I lovingly call this 5-10 minute yoga practice a “commercial break yoga” – short, dedicated spurts of movement and breathing…!
So, no excuses! Get on the mat even just for 5-10 minutes!
Focus on each movement.
Do them in this order.
Listen to your body – stretch to resistance but never pain.
#1: COW / CAT (or spinal waves)
Promotes fluidity in the spine. Sync movement with breath cycles.
1. Hands stacked under shoulders with fingers spread wide. Knees directly under hips.
2. With slow inhale, drive chest toward “window” of your arms and lift tailbone to ceiling.
3. With slow exhale, move to lift the spine upward, pushing the floor away. Relax back of neck and tuck tailbone.
4. Move with your breath – always inhaling into cow and exhaling into the cat.
5. Take your time, making observations about hips, shoulders, side body, neck and of course, spine.
#2: DOWN DOG (explore bent knee modification)
Strengthens shoulders, arms, and wrists. Lengthens tight hamstrings.
1. From cat / cow (knees directly below hips; hands a few inches in front of shoulders), press down evenly through the four corners of both hands, spread fingers evenly.
2. Tuck toes, on an exhale, lift knees away from ground, keeping them slightly bent (or very bent – see pic above and #7 below.)
3. Gently lift sit bones toward ceiling.
4. Slowly lengthen legs, moving into your hips.
5. Move your awareness to your shoulders – firm shoulder blades and broaden them away from each other.
6. Notice which side or part of body feels tighter and breathe into that side.
7. MODIFICATION: Keep knees bent to release low back and if you have particularly tight hamstrings.
8. Hold for at least 10 breaths and work up to holding for 2 minutes.
#3: THREAD THE NEEDLE
Superb outer hip opener.
1. Lay onto back, with knees bent and thighs parallel and hip-distance apart.
2. Cross left ankle over right thigh, making sure that anklebone clears thigh. Actively flex front foot by pulling toes back (this is so the center of foot will line up with your kneecap rather than curving into a sickle shape, which can stress the ligaments of the ankle and knee.)
3. Maintaining this alignment, pull right knee in toward chest, thread left arm through the triangle between legs and interlace fingers around the back of right leg or right shin (not back of knee). If you can hold in front of your shin without lifting your shoulders off the floor or rounding the upper back, do so; otherwise, keep hands clasped around hamstring or use a strap.(Goal is to avoid creating tension in the neck and shoulders as you open the hips, so choose a position that keeps your upper body relaxed.)
4. As you draw right leg in (making sure to aim it toward right shoulder and not the center of chest), simultaneously press your left knee away from you.
5. Hold for 10 breaths or longer; switch sides.
#4: BRIDGE – variation with leg crossed
A beginning backbend that strengthens legs and hips, massages the spine, and opens the heart. Counterbalances compressed chest.
1. Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat, parallel to each other and hip distance apart, 10 to 12 inches from pelvis. Ankles directly under knees.
2. Rest hands near hips with palms up, helping to open front of shoulders and collarbones.
3. Rock gently to roll and slip shoulder blades under, tucking toward hips, creating space between ears and shoulders.
4. Push up through feet to bring hips off floor.
5. Clasp hands underneath helping to ground shoulders and roll open chest. Clasped hands continue to push toward ankles while engaging legs; continue to open chest in backbend.
6. Do NOT tuck chin, but rather keep throat open and bring front ribs toward face.
7. VARIATION as in picture above – cross right ankle over left knee and lift hips off floor.
8. Hold for five breaths. Release to floor and rest. Repeat 2 times.
#5: STRAIGHT LEG RECLINED TWIST
Break the lateral plane of everything we do. Regain some range of motion in the spine and “detox” or “squeeze + soak” the organs. Also a nice outer hip release.
1. Lie flat on back. Arms out to side.
2. Bring left leg straight out to left side. Stack right leg on top of left leg, keeping both straight.
3. Play with how ‘high’ you bring the feet toward the left hand. (The higher the legs go, the higher the twist goes up your spine. Adjust as is comfortable for you and where you feel you need a deeper stretch. Proceed with caution and LISTEN to your body – it will be different on any given day.)
4. Look over to right hand. Try to keep right shoulder grounded into floor/mat.
5. Relax and release into the twist – let go for up to five breaths. Switch sides.
There you have it! Keep it up – regularity is key. Make time (only 5-10 minutes of yoga) – you’ll be glad you did.
In love and wellness, Leslee