After long hours of travel to and from California including sitting in a car for an hour to get to the airport then sitting for over an hour at the terminal gate, then sitting for five + hours on the plane, then sitting in the car for another long while…it just gets to be too much! Sitting that is…
So, today I’m sharing my go-to yoga poses for relieving the stress of ‘over-sitting.’ If you work at a desk you’ve probably experienced some of the same aches and pains that I did recently on my trip.
Note: You don’t have to be a practicing yogi or yogini to do these poses – anyone can do them! I studied yoga at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health for a few years and am a certified Kripalu Yoga instructor, but I hardly ever complete a full polished “routine” when I’m on the road. Mostly I just follow my body and allow it to unwind as necessary. Often these are the same moves I need at the end of the day to unwind from my job. (Rather than using a glass of wine to unwind after a long day – try to literally unwind! ;) )
What you’ll need:
• Comfortable clothes that allow maximum movement.
• A stretch of uninterrupted time (about 15 minutes, give or take).
• You do NOT need a mat. Just a sturdy, non-slip surface. If you’re going to be on hardwood, try going barefoot for better grip.
• Have a blanket handy to slide under your knees to protect them and keep them cushioned while doing floor poses.
If you like, light some candles, some incense, or anything you think will help tell your brain its time to let go… Whatever sets the atmosphere!
Ready? C’mon and join me at my parent’s house in my childhood bedroom as we rock out!
1. Empty Coat Sleeves
This is one of my favorite moves of all time. Really, nothing could be easier. Stand with your feet hip width apart (or slightly farther apart). Release your arms and let them hang loosely by your sides. Begin twisting your arms side to side so they lightly slap the side of your body or your shoulder or your kidney area. Key word: lightly! Don’t hurt yourself! Once you’ve built up some momentum your arms should be moving without much effort.
This pose is excellent for a many reasons. a) Your whole body is engaged, which is important for your lymph. All those toxins you need to get rid of (and to keep your immune system shiny and clean) are captured and carried away by your internal garbage removal mechanism aka the lymphatic system. b) You are creating a whole body twist which is helping to wring you out just a like washcloth. Imagine all that staleness being squeezed out of every cell as you move! c) It is energizing! You can add an inhale/exhale to each movement to increase the energy. When you come to the mid-point, inhale sharply though your nose, and “Haaaa” it out through your mouth when you twist to the side.
Keep in mind: Allow your heels to rise as you twist so you don’t torque your knees.
2. Mountain pose extension
Come to stillness and stand erect. Raise your arms overhead while simultaneously root your feet into the ground. Keep reaching your arms to the ceiling or sky and imagine the elongation of your spine. You’ve been sitting –probably hunching–over the computer or a book all day. Now’s your chance to create the equal and opposite movement by stretching, reaching, and rooting as if the sun and the earth were each lovingly pulling on either end of your body and allowing your spine to realign.
If you feel like going a little further, image there is a beach ball resting on the small of your back and lift up and over the beach ball, bending backwards. This movement counters all the forward bending you do while sitting.
Keep in mind: Be mindful that your shoulders don’t creep on your ears while you reach upwards. If you notice they do, politely iron out your shoulder blades and lead your shoulders back to their rightful place.
Come down to the floor to your hands and knees. (Here is where you will want to slide the blanket under your knees if you’re not on plush carpet). Align your knees to your hips and your hands to shoulders. On an inhale, raise your tailbone towards upwards and allow the movement to ripple to your head. Basically, you’ll be arching your back as far as is comfortable at this point with eyes to the sky. On the exhale, reverse the flow, starting with your tailbone. Instead of jerking the whole body up and down try creating a wave from tailbone to crown initiating the movement at the base of the spine. Imagine you can feel each vertebrae celebrating being treated such respect as you move.
Do this a few times or as many times you want! It’s not only great for your spine but also for merging movement and breath. During high anxiety times (Did I pack everything I need?, Where’s my ticket? Delayed again?!!) we can easily lose our breath. Inundating our body with breath releases us from the fight or flight response and keep us energized yet calm. Also notable is that gripping the floor can literally “ground” us after being in flight whether on a plane or far away in our minds.
Keep in mind: See if you can slow the movement to half as fast as the first time you try it.
4. Hot Wheels
Early on in my yoga training a senior teacher explained this next pose to me by having me imagine I was a six year old playing with a Hot Wheels car on the floor. Think about it… Then do it with me! Sit on the floor with your legs splayed knee to foot with both knees pointing either to the left or the right. With your sitting bones anchored to the floor, switch your knees side to side. Continue this movement, warming up your hips.
After a few times to each side, invite your arm one at a time to join the movement by pretending you have a hot wheels car in your hand and zooming the car along the floor in front of you. Krishna will give you bonus points if you make zooming noises as you do this. When you get to one side reach past the opposite shoulder as far as is comfortable, then switch sides. Continue back and forth or stop at each side to allow the stretch to sink in deeper.
Keep in mind: There are no other bonus points other than the car noises in this one. Don’t over do it, just enjoy the stretch. That same teacher reminded me that adults hardly ever have our knees to the ground, much less the sides of our knees. Perhaps meditate on how you can invite play into your day rather than striving for perfection.
5. Child’s Pose
One of my favorites. Come to kneeling then lay your chest on your knees head to the floor. Your arms can either be stretched out in front of you palms down or rested alongside your body palms up. Once you’re here – just be here. That’s it! Your incredible brain and body take over and automatically alert the whole of you that you are safe and it’s time to rest. To modify, spread your knees apart while keeping your toes together creating a V shape with your legs. Stuff a pillow (or that handy blanket) under your belly to support your torso and sink in. Sublime.
Keep in mind: If you have a dog at home, she WILL come to sniff your butt. Fact.
Reader, meet my parents’ dog, Molly.
That’s all! But if you’re into it, then here’s my BONUS pose for you….
6. Dance Party!
Every yoga sesh at my house ends with a short dance party because it never fails to increase not just my blood flow but also elevates my mood! C’mon get happy – and shake your booty!
If you have any questions about the yoga you see here or want to know where to learn more, feel free to get in touch by email or in the comments below. To learn more about Kripalu Yoga visit the Kripalu website. (They even have free yoga video lessons!). Check it out: http://www.kripalu.org.