One of the reasons I love to do yoga is because it provides some great relief for any back pain I have. If you are like me, there are some days my back aches whether it is from bad posture or a bad night’s sleep. Here are some of my favorite yoga poses that help me to relieve any back pain I have.
Downward-Facing Dog – It is a great total body stretch that targets your low back.
Child’s Pose - This is a simple yoga pose, but it feels wonderful when you do it! It may be a peaceful and relaxing pose for some, but it is an active stretch for your back.
Pigeon Pose -This pose may be difficult at first for some to do, but it is a great pose that stretches out your hip muscles that may be the cause of your back pain.
Triangle Pose – A great pose to strengthen your back and leg muscles.
Cat to Cow Pose - A classic yoga sequence that loosens your back muscles. It is a great pose to use a warm-up.
Upward-Facing Dog – This pose opens up your abdominal muscles and engages your back muscles
Foward Fold - This move stretches your hamstrings and back muscles while also providing relief and tension from your shoulders.
I am a true advocate for yoga! I can’t say enough about it to others. I think everyone should try yoga as it is a great workout! Women’s Health’s is a great site to go to for yoga workouts. I recently read an article that has six simple yoga poses that you can do at home that can burn more calories than you think! Vinyassa style yoga, an active sequence of yoga flows, can burn more than 450 calories in one hour! Do these 6 yoga poses and repeat each one 5 to 10 times.
Move 1: Backbend
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lace your fingers behind you (palms facing up). Inhaling, bend from your upper back, lift your chest, and press your shoulders down.
Move 2: Forward Bend
Soften your knees and bend forward as you exhale, letting your torso hang in front of your thighs. Keeping your arms straight and fingers locked together, lift them up and over your head (ultimately reaching toward the floor in front of your feet).
Move 3: Chair
Inhale and bend your knees into a squat. Unlock and straighten your fingers, then separate your arms. When your thighs are nearly parallel to the floor, move your arms toward your ears. Keep your weight on your heels. Inhale, stand up, and lower your arms to your sides. Exhale.
Move 4: Downward-Facing Dog
Get on all fours, lift your hips, and straighten your arms and legs
Move 5: Plank
Inhale as you shift forward into the top of a pushup position with your arms straight. Exhale, bend your elbows (keep them pointing back and hugging your body), and lower your body until your chest is on the ground.
Move 6: Cobra
Uncurl your toes so the tops of your feet are touching the ground and press your tailbone down. Hug your elbows in as you inhale, straighten your arms (keep a slight bend), and lift your chest off the ground. Exhale as you gently release your body back to the ground. Inhale, curl your toes under, and press your hips up and back into downward-facing dog. Exhale.
Breathing – something we all do everyday! But would it be strange to ask someone if they knew how to breathe properly? If you were sitting in a group of 7 people, more than likely only 1 or 2 of the people within that group would know how to breathe properly. For those who have tried a beginners yoga class/session, you would have more than likely learned the art of breathing.
What am I really trying to get at? The act of breathing is not the same as the art of breathing. Today we see many people rushing around, shallow-breathing their way through their day and wondering why they are always feeling stressed, unwell or out of breath. By taking the time to learn and practice how to breathe properly, you will be able to notice improvements in your physical and mental health.
It’s important to understand that your diaphragm is a major muscle that works like an umbrella, opening and closing, with each inhalation and exhalation (over 20,000 times a day!). Not only is this action a cardiac message for the heart, but it also sends fresh air to oxygen-hungry muscles. If we are stressed, our muscles constrict, but if we practice deep-breathing, the relaxation response is triggered and we can raise our resistance to stress.
Yoga is a great way to master the art of breathing. You need to learn how to breathe to be able to practice and reap the benefits of yoga. Use this technique below 10 minutes a day and learn how to practice complete breathing. Take the time after the 10 minutes to observe and notice the differences you feel. (The Yoga Body Diet, Kristen Shcultz Dollard & John Douillard)
- Sit cross-legged on the floor (you can also do this in an office chair or while sitting in the car).
- Touch the backs of your hands to your knees, palms facing skyward.
- Tip your chin down slightly to feel the back of your neck become elongated.
- Exhale firmly to expel all of the oxygen in your belly, cleansing your lungs.
- Inhale for a count of 5 or 6,
- Exhale for the same count 5 or 6.
- Continue this technique for 10 minutes.
Sometimes I wish I just had a few more hours in a day. Life can be busy and there are some days I feel like I have no time to squeeze in a workout. After work, the hours seem to just fly by! On a night where I have a lot to do, I try to take 10-20 minutes to get some exercise. Nights or days like this, I find yoga is the perfect fit that will allow me to get some time in to be active. Here are 4 power yoga (strength-building) poses I like to do that give me stability and also peace of mind!
1. Crescent Moon - Stand with your feet together. As you tuck your pelvis in, inhale arms overhead. Interlace your fingers, pointing the index as you begin to arch to the right. Hold for 3 breaths and then repeat on the other side. Do 5 reps. To amp it up, inhale, lengthening the spine and as you exhale, fold deeper for 3 reps of 5 breaths.
2. Plank to Upward Dog - Start in plank position, with your hands directly below your shoulders. Lower your body until it is just above the ground, with your arms bent at 90 degrees. Push your torso forward and up, curving your back as your arms straighten. Do 5 reps. To amp it up, hold upward dog for 5 breaths.
3. Downward Dog with Leg Lifts – Start on your hands and knees with knees hip-width apart and hands underneath your shoulders. Push into your palms and raise your hips. Lift your right leg, then glide forward as your bend your knee toward your chest. Do 10 reps, alternating knees. To amp it up, hold knee up for 5 seconds one each rep.
4. Warrior II to Triangle - Bend your right knee and step your left foot back. Lift arms to shoulder height. Straighten your front leg and hinge at hips, bringing right hand to shin and left hand up. Hold for 3 breaths and repeat to other side. Do 5 reps. To amp it up, place right hand outside foot.
If you want to burn more calories, get your heart rate up by doing 30-60 seconds of high-intensity cardio between poses.
Try this 10 minute power workout this week and feel the difference it can make! What are some other ways to incorporate a 10-20 minute power workout in your busy day?
Hot yoga is a new trend that is becoming very popular among yoga lovers. I have tried it myself and I do have to say it is a great workout! I never knew I could sweat so much!
Since trying it and chatting about it with others, many have asked me about the benefits of practicing yoga in a room heated like a sauna, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the many benefits individuals find in practicing hot yoga include a way to de-stress, lose weight, improve their immune system, and have a feeling of more energy. As well, working out in a heated room elevates your heart rate, making your body work harder to improves your cardiovascular abilities. It becomes a great workout for those looking for more intensity – for those who want to develop strength, flexibility, and tone while getting a great cardiovascular workout. Working in a heated room allows your body to relax, improves your focus and mental concentration allowing you to breathe better.
One of the most popular benefits of practicing hot yoga that most people are aware of is detoxification. Heavy sweating is a natural way for your body to flush toxins from the skin. Through hot yoga practice you tap the ability of your skin to convert toxins from fats to simpler and water-soluble compounds. So working out at high temperatures allows your body to remove these compounds. Hot yoga improves the healing benefits of any detox program. It becomes a powerful way to help one attain mind-body-spirit balance.
Make sure to you are aware of your own health and stay well-hydrated before you begin a hot yoga class. Drink plenty of water before and after. Remember that it is ok to take a break during a class if you feel your blood pressure dropping. Breathe and stay focused.
The key is to embrace your sweat during hot yoga! Allow your sweat to flow and be aware of how great you feel!
For those who practice yoga regularly, Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar, is a very important part of practice. Sun Salutation is a series of poses preformed in a single and graceful flow that builds strength and increases flexibility. This series of poses do have variations but the flow does present basic core steps and moves involved in yoga.
Sun Salutation provides great physical benefits. In about 10 minutes you can experience a great low impact workout – combing some resistance and cardio training! It becomes a great way to burn fat and build muscle mass. It can be considered to be like interval training as Sun Salutation combines low impact resistance training (i.e. push-ups) with some cardio.
Regular practice of Sun Salutation provides you with other physical benefits such as:
- strengthening and toning your muscles
- draining your lymphatic system to eliminate toxins through movements
- increasing spine and waist flexibility
- toning internal abdominal organs which helps with better digestion
All it takes is 10 minutes a day to practice Sun Salutation and begin to feel the difference in your body. Take the time to rest and relax at the end and allow your body to take in what you just did. For those who do practice yoga regularly, try to do at least one or two rounds of Sun Salutation. Check out Yoga Basics for a great example of what is included in Sun Salutation. Go ahead and feel the difference!
How do you define self-awareness? Is self-awareness important to your success? To put it simply, self-awareness is becoming aware of what you do and why you do it. In order to achieve your goals, you need to be conscious of the things that work for you in your life and also the things that don’t work. “Life is not about the goals you have achieved; it’s about who did you have to become to achieve them and what kind of impact did you make along the way” (Willard Barth).
Practicing yoga on a regular basis becomes a way for many people to develop their self-awareness. Yoga brings health, harmony, and endorphin-rich happiness to many and it helps others simply live their daily life. Yoga allows one to make a connection to becoming more aware of the small choices they make everyday and how those choices affect them, their community and the world around them. Whether your intention is to take better care of your body, help others more or live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, yoga helps you make positive changes that ground you in self-awareness.
Here are some other ways to increase your self-awareness (Charity Ferreira, Yoga Journal):
1. Shift Your Perspective: Break out of your regular routine and try something different whether it is a new food or a new style of yoga you have not tried before. Notice how this simple change affects you.
2. Waste Not: Make one day of your week a ‘free of disposable products’ day. Use reusable containers for your lunch, bring your own water bottle to your yoga class, use reusable grocery bags. Pay attention to what you consume and throw out in that day. Becoming aware of what you thrown out will allow you to continue to make changes on a daily basis.
3. Restore Health and Happiness: Take the time devote one yoga practice throughout your week for restorative practice. Sit quietly and take a few minutes to connect with your breath and include gentle stretches. It becomes a great way to revitalized yourself and develop a deep sense of self-awareness.
4. Experience Silence: Take some time to sit in silence – even a 10-minute tea break. Taking the time to simply sit and notice the noises around, the movements of other people, allows you to become deeply rested and you will appreciate your surrounding even more.