ROLL OUT YOUR MAT ANY TIME FOR A SHORT DAILY PRACTICE TO ENHANCE YOUR VITALITY AND KEEP YOUR SPINE YOUNG! (Remember – always practice within your capability – people with lower back problems or high blood pressure should take extra care and I advise working with an experienced yoga teacher so they don’t worsen the condition.)
1 Gently Swaying Palm Tree
Standing with feet parallel and slightly wider than hip width apart, this gentle side bend begins by inhaling and taking the linked fingers overhead. This deep inhalation helps to lengthen the spine. As you exhale gently bend to one side keeping the feet, knees and hips still – a small bend coming from the waist and keeping the shoulders square to the front of your mat. On inhalation return to standing – thinking all the time about lengthening the spine upwards. Then repeat the motion with the breath to the other side. Practice 3 to 5 times each side.
BENEFITS – lengthens the spine, tones the abdominals and sides of the waist.
Now come down onto all 4s – make a strong box shape. Have the knees aligned under your hips and your hands – fingers stretched out – shoulder width apart but a little in front of the shoulder line. Look down toward your mat and take the awareness to your breath; notice how it feels. Become aware of the breath in and the breath out. Lengthen and deepen the breath, and as you do so, allow the spine to relax. On inhale feel the abdomen and chest filling up as the spine sinks down toward the floor. On exhale draw the abdominals in toward the spine and allow the spine to round upwards towards the ceiling. Keep following the breath with the movement for 6 – 10 rounds.
BENEFITS- increases the lung capacity and flexibility of the spine, strengthens the shoulders, arms and wrists.
3 Downward Facing Dog
From the all 4s, ‘box’, position, come to a neutral spine (neither up nor down). Take an inhale and tuck your toes under and then, on the exhale, lift your buttocks up and back. Keeping the elbow and knee joints soft, prevents hyper extension of the joints. Breath in the posture for 1 or 2 breaths and then on exhale bend knees and return to the box position. Repeat 1 more time. Build up to holding the position for 10 breaths.
BENEFITS- the inversion of the head below the heart will bring fresh blood to the head and face (if you suffer from High Blood Pressure don’t take the head down, you can do this posture against the wall – see this page for more instructions), stretches out the spine and the backs of the legs, builds strength in the shoulders, arms, elbows and wrists.
Sit on the mat with the legs stretched out in front. Feel the sitting bones in contact with your mat. Place the hands on the mat at your sides, as you inhale feel the back long and strong and push gently with the heels away from you. On exhalation relax a little but don’t let the posture collapse. Work up to 10 smooth, long breaths.
BENEFITS- strengthens core muscles, improves posture.
5 Seated Twist
Remain in Staff pose. Bring the right foot over the left leg and draw the thigh into the body using the crook of the left arm. Inhale and feel the crown of the head lift up toward the sky, as you exhale turn toward your bent knee and take the right hand to the mat behind you. Feel the twist in the torso, if your neck is comfortable turn the chin around to the right shoulder. Remain in the twist for 3 – 5 breaths and then undo on the inhalation. Repeat to other side.
BENEFITS- detoxifies the body and aids elimination.