Yoga is known for quieting our minds, putting us in zen-mode and keeping us flexible. Postures work the entire body, and yogis learn more about themselves every time they step on the mat. That’s good news for both people who exercise regularly and those of you whose biggest workout of the day is walking from your desk to the candy jar at work.
“Many injuries arise when there is disconnect between the athlete and the body, and everyday activities such as sitting at a computer desk, walking around or playing sports can unconsciously create imbalance in the body,” said Rebecca Dresner, yoga instructor and manager at Kala Luna in Huntington. “The opposite is true of yoga. The goal of yoga is to achieve balance through mindful stretching and strength building, which can transcend into everyday activities.”
To help you improve the durability of your joints and muscles and optimize joint alignment, Dresner recommends doing yoga with a certified yoga instructor. Spots like Kala Luna, which doubles as an organic cold-pressed juicery, offer classes throughout the day. If you can’t sign up for a class but still want to reap the benefits of adding yoga to your workout routine, start by doing some gentle poses at home.
Dresner and fellow Kala Luna yoga instructor and manager Alana Garner shared five yoga poses that anyone can do in the comfort of their own home. The poses are gentle, the long-term effects are waiting. Namaste.
Anjaneyasana (Low lunge)
Why They Love It: Anjaneyasana is great for athletes, especially runners, because it strengthens and lengthens the hamstrings, quads, hips and even the core.
What To Do: Begin in downward facing dog. Lift up your right leg and place it in between your hands. Make sure your right knee is stacked over the ankle. If you need to use your hands to help step your foot to the top of the mat, that’s fine.
Release your left leg to the mat with the toes untucked. Take a look at your left leg and make sure that your left knee is behind your left hip and that your leg is in a straight line behind you.
Inhale and lift your arms over head, shoulder width apart, palms facing each other. Slightly tuck the pelvis forward and reach up and out of the hips. As you inhale, find length. As you exhale, gently go deeper into the stretch.
Stay in the pose for at least five breaths. Then release your hands to either side of the front foot and step back into downward facing dog. Take one round of breaths and then repeat on the left side.
Pro Tip: Props are great in this pose. If you have shoulder pain, you can place a block on either side of the front foot and keep the hands on the blocks, reaching the heart forward. You can also place a blanket under the knee if there is any pain or discomfort in the leg that’s released on the mat.
Paschimottana (Seated forward bend)
Why They Love It: Paschimottanasana stretches the hamstrings, spine and lower back and helps improve digestion by gently massaging the internal organs.
What To Do: Begin seated on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Inhale and lift your arms up, palms facing each other. Exhale and tilt your pelvis forward and fold over the legs, leading with the heart and keeping the back straight.
If the hands don’t easily reach your feet, rest them anywhere on the leg or use a strap. Make sure that your shoulders are relaxed. There should be no tension in the lower back. If there is, gently release out of the pose and try tilting the pelvis forward once again. Use the breath to go deeper in the pose, finding length on your inhales and folding deeper on your exhales.
Stay in the pose for at least five breaths and then slowly rise back to seat as you inhale.
Pro Tip: You can use a strap, belt or scarf to help you fold deeper in the pose and can sit on a folded blanket to help find more space in the hips.
Supta padangusthasana (Reclining hand to big toe pose)
Why They Love It: Supta padangusthasana stretches the calves, hamstrings, hips and thighs and helps to strengthen the knees.
What To Do: Begin lying on your back with both legs extended on the mat. Hug your right knee into your chest. Place a strap over your toe pad or grab the big toe with the peace sign fingers (index and middle fingers).
Extend the soul of your right foot up to the sky, lifting from the ball of the big toe. Place your left hand on your left hip to help it stay grounded into the mat. As you inhale, find length and as you exhale, gently pull on the leg for a deeper stretch.
Hold the pose for at least five breaths, then gently release the leg and the strap. Hug both knees into your chest before switching sides.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a yoga strap, use a belt or scarf.
Supta Kapotasana (Reclining pigeon pose)
Why They Love It: Supta Kapotasana stretches the lower back, hamstrings, calves and inner thighs. It aligns the pelvis and can help to relieve arthritis pain in hips and knees.
What To Do: Begin lying on your back with bent knees so the feet are flat on the floor. Bring your right ankle to the left thigh, just under the knee, so your legs make a figure four. Lift your left foot off the mat. Your left leg should be parallel to the floor.
Thread your right hand through the figure four of your right leg and bring your left hand outside of the left thigh. Clasp your hands behind your left thigh and gently pull the leg towards your chest.
Stay here for at least five breaths and gently release the right leg and switch sides.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose)
Why They Love It: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana builds lower body strength, lengthens and strengthens the spine, chest and neck. A strong core is perhaps the best defense against back injury, so make sure it’s engaged.
What To Do: Begin lying on your back with the knees bent, souls of the feet firmly on the floor, as close to the seat as possible. Make sure your feet are hip distance apart and your toes are pointing forward.
Exhale, press the feet into the floor and begin to lift the seat and back off the mat. Reach the heart up towards the sky, engage the core and squeeze the thighs in towards one another. Never move your head in this position, always keep your neck straight.
Stay up for five breaths, and then lower one vertebra at a time as you exhale. Repeat three times.
Pro Tip: If you are looking for a shoulder stretch, roll the shoulders underneath the back and clasp the hands on the floor. You can also use a block under the hips for a restorative version of this pose.