Yoga Poses For People Who Aren’t Flexible

So, you say you’re not flexible? Join the club. Many factors can contribute to a less-than-bendy body, from genetics to the weather outside. Age and gender also play a role, as men and older people tend to be less flexible than the young and females. But that doesn’t mean you should rule out yoga, says Chrissy Carter, creator of Beginning Yoga by Gaiam($10; amazon.com) and a NYC-based yoga instructor. Carter says these moves will help you feel calmer, sleep better, and yes, get more flexible.

Hold each position for 5 to 10 breaths. Seated poses can be held for longer, as long as you feel comfortable.

Benefits of yoga

Many people avoid yoga because they’re not flexible, but Carter says they are the very ones who should take up the practice! Yoga increases concentration, strengthens muscles, dials down stress, and can give you better posture.

Before you get started: Remember to maintain a smooth and even breath throughout the poses and don’t hold any pose longer than you’re physically able. You can increase the length and deepness of each pose with practice. One sign that you held a pose for too long is that you don’t have enough energy to come out of the position with grace and integrity.

1. Mountain Pose or “Tadasana”

This pose seems so simple, but it is the basic template for all the other postures. It’s a welcoming way to begin connecting with the breath and beginning a yoga practice.

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet together, perhaps with your big toes touching, eyes closed. If you’re stiff, separate your feet slightly. Let your arms rest at your sides, with fingers together.

Modification: If standing is too much of a challenge, lay on your back with the soles of your feet pressed up against a wall. You’ll feel like you’re standing on the floor, but your lower back will get a slight stretch.

2. Child’s Pose or “Balasana”

This incredibly basic move is a resting pose you can stay in for up to a few minutes.

How to do it: Start with your knees and tops of your feet on the floor with the feet together and touching. With your knees apart, rest your belly and chest between the legs. Place your head on the floor, and stretch the arms out in front of you.

Modification: If your head doesn’t reach the floor you can use a block or pillow to rest it on.

3. Downward-Facing Dog or “Adho Mukha Svanasana”

This pose is challenging for beginners, but you can make it easier by increasing the distance between your feet.

How to do it: With feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist and press your flat palms into the ground, hips in the air. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and the arms, shoulders and back should line up in a straight, diagonal line. The hands should be at the front of your mat, and toes should face forward near the back of the mat. At any time, you can take a break by resting in child’s pose, and then come back into down dog again.

Modification: For beginners, you can bend your knees to keep the spine long and move some of the body’s weight into the legs.

4. Chair Pose or “Utkatasana”

This is a symmetrical pose, meaning both sides of your body will be moving in and out of the pose at the same time. It heats you up and strengthens the legs.

How to do it: Stand with your feet together or hip-width apart if you’re stiff. Bend your knees (like you’re sitting in a chair) while raising the arms up alongside your ears.

Modification: Chair pose can be challenging, so feel free to move out of the pose and into mountain pose on alternating breaths. This also makes it more dynamic.

5. Tree Pose or “Vrksasana”

This is a one-legged balancing pose. The pose builds confidence and can help to center the mind. It’s not easy to think about your stress when you’re balancing on one leg!

How to do it: Stand on one leg and bring your foot up to your ankle, shin, or thigh depending on your flexibility. You can put a hand on the wall for balance or even stand with your back against a wall. If you feel very centered, lift your arms into the air to create “branches” for your tree.

6. Shavasana

Think doing nothing is easy? For many of us, especially those who haven’t tried yoga before, the concept of doing nothing is actually very challenging. This pose is both calming and grounding, and you can use it to cool down.

How to do it: In this pose, close the eyes and attempt to just relax the body while lying flat on your back. Lie with your legs about hip-width apart and rest the arms at about a 45 degree angle to the torso, palms facing up. Allow your limbs to completely relax.

Trainer tip: If you need more space for the lower back, you can place a folded blanket under the knees, which will help to lengthen the lower back. If you’re feeling stressed, placing blankets over the pelvis can help relax the body and the mind.

7. Bridge Pose or “Setu Bandha Sarangasana”

Like in chair pose, you can move in and out of bridge on alternating breaths, or hold the pose, if you’re able to. This energizing move opens the whole front of the body; the hips, abdomen, and chest will all be flexed.

How to do it: Laying flat on the floor, bend the knees with feet flat on the floor, knees pointing up to the ceiling, arms alongside your body. Press into your arms, with your feet remaining on the ground, and move the hips away from the floor, opening your chest.

Modification: Hold onto your mat with both hands, which gives you the leverage to turn the arms, so your palms are facing up. Shimmy the arms under the back, while maintaining an arched back, and open your chest. If you’re more open, you may find you can clasp the hands underneath the back with fingers laced together.

8. Locust Pose or “Salabhasana”

This back bend is extremely accessible for beginners. It’s energizing and heating, but it strengthens all the muscles of the back. This pose is perfect for improving posture, and for many of us with weak upper back muscles (largely due to desk jobs) it works the upper back muscles.

How to do it: Lie on the belly and inhale while raising everything off the floor—arms, legs, and chest. Palms should face the floor, while you focus on keeping your neck long and extending the head up and away from the chest. You can also clasp your hands behind your back when you lift up your limbs, which will create a deeper opening for the chest and shoulders.

9. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose or “Viparita Karani”

Carter says after a long day of being on her feet, 5-8 minutes of laying in this cooling pose makes her feel like a brand new person. It also improves circulation.

How to do it: Lie on your back and walk your legs up a flat wall. Your legs should be straight and the end of your back should meet the wall. If needed, place a pillow under your lower back for added support.

Trainer tip: Sometimes when you’re new to this position you can experience tingling in your legs. If you feel that, ride your legs down the wall, pull your knees to your chest and feel a stretch, then you can stretch your feet back up the wall.

Modification: With your knees close to your chest, open the legs so the knees go out in opposite directions. The soles of your feet should touch. This stretches the inner thighs and groin.

10. Warrior 2 or “Virabhadrasana II”

This pose strengthens the legs; it’s heating and it helps to open the inner thighs.

How to do it: In this standing pose, you step your feet wide apart, about a leg’s distance apart. Turn your right leg out 90 degrees, and then angle your left toes in just slightly. Take your arms out to the side, to be level with the floor and then you bend your right knee so that it stacks on top of your ankle. Make a square with that right knee and hold the pose. Then, repeat for the opposite side.

Modification: You can come in and out of the position with each breath if it’s too difficult to hold.

11. Wide-legged Standing Forward Bend or “Ardha Uttanasana”

This forward bend stretches the hamstrings and the inner thighs.

How to do it: Spread the feet apart, about a leg’s distance. With your quads engaged, hinge forward at your hips with a flat back. Place your hands on the floor, if you can’t reach the floor, use blocks to hold onto, or even use the back of a couch or coffee table to hold onto if you don’t have blocks accessible. If your legs are tight, your back will be harder to straighten; placing your hands on something will keep your back flat.

12. Plank Pose

How to do it: On your mat, get into a stance similar to that of a push up, but place your forearms together and down into the mat. Keep your body still, straight, and elevated about 3-4 inches from the mat. Think about drawing the abdomen into the lower back. Don’t sink into your joints, but lift up and suspend yourself out of gravity. Hold this pose, or come out of it in between breaths if it’s too difficult to hold.

13. Thread the Needle

This pose gets its name because it looks like you’re taking your arms through the eye of a needle. Carter loves teaching this pose to beginners and it’s great for tighter students. The back is supported, and for extra neck support you can put a pillow behind the neck.

How to do it: Lie on your back and bring your knees up so they form a 90 degree angle with the knees pointing toward your head. Cross your right ankle over the left thigh. Clasp the hands behind your left knee and pull the left leg toward you. This will stretch the right buttocks and the left hip. Then, repeat on the other side.

Source: Yahoo Health

5 Yoga Poses Every Pregnant Woman Should Know

When you’re pregnant, parts of your body hurt that you didn’t even know existed. Weird aches and pains pop up out of nowhere and your growing belly can make finding comfortable positions nearly impossible.

Cathy Louise Broda certainly felt the pregnancy pains, especially the second time around when she was carrying twins. Thankfully for us, however, Broda has been doing yoga for 23 years and has honed her practice specifically for pregnant women. At Purple Yoga Hawaii, her studio in Honolulu, Broda has found five positions that are especially helpful for relieving pregnancy pains as well as stretching the body to make room for the growing baby. An added bonus? Many of these positions are great, reliable methods to cope with pain and discomforts during labor.

Broda recommends starting by sitting and doing three head rolls to the right and then left. You may be tempted to rush through this part, but don’t — few things feel as good and relieve as much tension during pregnancy as a slow, deep head roll.

Feel better already, don’t you? Now, onto those 5 positions:

1. Extended Side Angle Pose:
We feel especially sluggish during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find energy reserves to tap into. Try the extended side angle pose when you’re dragging. It requires strong legs and works to open up the hips — a much needed stretch if you’re sitting at a desk all day. “Extending the upper arm above the head at an angle works the whole side body from finger tips to the extended back leg,” notes Broda. If you reach for it, you might find you have more energy than you think.

2. Triangle Pose: 
Somewhere between remembering to take your vitamins and prepping a nursery, did you start to feel like you were losing your sanity just a bit? While pregnancy is a time of celebration, it is also a highly anxious time and you may find yourself carrying around a bit too much tension. Try a modified triangle pose to regain your sense of balance. This all-around good pose works the legs, stretches the side body, energizes the hips, and opens up the shoulders, which (we’re guessing) have started to cave in a bit under the pressure.

3. Sitting Side Stretch:
Around week 30, you may look down in terror as you try to figure out where 10 more weeks of growth are supposed to go. The sitting side stretch will open your side waist and pelvis and stretch the hips. “As our bellies get bigger,” Broda reminds us, “it’s important to find as much space in your torso as possible.”

4. Cat / Cow Poses:
Do back pains have you already dreading the ominous and mysterious sounding “back labor?” We feel you. Most women will endure back pains at some point in their pregnancy, but gently rocking between cat and cow poses will work to warm up the spine and stretch the body, hopefully getting you back on track. They also help to shift the weight of the baby away from the spine, giving you some much needed relief. You’ll want to remember and practice this one, Broda says, in case you do have “back labor.”

5. Child’s Pose: 
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you probably love child’s pose because it signifies a short break from all the hard work. When you’re pregnant, however, your normal day can begin to feel like a lot of hard work and it’s important to take time to rest and regroup. When in child’s pose, Broda recommends focusing on relaxing the face and breathing deeply into the back — two important lessons to remember in between contractions!

Detox Asana: 8 Yoga Poses Away From a Cleaner You

Been overdoing it a little this time of year? If your body could use some fine-tuning, you can do more than sip on detoxing green juice. Hop on your yoga mat, and do these eight poses designed to detox the body. You have your circulatory, digestive, and lymphatic systems to thank for getting rid of toxins and waste, and these poses stimulate those systems. Pick out the poses your body needs or practice them all, and you’re on your way to feeling like a new you.

Wide-Legged Forward Bend

Not only a great pose for opening tight hamstrings, allowing your head to fall below your heart in Wide-Legged Forward Bend also reverses the pull of gravity, encouraging circulation of blood throughout the body as well as fluid to your filtering lymph nodes. The folding motion also squeezes the belly, which moves things along for digestion.

  • Stand with your feet four or so feet apart, heels turned out slightly wider than the toes. Standing tall, interlace your hands behind you, pressing the heels of your palms together in a double fist.
  • Take a deep breath in, and slowly fold forward at the waist, lowering your hands as far as you can. Keep the spine long and straight as you breathe for five deep breaths. Engage your legs, and slowly rise up to stand.
Open Side Fierce

If you want to strengthen your lower legs, Open Side Fierce will have your quads and glutes burning. This deep twist also aids in digestion. You’ll feel the gentle pressure on your kidneys, liver, and spleen, which stimulates the removal of waste.

  • Stand with both feet together, bend your knees, and squat down, coming into Fierce Pose. Cross your right elbow over your left thigh, planting your right palm on the floor beside your left foot. If you can’t reach all the way, just allow your fingers to hover in the air, as close to the floor as possible.
  • Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling, stacking your shoulders, and gaze at your lifted palm. Make sure both knees are parallel. Hold for five deep breaths.
  • Press into your feet, inhale to rise back up to Fierce, and exhale to repeat this pose on the right side, holding for another five breaths. Then rise back up to Fierce Pose, and straighten the legs.
Three-Legged Down Dog

Holding your head below your heart and your leg lifted in the air in this variation of Down Dog encourages blood to circulate throughout the body, as well as move fluid to the lymph nodes. If your upper body is strong, this pose can also be very relaxing, which aids in mental detox as well, releasing stress, fear, and sadness.

  • Come onto your hands and knees, so your hands are shoulder-width distance apart, with your knees directly below each hip. Tuck your toes and straighten your legs, coming into Downward Facing Dog.
  • Keeping your shoulders parallel with the floor, step both feet together and raise your right leg into the air. After five deep breaths, lower the leg and repeat this pose with the left leg lifted.
Seated Heart Opener

Poor posture can stifle proper lung function, and doing this Seated Heart Opener encourages lengthening of the spine so your lungs can fully expand and contract with each breath. Healthy, deep breathing encourages the body to eliminate carbon dioxide, lactic acid, lymphatic fluid, and other wastes.

  • Begin seated on your shins.
  • Interlace your hands behind you in a double fist, pressing the heels of your palms together. Pull your pressed palms toward the floor, opening through the chest and shoulders.
  • After five breaths, release your hands.
Seated Spinal Twist

Twisting poses are all about aiding in digestion, which encourages the elimination of wastes. Take this Seated Spinal Twist as deeply as you want to go.

  • Begin seated on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Bend both knees, and place your left heel as close to your right sit bone as you can. Cross your right foot over your left knee, and plant it on the floor so your outer right ankle is next to your left knee.
  • Reach your right arm behind you, and place your palm on the floor. Cross your left elbow over your outer right thigh to gently increase the twist.
  • Gaze behind you and over your right shoulder, staying here for five breaths. Then release the twist, straighten your legs out in front of you, and do this pose with your left knee pointing up.
Head to Knee C

As bizarre as this pose looks, folding forward over your heel in this variation of Head to Knee Pose is meant to gently massage and stimulate your inner organs.

  • Begin in a seated position with both legs straight out in front of you.
  • Bend your right knee, and hold your right foot with your left hand. Bring your right arm under your right leg, and reach around to grab on to the arch with your right hand.
  • Pull your right toes down gently, and place the sole of your right foot against your left inner thigh so your right heel is pointing up.
  • Lengthen through the spine, and fold your torso over your left leg. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your leg or on your shin. If your hamstrings and hips are more flexible, reach for your foot — the right hand holds the left wrist.
  • Rest your forehead on your leg, and stay here for five breaths. Continue lengthening the spine as you relax the shoulders away from your ears.
  • Then release your hands, sit up, and switch sides.
Locust

This pose strengthens the back of the body, but the pressure on your abdomen also encourages digestion.

  • Lie on your belly with your legs together. Place your arms by your sides with your palms facing up.
  • As you inhale, lift your legs, head, and upper body off the floor. Your hands remain on the floor for support.
  • As you breathe, relax your shoulders and the muscles in your bum. Extend the crown of your head away from your toes, lengthening as much as you can through your spine.
  • Hold for five breaths, and then release back to the mat.
Bound Headstand

Another pose where your heart is above your head. Headstand removes toxins in the circulatory and lymphatic systems. This is also a pose that’s typically held for 10 breaths or longer, and focusing on deep breaths clears out carbon dioxide from the lungs.

  • If you’re new to this pose, sit facing a wall. Place your clasped fingers and head on the floor about eight inches or so away from the wall.
  • Straighten your legs, and walk your feet toward your head. Bend one knee, and tuck it into your chest. Using your abs and hamstring flexibility, lift your other leg off the floor so both knees are tucked into your chest, in a pose called Bound Headstand Prep: Tuck.
  • With complete control, slowly lift and straighten both legs up, coming into Bound Headstand. If balancing is hard, bend one knee and place the sole of your foot on the wall.
  • Hold for five, 10, or more breaths. Then slowly bend your knees into your chest, lower your feet to the floor, and rest in Child’s Pose.

Source: Pop Sugar

 

Street Yoga: Fun Facts and Benefits

Yoga is a way to connect with nature, our inner self and each other. We are all interconnected through one spirit and yoga helps us tap into that. It’s a great way to relieve stress. It helps an individual achieve calm and channel enlightenment.

There are several yoga Asanas that are geared towards achieving a heightened sense of awareness. Yoga harmonizes the mental, the physical and the spiritual. If you’re just starting on your quest of achieving enlightenment through yoga, you might want to invest in a room where you can practice yoga.

Here are some interesting yoga facts we bet you didn’t know:

  1. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj,’ which means to join or yoke together.
  2. Here’s a funny thing about Yoga. There is a type of yoga that people do using their pets as props – the pets can also be made to do stretches. It’s been cleverly named… wait for it… “Doga!”
  3. Another interesting yoga fact is that it has philosophical ties. “Om,” the yoga chant, comes from Hindu and Tibetan philosophy. It is said to be the primal sound of the universe, and has its connections with the third eye.
  4. Yoga has a positive impact on your libido and your sex drive.
  5. Yoga strengthens the pelvic floor muscles. This leads to better, longer and more intense orgasms.
  6. According to an Indian study, yoga can also help with premature ejaculation.
  7. The lotus pose is a pose in which you sit and meditate. The interesting yoga fact is that it represents the symmetry and perfection of the lotus flower. Buddha and most Hindu gods are shown sitting in the lotus position in sculptures and pictorial representations.
  8. Historians consider Swami Vivekananda’s contributions critical in the introduction of yoga into the western culture. But the funny thing about Yoga is that it has always had a strong following in pop culture. Take the Beatles for instance – they were responsible for bringing Indian music, especially the sitar, into rock’n’roll. George Harrison was tremendously influenced by Indian philosophies and Yoga. They made it cool, and suddenly hippies from all over the world made India their travel destination to achieve nirvana and enlightenment.
  9. Historians believe that yoga is heavily influenced by Stone Age shamanism – something that is from 25,000 B.C. ! Yoga indeed has many parallels with Shamanic  practice – poses, transcendence, asceticism and illumination are only some of the facets that show a mutual influence.
  10. When a man practices yoga, he’s called a ‘Yogi.’ A woman practicing yoga is called a ‘Yogini.’ A fun fact about yogis is that ‘yogini’ is a term that also refers to the female sex partner in Tantra texts. It also refers to the 64 female deities who are said to control all creative energy flow.
  11. Yoga has shown positive results in the social and occupational functioning of schizophrenic patients.
  12. According to a study done at a York University, yoga practice reduces the experience of pain that stems from neurological conditions such as Fibromyalgia. This applies to both physical and psychological pain, especially in women suffering from the conditions.
  13. Here’s an interesting yoga fact for the books: Democrats are more likely to tweet the word “yoga,” “upscale” and “sushi” while Republicans are more likely to tweet “weapons,” “blackberry” and “marine” according to the results of a virtual poll.
  14. Lena Fokina, a Russian Yogini, came up with something she calls “baby Yoga.” The internet was ablaze with controversy when they saw the video of her doing baby yoga. It basically consisted of her tossing the baby in the air, swinging it and spinning it. The baby was about two.
  15. There is coincidentally a yoga pose called the “happy baby.” Don’t worry – it does not involve babies!