5 Quick Yoga Poses to Energize Your Day
When Marie asked me to create a short, accessible yoga sequence she can do a few times a week, I was excited to share a few of my favorite poses. These poses can be done as a sequence, linked together through the sun salutation like Marie and I do in the video, or as stand alone poses you can do one after the other or at different times during your day, like when you step out of bed or are waiting for your water to boil.
I. Simple seated twist:
- Start in a comfortable seated position on the floor. Sometimes sitting on a blanket or cushion to elevate the hips makes sitting on the ground easier.
- To twist to the right, place your right hand behind you with you finger tips pointing away. Place your left hand to the outside of your right knee.
- Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale and gently twist to the right, eventually looking over the right shoulder.
- Repeat on the left side.
N.B. When twisting, avoid pulling hard with your left hand and be gentle with the movement so as to not hurt your lower back.
This pose massages your abdominal organs, releases any lower back tightness, and improves digestion. Practicing this pose helps keep your back healthy for those times when you are driving and need to reach in the back seat for your bag or to break up a fight between the kids, as well as if you suddenly need to turn your body when carrying something heavy.
II. Lunge pose with active abdominals and arm extension
- Start in a lunge position, making sure your right knee is directly over the ankle and not passing it. This alignment helps to keep your knee in a stable position and protected. Really lengthen your back leg by reaching the left heel away.
- Keep your rib cage resting on your thigh and contract your abdominal muscles.
- To strengthen and ground your legs, reach your arms back. Continue to stay low with the torso and make sure you keep breathing!
- If you want to strengthen your back muscles and challenge your shoulder flexibility, stay in this same position and reaching your arms alongside your ears.
- Exhale and lower your hands. Repeat this pose with the left foot forward.
N.B. If the ground feels far away or the back is rounded in your lunge, place your hands on blocks, books, or even soup cans!
This pose tones the abdominal muscles, activates the hip flexor muscles in the front hip, and stretches the extensor muscles in the back hip. It also strengthens the leg muscles as a whole, helping us get grounded for our day.
III. Wide legged forward bend
- Start with your feet wide apart and all your toes pointing in the same direction. To measure the distance between your feet, lift your arms to shoulder height and place your feet beneath your wrists.
- With your hands on your hips to start, inhale and lengthen your spine, exhale and fold forward, keeping your spine as straight as you can.
- Place your hands beneath your shoulders (and just like above, if the floor feels far away or your back rounds, use those blocks, books, or soup cans again). Once more, inhale and lengthen your spine, exhale and fold forward.
- Hold for a few breaths. When you're ready to come up, bring your hands to your hips, bend your knees, and with a straight back inhale to rise up.
This pose strengthens and stretches the inner and back legs, as well as the spine. It relieves lower back discomfort, and because of the inverted nature of the pose, it also calms the mind.
IV. Plank with active serratus
- Start from a table top position on your hands and knees and spread your fingers out wide. Firmly press into the mounds of your index finger and thumb so that your wrists doesn't take all your weight.
- Step both feet back to lengthen your legs. Reach both heels away from you to activate your legs.
- Gently contract your abdominal muscles and line up your pelvis with your shoulders to make a straight line. Avoid setting the buttocks too high or too low.
- Push the floor away to feel the upper back widen and to glue the shoulder blades to your rib cage. It will feel like your upper back is rounding a little. Make sure your shoulder blades aren't popping up. If you're not sure, ask a friend or family member to check for you!
If you've already tried this pose, it goes without saying that it strengthens both the core and shoulders. In particular, it strengthens the arms, wrists and spine. The last step is quite important as it strengthens a particular muscle that sits beneath the shoulder blade. When that muscle, the serratus anterior, is strong, it stabilizes your shoulder for those times you're carrying an active baby or heavy laundry basket, or pushing your car out of the snow.
V. Shoulder flossing
- Start in a standing position with your feet hip distance apart. Stack your head over your heart and your heart over your hips, and gently draw your lower ribs in towards your pubic bone for a light abdominal contraction.
- Hold your strap (or belt, or bath robe belt!) a little wider than shoulder distance apart. Pull on the strap like your trying to rip it apart. This action is called shoulder abduction.
- Keeping the shoulders abducting and reach your arms and the strap overhead, then down behind you without bending the elbows or changing your body's alignment in any way.
- Still trying to pull the strap apart, reach the arms back up and then down in front of you.
- Try to do this entire movement in a slow, conscious way. Repeat it a few times now as well as throughout your day.
This pose brings circulation to the shoulder joint and helps to stretch tight chest muscles. It's great to do if you're breast feeding, often work with your arms in front of you (e.g. on a computer, driving, etc.), or if you want to energize in the middle of your work day.
I hope you enjoy these poses as much as I do, and that they bring you much health and happiness for this year and beyond!
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