog
What It Works:
Stretches your hamstrings, calves, and arms while strengthening your shoulder girdle and decompressing your spine.
1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder width apart, and your feet centered under your hips.
2. Send your hips up and back (imagine making an upside-down V shape with your body) and allow your tailbone to be the highest point as you draw your shoulder blades together. Let your head feel heavy, and gaze in between your shins while you melt your heels towards the ground. (It's ok if they don't touch!)
3. If you experience tightness in your hamstrings, bend your knees as much as needed, but continue to lift your tailbone high. A lengthened spine takes priority over straight legs.
Why It's Good For You:
Downward Facing Dog is a full body experience that strengthens and stretches all at the same time. This posture is also an inversion—your head is below your heart—which is beneficial in a million different ways; some of the best being: fresh blood and oxygen to your brain, help with stress relief, insomnia, back pain and sciatica. Hold this posture for five long breaths to start and then build from there.
What It Works:
Strengthens your feet, ankles, and legs while stretching your hips, groins, chest, and toning your arms.
1. From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot in between both of your hands and line up your toes with your fingers. Spin your back heel down to the mat so the pinky edge of your foot is parallel to the back edge of your mat and continue to press down into the edge of your back foot. Keep your front knee bent with your front knee stacked directly on top of your front ankle.
2. Lift your torso up and stretch your arms out in opposite directions ensuring that they're parallel to the floor.
3. Direct both your hip and collar bones to the side you are facing, but keep your gaze over your front hand. Repeat on the opposite side.
Why It’s Good For You:
Warrior II is a fierce posture! It’s meant to build stamina, strength, and focus. Power postures are known for raising testosterone levels and lowering cortisol levels (which are known to cause stress). Begin by holding this posture for five long breaths and build up from there. For maximum effect: hold this posture for two minutes before a big interview or presentation for a natural confidence boost.
Half Pigeon/Reclined Figure 4
What It Works:
The pose opens the external rotation of your hips and stretches the psoas/hip-flexor muscles.
1. From Downward Facing Dog: Draw your right knee behind your right wrist and your right foot behind your left wrist. Allow your shin bone to be as parallel as possible to the top edge of your mat. Flex your front foot to help protect your knee.
2. Stretch and keep your left leg and foot pointed straight back. Walk your finger tips back towards your hips to lift your heart and lengthen your spine. Begin to hinge forward and rest your forearms on your mat. Let your head rest on the mat, or just let it hang heavy. Keep your weight equal on both hips (one side may want to open up but dial both hip bones down to your mat). Repeat on the left side.
*If you have known knee injuries, or very strong/tight hips, take a Reclined Figure 4 variation and work up to Half Pigeon.
1. Lay flat on your back with your knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Keep your head flat on the ground. Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
2. Reach in between your legs with your right hand and to the outside of your leg with your left hand and hold the back of your left thigh. Continue to direct your right knee open to the side. For a deeper stretch, begin to pull your left thigh closer to your torso. Repeat on the left side.
Why It's Good For You:
Hips are known as the "junk drawer" of the body. Whether you realize it or not, we tend to store a lot of energy and emotion in these tight places; especially when we don't quite want to deal with them. Not to mention that as a society we do a lot activities that tighten our hips even more: sitting at our desks, driving, sitting on the couch, running, etc.
Taking slow steps to reverse this and open up the tighter connective tissue in this area will increase mobility and flexibility and improve your wellbeing as a whole. Take this posture with patience and one breath at a time. Find comfort in the discomfort. This is where the transformation happens. However, if you experience a sharp pain it's time to back out a few steps and work from there.
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