Performing These Yoga Poses Offers Important Benefits for Your Body
Whether you practice every day or a few times a week, yoga plays an important role in your physical and mental wellbeing. Adding these poses to your yoga workout can help you increase flexibility and muscle strength, while decreasing stress, inflammation, and pain.
Improve Flexibility with This Pose
You're much more likely to injure yourself if your joints and muscles are tight and inflexible. Injuries don't just happen when you exercise. If flexibility is an issue, simply reaching for an umbrella in the back seat of the car or jumping over a puddle can strain and stress your muscles. Try this pose to improve flexibility:
- Standing Forward Fold. This deceptively simple pose stretches your hamstrings, calves, hips and your lower back. It may also help reduce anxiety and depression. Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower your upper body while bending your knees a little. Drop your arms and grasp your ankles or touch the floor. (Blocks underneath your hands can be helpful if you can't quite reach your ankles.) Hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds, then slowly return to the upright position. As your flexibility improves, try straightening your knees for a little extra stretch.
Build a Strong Core
You rely on the core muscles in your abdomen more than you may realize. Weakness in these muscles can lead to back pain, balance issues, and poor posture, and may increase your risk of injury. These poses are a good choice if you would like to strengthen your core muscles:
- Plank. Start on your hands and knees. Extend your legs behind you, keeping your knees straight. Balance your weight on your hands and toes as you perform the pose. Keep your body and head in a straight line, while pulling your abdominal muscles toward your spine. Hold the pose for five breaths.
- Boat. Begin in a seated position with your knees bent. Extend your arms, keeping your hands close to the sides of your knees. Make a "V" with your body by extending your legs while leaning back. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths.
Decrease Back Pain
Low back pain is one of the most common physical complaints, affecting 80 percent of adults at some time in their lives, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These poses will help reduce and prevent back pain:
- Cat-Cow. Cat-cow stretches the neck, back, and torso. This pose stimulates the abdominal organs and has a calming effect on your mind. Begin the pose on your hands and knees. Inhale, arch your back, and lift your head toward the ceiling. As you exhale, drop your head toward the floor and round your back. Repeat the sequence for 10 to 15 breaths.
- Downward Facing Dog. This pose stretches and lengthens the muscles in your back, legs, and torso. The weight-bearing pose can also help you build bone density and reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Begin the pose on your hands and knees. Slowly push up on your hands and toes, forming an inverted "V" shape with your body. Drop your chin to your chest and press your heels to the floor. Hold the pose a minute or two, inhaling and exhaling slowly.
Open Your Hips
Tight hips can be a factor in back pain and may limit your range of motion. This pose will stretch and open your hips and groin and reduces stress:
- Happy Baby Pose. Lie on your back and bend your knees toward your chest. Extend your arms between your knees, and grasp the outer edges of your feet. Drop your knees to the side, keeping your ankles above your knees. Press your back and shoulders against the floor as you inhale and exhale for five to 10 breaths.
Are you interested in taking advantage of the many benefits of yoga? Contact us for information on classes, dates and times.
Yoga Journal: Yoga for Flexibility
Shape: 6 Yoga Poses for a Rock-Solid Core
Self: Get 6 Amazing Benefits from Practicing Downward Dog, 1/14/13
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Low Back Pain Fact Sheet