In the Stretch & Relax classes over the next half term we will continue to focus on the spine, but this time to look at the core muscles which support and hold the spine in correct alignment.
The exercises we will do include side bending postures to work the obliques, back bending and forward bending to stretch and strengthen the abdominals, plus twisting postures to both strengthen and release all the core muscles.
In our classes over the winter we’ve spent a few minutes each week practising Utkatasana – the Chair pose. This is a high squat with parallel feet with and arms either at shoulder height or overhead.
It’s very good for us as it uses the large muscles of the legs and bottom to get the circulation moving around. Adding in the arms uses the shoulders and if you lift them overhead this uses the core muscles of the abdomen and back. So a really good all rounder exercise.
But did you know that you can measure your fitness using the same kind sitting and standing up exercise? Watch the video below to find out how to test your fitness. As you will see experts agree that the Utkatasana-style movement is a great way to improve your fitness, especially strengthening your legs and lower back.
So maybe have a count up? Let me know in class if you want to!
This is a fabulous all round posture – it’s a balance which improves concentration and co-ordination, back bend which improves posture and breathing and when done dynamically with the breath is energising, warming, clearing the respiratory system and improving circulation. Start with 5 each side increasing to 10 gradually.
Find a space where you can practice – warm, clean and free from furniture/low ceilings.
First take your arms out to the sides and up overhead 3 times slowly. Then place your hands onto your hips and alternate taking the legs back without leaning the body forward 3 or 4 times on each side slowly. This warms up the muscles and IMPORTANTLY ensures that you have enough space around you to work.
To practice Holy Fig Tree dynamically –
Stand tall in Tadasana
Place your weight into your right foot.
Lift your left foot to the back, left arm out to the side and right arm up to the ceiling as you inhale
Return to Tadasna as you exhale.
Repeat x 5, rest for 5 breaths then do 5 on the Left side.
ALWAYS PRACTICE WITHIN YOUR CAPABILITY – IF YOU GET TIRED OR DIZZY THEN STOP
In this year’s Stretch & Relax classes we’ll be taking a tour around the body seeing how each part feels for us on a personal level and also how improvements with one area can often alleviate issues in others… We will begin with our FEET which form the foundation o f our standing postures and which we rely on for our mobility and independence as we get older.
Feet are actually quite fascinating once you get over the look of them. They consist of lots of tiny bones, with lots of tiny joints in between. When the joints in the feet aren’t as flexible as they could be the result is that the feet can’t operate as the ‘suspension’ mechanism of the body – so even walking (let alone running and jumping) can become problematic to joints further up the body (knees, hips and spine) as the foot is not taking the impact of the weight of the body as it steps/plods around. We will use a variety of means – movement, massage with a small ball and massage with our hands to help to get our feet more flexible. And do you know… that because of all the nerve endings in the souls of the feet working with the feet can be extremely relaxing and calming. A traditional yogic remedy for insomnia is self foot massage. We’ll spend some time working on proper alignment of the feet as this can help prevent and heal foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, and shin splints not to mention a variety of mis-alignments further up the body. Keeping the feet flexible and relaxed also helps circulation of fluids to this area which over time helps to keep the skin on the feet healthy. Poor skin health is what leads to the build up of bacteria, smells, verrucas, athletes’ foot etc
So before we pack our tootsies into the boots for winter let’s give them some TLC and – who knows you may notice that the pain in your neck goes as well 🙂
In the Stretch and Relax classes we are having a go at the Shakti Bandha Asana (energy block postures). These are exercises that help to improve the flow of energy within the body. They are useful for breaking down neuro-muscular knots especially in the pelvic region where energy tends to stagnate. The postures are very helpful for people with reduced vitality and/or a stiff back. They are useful to develop pelvic and core strength for all levels of fitness. They also improve the condition of the lungs, heart and endocrine system. It is not necessary to ‘force’ these movements, they can be done very gently to good effect – even sitting on a chair. So what every your age or level of fitness you can give your energy a boost by getting rid of any blocks with this sequence.
For this whole year we have been concentrating on our ‘core’ – the muscles of the centre of our body which act like a corset at the front, sides and back. This is a large collection of muscles on the surface and deep inside the body. They help us to keep mobile and have a well aligned posture. Our aim is not to have “6 pack abs” but to gently strengthen this part of our body, get to know it and to love it. This type of appreciation is at the centre of yoga – to make the most of ourselves and get our body to work as nature intended.
Over this next 6 weeks we’ll be revisiting the Plank posture, refining and improving using the balancing cat as we go.
For those who wish, we’ll be integrating the Plank into our Sun Salutation which we have been learning – an excellent routine to keep the core healthy, ideally practiced on a daily basis.
We’ll also be working with some sideways postures – the Gate and Half Moon (shown above) to develop strength in the obliques (sides of the waist) and our adductors (inner thighs). These postures help to pull in the waist and keep the thighs trim – just the job for the summer.
Why not join us? Whilst the year is developing an overall theme, beginners are most welcome and brought up to speed with individual help and guidance throughout the class. To book in simply email me here
As part of our year long goal to improve our CORE we’ll be developing the Sun Salutation to include Cobra posture (the backward bending helps to strengthen the back muscles). We will introduce a ‘Salute to the Heaven and Earth’ which entails stretching upwards to the sun and then placing the hands and forehead onto the earth – moving slowly of course and developing technique and correct stature as the weeks progress. We will be balancing on the sit bones (bottom) to practice variations of the Boat posture (pictured) – this is a traditional way of improving the abdominal muscles. A new posture for this term will be the ‘Hare’ which is an inversion that gets us used to resting some weight on the crown of the head. It isn’t suitable to practice for anyone with neck problems and students with shoulder or back issues must proceed with caution – but as you know by now, all new postures are introduced carefully so as not to be a ‘shock to the system’ – this is the way of yoga, to improve our wellbeing gradually and steadily so that it can be maintained.
This term in yogafit we’ll be exploring Bhujangasana – the cobra pose. Following exercises to warm up the whole body, we’ll be working with several other postures to put together a flow. This will incorporate the cobra in a safe and effective way to continue to develop core strength – the goal of our practice for this year.
This class is suitable for all levels of fitness with no need for experience of yoga – it’s a great place to begin. You will need your own mat and a blanket or 2 for the breathing sessions at the end.
Our mission in Yoga Fit this year is to get a strong core!!
Last term we worked with the plank and this term we’ll be moving on to a standing balance ‘Warrior lll’ which needs all the core strength we can muster.
In our usual lively approach we’ll work through all the parts of the body firstly warming up and then with strengthening and stretching postures. Using some jumping techniques which use a surprising amount of tummy strength we will keep ourselves on the go for pretty much the whole session, winding down in the last 10 minutes with a few restorative postures.