6 yoga poses that are helpful for releasing shoulder tension

When it comes to relieving shoulder tension or simply relaxing, there is no substitute for a thorough yoga practice. Daily yoga is very effective in relaxing muscles and preventing stiffness. These six yoga exercises will often come in handy to create relief and reduce stress.

1.Simple Seated Twist

This involves sitting on a chair with your feet firmly on the ground, and bones pressed down. Reach the back of the chair with your right hand and your right knee with the left hand. With your head in the midline, extend it up. With your shoulders low, breathe in and out, into the stomach and eventually to the chest. Then on an inhale, lift, exhale and turn your shoulders around with your gaze over your shoulder.  This, of course, can also be done sitting on your mat – making sure your sitbones are both in contact with the mat and a soft, long spine.  Then put your one foot on the outside of the other knee, sole of the foot fully connected with the mat.  Your other leg can stay extended, or you can tuck that heel in, next to the buttock.  Then inhale and grow taller through the top of your head and on an exhale, turn.  Try to make sure that your shoulders are at the same height.  Try to maintain the length through the spine on the inhales while turning a little more on each exhale.

2.Actively opening the chest through the bridge pose

Lie down on your back and bend your knees, feet hip width and on the mat.  Breathe out, press your feet into the mat and raise your buttocks, lifting the sternum towards the chin. Elongate the back of the neck into the floor and breathe deeply.   Reach for your feet with your hands, while rolling on to your shoulders. Keep your head still with your nose pointing up and gently press the back of your head into the mat, all the while lifting the hips. This can be done supported – with your hands under your hips, or a block.

3. Supported Forward Bend

This pose is meant to release and relax your neck. With your legs crossed, sit on the floor in front of a seat and place a pillow in the seat. Pull the chair towards you and rest your head on the pillow, with your arms just under your forehead. Gently stretch the neck muscles by dropping the chin to the chest and breath in and out while resting your head on the pillow.

4. Savasana

Also known as corpse pose, this is meant for relaxing completely.  Lying on your back on your mat, aim your heels for the corners of your mat.  Arms by your sides, turn your palms up.  Support your body wherever needed – e.g. a bolster under your knees, etc.  Then, through breath or visualisation, imagine your muscles and your bones melting into the mat.

5. Supta baddha konasana

This pose is best performed with your eyes closed or covered with an eye bag or a pillow. It allows the head and neck to relax, while opening the chest. Lie back on a stack of pillows or put a block or bolster between your shoulder blades, with your head supported by one or two pillows if you want. If it feels ok to have the head unsupported (pay attention to your neck here!) and have your head hang back, you will stimulate the thyroid too.  Or you can support your head and then stretch your chin toward your chest, relieving the neck muscles.  You could also have a pillow should support the buttocks, to support the lower back. Let your arms lie by your sides, palms up.  Your legs are long and relaxed.  There is a variation where you can bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to drop open naturally.  This is a great hip opener – we often hold tension in the hips too.  Breathe in and out deeply while in this pose.  This pose is also a great stretch for the chest.

6. Ghomukasana arms

This pose comes in handy in the movement of shoulders to correct the forward head position and rounded back. You might also want to arm yourself with a belt for this asana! Sitting down with legs out in front of you, set your feet in parallel position and extend sides of the torso up, while pressing down through the sitting bones. Let the head rest on the body’s midline and drop the shoulders down. Lift one arm into the air, turn your palm to the side so that your thumb faces to the back, and stretch the little finger upward. Now bend the elbow and reach for your shoulder blades. Stretch your other hand to the side to gain length, bend the elbow and reach up for the other hand.  You could hold a belt between the two hands or if it is accessible to you, leave the belt and see if you can interlace the fingers of both hands.  Make sure that the spine is extended, and does not lean either to the left or right and breathe in and out in this position.  Keep your chin in neutral.

These poses should be helpful to relieve you of stress and headaches too.  Include them in your daily routine if you are prone to much stress.  Always do both sides of the body.

Wishing your peace, and calm.

Namaste

Amanda

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2012 and 2013

I would like to share this with all the wonderful yogi’s out there.  Even those who don’t practice yoga.  You will know if you are a yogi.  ♥

I will be in a wild, wonderful place for a few days – there is no electronic connectivity.  So, a little early – have a wonderful new year’s day.  Be accepting.  So many wonderful adventures and experiences are there for you to discover – if you are open.  If you accept and celebrate what is there.  I wish you a magical, wonderful 2014 filled with love, peace and a real, real kind of happiness.  You will know.

be soft

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5 Reasons to have a cup of green tea after yoga

Yoga has a number of proven health benefits. So does green tea. So it’s no wonder that yogis and yoga enthusiasts alike enjoy having a cup of green tea after practice. However, one may wonder if this is really beneficial after working out and centering yourself through a variety of different poses. While not everyone agrees, most serious yoga enthusiasts encourage drinking tea after a yoga session, with green tea being considered one of the healthiest types. Below are five reasons why drinking a cup of green tea is a good idea after a yoga session:

Circulation is Improved

Yoga gets your blood flowing, but in a more relaxed healthy way than an intense workout would. Therefore, the antioxidants in green tea are better spread throughout your body after a yoga workout than they would be if you drank a cup of green tea at any other time. Doing this will help to improve your circulation and invigorate your entire body overall.

Stress is Relieved

Yoga helps to alleviate stress and so does green tea. So whatever stress had been built up your body before you did yoga, most should have been flushed out by the end of your session. Whatever remains will most likely be taken care of by the green tea you drink, as it has caffeine, but a more subtle form of caffeine that won’t hype you up like coffee. The meditative buzz that comes from your yoga will only be extended by the caffeine in your cup of green tea.

It Helps with Arthritis

Green tea has long been proven to help achy joints that are prone to or already suffering from the effects of arthritis. So after a yoga workout, in which joints and muscles have been significantly stretched and are still very open, a cup of green tea will have even more of a helpful effect on those joints that are in need of the helpful ingredients contained in green tea. Usually the stronger the green tea, the better for truly arthritic joints.

Good for the Heart

As it has already been clearly documented that yoga and green tea are both good for a person’s circulation, the added perk is heart health. So if there has been a history of heart disease in your family or you have already experienced some heart trouble, this is an added benefit on top of the other healthy steps you are already doing to keep your heart as healthy as possible.

It’s Just Soothing!

Hot green tea has an aromatic quality and that subtle dose of caffeine, which is the perfect transition back into the world after thirty minutes to an hour of yoga. The hot tea that slowly but surely cools as you sip it after an intense yoga session also mirrors the heat being released by your body after your workout, which is smoother for both your body and mind. By easing back into the rest of your day, the relaxing effects of yoga aren’t lost as quickly and the daily stresses of life can be held at bay just a little bit longer. In some cases, this is critical for the health effects of doing yoga and drinking green tea, as it allows the mind to stay relaxed and in turn allowing the body to feel healthier. As we all well know, a healthy body usually comes with a healthy mind.

Sending hugs and a warm cup of tea ~ Amanda

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Wabi Sabi on and off the mat

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget about your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”  –  Leonard Cohen
 

The concept of Wabi Sabi has its roots in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony and is sometimes explained using the example of a well loved teacup, made by an artist’s hands, cracked and chipped by use.

Richard Powell writes in Wabi Sabi Simple:  “It is a way of life that appreciates and accepts complexity while at the same time values simplicity.  Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect.”

In our yoga practice, we could approach our asanas – and perhaps ourselves too – with the acceptance that we, and our practice, are not perfect.

I encourage my students to not only accept, but to celebrate the imperfections.  We start class with a few minutes of meditation – simply becoming aware and present.  With eyes closed, we simply sit – in hero pose or simply with ankles crossed.  Then just noticing the environment around us – sounds, sensations against the skin.  Then bringing the awareness a little closer – noticing anything in our bodies – things that might be stuck, rigid or out of balance.  Noticing good sensations too.  Noticing any emotions – big or small.  Thoughts – and not hanging on to the thoughts or emotions, but just acknowledging them and letting them pass.  Then bringing the awareness into the breath.  Just as it is – flowing naturally.

When we do our asanas, I instruct and encourage a lot of “peeling back” – peeling open layers and revealing what is there.  For example, in Virabhadrasana I, hook the thumbs, and from the outside edges of the hands, peeling back – and feeling the rolling back of the muscles of the arms from the palms down to the shoulders.  I use asanas like Supta Baddha Konasana – a great hip opener and stretch of the chest (intensified with a block or bolster between the shoulders), while also being a great “revealer” as well as a nurturing pose.

During practice, I encourage the students to notice the sensations they feel in their asanas – in their bodies and also if and how it affects their emotions and thoughts.

We end class with:  “Allow yourself to see and care for yourself exactly as you are.”

Sending loving kindness

Amanda

Helpful sources:  Leonard Koren, artist and architect, and Jessie Sholl, healthy blogger
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Types of Yoga Mats and How to go About Choosing One

There is a variety of yoga mats available on the market which can make it hard to select the right mat. Fortunately, learning a little about the types of mats that are available can help narrow down the choices and make the process of finding the perfect yoga mat a little easier.

Eco Friendly Mats

Eco friendly yoga mats are typically made with recycled materials or are made out of materials that are recyclable. Furthermore, they do not use harsh chemical dyes or other ingredients that are harmful to the environment or human health.

Environmentally responsible yoga mats are usually appropriate for most forms of yoga, but may be a little slippery for power yoga or similar variations. The thickness and comfort of the mat may vary between brands, so take time to look at several eco friendly options before selecting a mat.

Cork Mats

According to Fitness Magazine, cork yoga mats are a great option for variations of yoga that get the heart-rate up and cause sweating. The grip on the mat makes it easier to avoid slipping or sliding, which is dangerous in a fast-paced power yoga class or similar fast-paced versions of yoga like Power Vinyassa.

The benefit of using a cork mat is that the grip improves when it gets wet with sweat. It helps prevent slipping, sliding and accidental injuries during a fast-paced yoga class.

Extra Large Mats

When the typical yoga mat size is too small for comfort, a super-sized option may help. A super sized yoga mat is wider and slightly longer than the typical mat, which is ideal for taller individuals who may feel uncomfortable on a regular mat or when a single mat is used for more than one individual.

Travelling Mats

A travelling yoga mat is exactly how it sounds. The mat is thinner than most other versions of a yoga mat to make it light weight and easy to transport. It is also flexible enough to roll up tighter than other mats and it is perfect for bringing on trips.  I have one that also has a better grip, as I practice mostly Power Vinyassa and it is really easy to roll up and take along on my trips.

Since the mats are designed for travelling, the materials are made to work with most types of yoga. The mats may be slightly shorter or smaller than other mats that are available.

Beginner Mats

According to Fitness Magazine, beginner mats are ideal for new yoga practitioners because they have printed designs that make it a little easier to follow along during a class. A beginner mat will usually have a basic thickness and is designed to prevent slipping. It is versatile enough for most forms of yoga.

Picking the Right Mat

Fit Sugar suggests that the key to finding the right yoga mat is actually focusing on how it will be used. A travel mat is ideal for individuals who travel often for work because it is designed to travel on a plane or in a car. It is made for travelling but might not be appropriate for use in all class settings.

The best way to select the right yoga mat is by considering the class and the possible problems that may arise. A class that causes the heart rate to increase and the body to sweat will need a different mat from a slow-moving style that focuses on breathing and meditation. By focusing on the style of yoga and personal needs, the process of finding the right mat is a little easier.

There is a wide variety of yoga mats available on the market but they are not all created equal. The best mat is the one that works for your needs and focuses on your specific goals.

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/gear/equipment/best-yoga-mats/, http://www.fitsugar.com/Tips-Buying-First-Yoga-Mat-20129474

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Five Ways Yoga Helps You Sleep Better

Sleeping is a building block for a better life. It plays a role in enhancing memory, stimulating creativity, reducing stress, managing weight and healing the body from pain and injury. Getting enough sleep every night has even been linked to creating a longer lifespan.  And it keeps us in a positive, strong frame of mind.  

Most people do not get enough sleep, especially when it counts. Burning the candle at both ends is a valued trait. We work, study and play around the clock. This 24-hour cycle can damage the human body.  And that is just when one needs to be rested and strong.

Insufficient sleep can weaken the immune system and leave a person vulnerable to catching diseases and developing other serious health problems. It can also enhance stress and depression. People who sleep less than needed are more prone to making errors in judgment and experiencing serious or fatal accidents.

Yoga can make getting enough sleep easier. It energises your body during the day, and can relax your body and mind when it’s time to sleep.

How does Yoga help you sleep?

Yoga can enhance your ability to sleep better in five distinct ways:

1. Soothes your mind

Many bends and poses are designed to soothe the nervous system and replace stress with calm at the end of a hectic day. Yoga prepares your mind for sleep by enhancing calm through releasing stress or nervous energy.

2. Eases physical pain

Aches and pains can be a culprit in keeping bodies awake at night. Yoga can relieve this problem. Different bends and poses stretch out muscles and joints, relieving tension and increasing blood flow in affected areas

3. Enhances your focus

Your mind needs to be trained to know when to be active and when to rest. Yoga helps sharpen your focus for doing what comes naturally when your head hits your pillow.

4. Quiets your thoughts

Mental noise can be distracting. Thoughts racing a mile a minute can lead to endless tossing and turning. Yoga helps quiet this chatter. It gives you a time and place to reflect and meditate, so you can clear your mind before bedtime.

5. Permits surrender

It is easy to resist sleeping at night, especially when it feels like so much is left to be done. Yoga works your body and mind enough so it feels good to simply surrender and let yourself relax.

Yoga poses for sleeping

Several Yoga poses are useful for preparing your mind and body for a better night’s sleep. These poses only take a few minutes to do, but lead to several hours of peaceful slumber.

Start with upside down relaxation. Sit facing a wall with your butt about 6 inches away from the wall. Lie back and extend your legs up the wall. Rest your arms at your sides, palms facing up, and breathe gently.

Progress to a winding down twist. Sit cross legged and exhale as you place your right hand on your left knee and left hand behind your tail bone. Gently twist your torso to the left and look over your shoulder. Breathe deeply, return to center and repeat on your right.

Follow with a diamond leg stretch – Supta Baddha Konasana (or Reclining Goddess). Lie on your back and bend your knees. Place the soles of your feet together and open your knees into a diamond shape, placing your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your belly.

Move into a child’s pose from there. Sit up on your heels and roll your torso forward. Lower your chest as close to your knees as you can comfortably and extend your arms in front of you.

Conclude with a happy baby pose. Then lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Cross your ankles and wrap both arms around your shins with clasped hands. Inhale and push your body up to sit. Exhale and roll back.

(1) “Why Better Sleep = Better Health” Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/railroad-sleep/problems/sleep-health

(2) “8-Minute Workout: Yoga for Better Sleep.” Fitness Magazine, http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/yoga/poses/yoga-routine-before-sleep/?page=1

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Yoga for Strong Shoulders

Weight training can be hard on the shoulders and arms, particularly when mistakes occur and the weights are lifted incorrectly. The risk of injuries during shoulder exercises can make it hard to enjoy the fitness routine because the entire focus is on preventing an injury. Fortunately, yoga can help develop strong shoulders without taking major risks or ruining flexibility in the arms.

Health and Yoga

Although yoga can seem to focus on flexibility, it is actually a useful way to build muscle and develop strength in the arms, shoulders, chest, legs and other muscles throughout the body. More and more health practitioners recognise that yoga combines physical postures with breathing and meditation techniques to improve overall health and well-being. It has an impact on stress, blood pressure and mental health when it is used appropriately.

Due to the health benefits, adding yoga as part of a workout routine can improve strength training efforts while also working on personal health.

Dolphin Plank Pose

The dolphin plank pose is a modification on the original plank, states Yoga Journal. The pose starts with a similar shape as the plank, but it puts a greater emphasis on the upper arms and the shoulders rather than the entire arm. Instead of balancing on the hands in a pose that is similar to a push-up, the body is balanced on the fore-arms.

Start on the hands and knees and place the fore-arms flat on the yoga mat. Keep the palms of the hands down on the mat to maintain balance. Slowly walk the feet back until the back and legs are straight and the body is balanced on the fore-arms and toes. Straighten the back and pull the stomach in as tight as possible.  Draw your heart forward through the upper arms.  Be sure not to drop the hips – the shape is a straight line.

Hold the pose for 30 seconds before releasing it. The pose focuses on strengthening the arms, chest and core muscles. It is part of a routine to strengthen and sculpt the shoulders for a great look.

Extended Puppy Pose

The extended puppy pose is a lighter version of downward facing dog that is ideal for beginners to yoga or advanced practitioners who want to work on opening up the shoulders. As part of yoga for strong shoulders, it is a good addition to a basic routine.

Start by sitting back on the heels of the feet. The pose is similar to child’s pose and it starts in the same position. Slowly walk the hands forward and straighten them. The chest and face should be near the yoga mat while the hands extend far forward. The legs should bend at a 90 degree angle and the back should arch just slightly.  Hips are over knees.

Open up the shoulders and chest while pulling the stomach tight. Melt your heart toward the mat.  Hold the pose for 30 seconds and then release the pose by walking the hands backwards and sitting back on the heels of the feet again.

Stick Pose

Stick pose might sound funny due to the name, but it is a great exercise for the shoulders and arms. The pose requires the arms, legs and back to straighten and firm so that it is like a stick.

Start by sitting on the yoga mat with the legs straight out from the body and bring the heels together.  If that is hard, spread the feet about hip-width apart. Place the hands just behind the hips so that the hips and shoulder line up when the back is straight. Hold the back straight and press the hands down into the yoga mat. Bring the legs together and press the heels down into the mat while pointing the toes. Hold the entire body straight for 30 seconds and then release the pose.  A next step is to fold forward – heart up, looking ahead.  If you need to, bend your knees as much or as little as you need to – to prevent putting too much stress on the lower back.  Start by pressing the heels away and curling your toes toward you.  Over time, you should be able to start straightening the knees.  If it is hard to tilt the pelvis forward, elevate the hips – sit on a block, a folded towel or just fold your mat.  Keep drawing your collar bones toward your toes.  See if you can soften your shoulders.

Building up strong shoulders requires exercises that focus on the arms and shoulder muscles. Fortunately, many poses in yoga work on the shoulders and arms, so it is not hard to strengthen the muscles.

(1) http://nccam.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm,

(2) http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/finder/anatomical_focus/shoulders,
(3) http://www.a2zyoga.com/yoga-poses/dandasana.php
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Popular Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Upper Back

With all the activities we engage in on a daily basis, we often develop upper back pain or discomfort. These are postures, like sitting in front of a computer for a long time, that cause unhealthy stretching or tensing of muscles and this often results in unbearable pain. If we do not address this pain while in its early stages, it could result in more severe conditions over time. But there is yoga for strengthening the upper back. Yoga will also help relieve any existing back pain. According to PubMed, yoga provides your body with the exercise it needs to strengthen your upper back and alleviate any pain in the same region.

Here are some postures you can practice if you want a strong upper back:

  1. Sun Salutation. This sequence is also referred to as Surya Namaskar or Salute to the Sun. The style comprises twelve continuous poses that begin with standing on your yoga mat and bringing your palms in prayer position (Anjali Mudra) and exhaling. Then raise your arms as you inhale and bring palms together. As you exhale, bend forward to touch your feet with your hands. Now lift your chin a little and step your right leg back. Now step your left leg back too – keep your legs and spine in a linear position and support your body weight with your feet and hands while you exhale (Chattauranga Dandasana). This movement is similar to a push-up. Now lower your knees followed by the chest and then your forehead while retaining your breath and curling your toes under and keeping hips up. Then inhale and move your chest forward, roll your shoulders back and look slightly up (keep length at the back of the neck), arm straight and pushing hands down and slightly backward (Upward facing dog). Curl your toes under and lift your hips to downward facing dog, then inhale as you step your right leg forward with the foot between your hands. Now step the left foot forward too.  Inhale and stretch your hands over your head then gently bend backward from the waist. Bring your hands back to your heart centre in prayer position.  Repeat with the other leg.
  2. The Ardha Matsyendrasana or half spinal twist is another yoga pose that will guarantee you a strong and healthy upper back. To do this, sit in a cross legged position. Keeping the spine long but soft, lift either the right or left leg over the bent knee placing the foot against the outside of the bent bottom knee with its heel close to your buttocks. If this is intense, just straighten the bottom leg. Now stretch your arms out to the sides at shoulder level as you twist around. Hug the knee in. Then do the other side.
  3. The Easy Pose is perhaps the most common Yoga style that will help in strengthening your upper back. Here, sit on your Yoga mat or simply on the floor. The most vital aspect is that the ground be flat. Next, cross your legs with your feet below your knees and place your hands on the knees. For more comfort, you can use a thick cushion for this Yoga pose; especially if you are just beginning. Keep your head and spine soft but erect.
  4. Shoulder stretches are also very helpful for a stronger upper back and shoulders. All you need to do is sit in any desirable position with the spine erect with the help of a sufficiently long strap, stretch arms forward as you inhale. Move your arms up till they are overhead and bring them down behind you as you exhale.

For all the above Yoga poses, use the assistance of an instructor or yoga straps for safety. With continuous practice, you will have a strong upper back within no time. Never push past pain.  Pain is a warning system and needs to be heeded.  These asanas (postures) will give you a firm upper back and also provide relaxation which is essential for brain development and general health. The beauty of it is that yoga can be practiced by anyone regardless of age or anything else.

Source: http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/yogapractice and PubMed  Continue reading

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Yoga for a Strong Lower Back

A strong and supple lower back is one of the prime keys for getting through your hectic day without pain. A powerful back will not only let you lead a pain-free life, but it will help you to maintain a beautiful and healthy posture, increase your energy and make you feel better in all other aspects of your life.

Research in the UK supports the benefits of practising yoga to relieve lower back pain. [1] According to PubMed Health, the world’s largest medical library, a study conducted by researchers from the Universities of Manchester and York and at yoga studios in York and Cornwall found that lower back pain suffers who attended weekly yoga sessions had less pain during normal tasks than patients who did not.

There are many types of yoga to choose among. The Vinyassa form of yoga, often called ‘flow yoga’, is a natural choice for people who are interested in alleviating lower back pain. Vinyassa yoga focuses on stretching and moving the body in a controlled manner. Vinyassa yogi can either be performed slowly or more quickly, but this style concentrates on using your own breathe to control the progression of the yoga poses, or asanas as they these body positions are also called.

YogaJournal.com suggests that the four following simple yoga postures can help to strengthen your lower back muscles and increase your flexibility.[2]

Make sure to consult your physician before beginning this, or any other, exercise program.

Get warmed up with the Warrior Pose One

  1. Stand facing forward with your feet four feet from each other. Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed.
  2. Step your left leg back and bring your hands to your hips. Bring your right hip forward by bending your right leg. Make sure that your left hip is gently pushing backwards. Advanced students may want to bend their right leg until their right thigh is parallel to the floor.
  3. Inhale and raise your arms slowly over your head and reach high up towards the ceiling. At the same time make sure that your shoulder blades are pressed against your back and directed down towards the ground.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, exhale and bring your arms slowly down. Return to the starting pose and repeat on the opposite side.

Try the Cow Pose to provide a massage to your spine.

  1. Get on your hands and knees. Make sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders and that your knees are below your hips. Your head is down and you are looking at the floor.
  2. Inhale and your lift your lower spine and chest up towards the ceiling. Raise your head and look straight ahead.
  3. Exhale and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

For advanced yoga practitioners, the Cat Pose can be performed during the exhale portion of Cow Pose. For beginning students, each pose may be performed separately.

Use the Cat Pose to stretch the back, torso and neck.

  1. Get on your hands and knees and position your hands and knees in the same way the same way as the Cow Pose. Again, your head is down and looking at the ground.
  2. As you exhale, round your back and push it towards the ceiling. Let your chin slowly sink down. You don’t have to bring your chin to your chest, just let your neck hang down in a natural position.
  3. Inhale and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 20 times.

Finish your back conditioning yoga with the Garland Pose

  1. Squat with your feet as close together as possible.
  2. Separate your legs slightly and lean forward, exhale and lean forward.
  3. Press your palms together and press outward with your elbows against your inner thigh.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.

[1] (2011) Yoga ‘helps chronic lower back pain’. PubMed Health. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2011-11-01-yoga-helps-chronic-lower-back-pain/

[2] Poses. YogaJournal.com. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/pose

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Yoga for Runners

Runners, whether they are sprinters or ultra marathoners, look for ways to improve their stride, breathing rate and muscular fitness. One of the techniques that is least invasive and less likely to have dangerous side effects is yoga. The use of yoga for runners is beneficial in a holistic approach. While yoga is a form of exercise, it is gentle enough to provide sustainable energy without requiring the use of equipment. Additionally, yoga is a solid way to reduce stress levels, which helps to keep hormone levels in check [3]. This is useful for reducing stress placed on the body through extreme forms of running, such as ultra marathon running or sprinting. Some studies are also looking at the use of yoga for motivation for runners.

A study published in 2006 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, titled “Effects of brief yoga exercises and motivational preparatory interventions in distance runners: results of a controlled trial” looked into yoga for runners [1]. This study focused on high school long distance runners who used yoga postures as a form of exercise pre-run. The other methods used were motivational shouting and zero intervention. Results found that yoga proved some benefit in motivation for runners, while not as much as the motivational shouting. Issues of the study include the long term use of yoga, in addition to the personal beliefs of using complementary and alternative medicine among the participants. At any rate, the use of yoga exercises have been used by runners for various reasons ranging from motivation to stress reduction.

In order to use yoga as a runner, you can focus on what aspect of yoga most interests you. For instance, some runners are looking for ways to reduce the impact of running on their joints, bones and muscles, which can often be an issue as we age, are pregnant or are recovering from surgery. Yoga Journal notes that yoga practice can provide mental training, as well as physical strength [3]. Asanas, when practiced consistently over the long term, can help a runner increase their range of motion and improve their physical stamina, which is essential in overcoming physical limitations. Additionally, the use of yoga postures puts all of your muscle groups into action, while providing strength to your core muscles. This overall exercise, in addition to the mental benefits, is substantial for anyone interested in moving beyond the wear and tear associated with solely running as an exercise routine [3].

Some of the most popular forms of yoga for runners include bends, twists and stretches. The Downward Dog pose is ideal for opening up your hip joints and for strengthening leg muscles. Give your body a great stretch pre or post run using the Downward Dog pose [4]. Another excellent pose for stretching your leg muscles is the Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or the Pigeon. From Downward Dog, pull one leg forward and fold it underneath your body. Stretch out that folded leg by pressing forward on it. The stretch is wonderful for opening up your hips. To open up your hamstring muscles, opt for the Parsvottanasana, also known as the Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid. From the Mountain pose, stretch your legs and extend one forward. Bend forward over the extended leg without using your arms for leverage, and feel the stretch as you hold this pose [4].

Another of the most popular yoga poses that is often used for runners is the Revolved Crescent Lunge pose [4]. Use this pose to give your hips the deepest stretch. Start by standing in the Mountain pose. Tightening your core muscles to create a strong support system with your body. This will give you the greatest benefit. Move your right foot forward in a lunge position. Keep your bending knee in a 90 degree angle without overexerting your leg. Place your hands in Prayer pose in front of your chest. Twist your upper body from your waist, so that your left triceps is positioned over your right thigh. Continue the twisting motion until your eyes are focused over your right shoulder. Hold your pose while keeping your spine straight and your chest open. Press your palms together for support. Maintain the pose for 30 seconds. Switch to the other side and repeat.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2491926/
[2] http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/yoga
[3] http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/192
[4] http://beta.active.com/yoga/articles/yoga-for-runners-3-poses-you-should-practice
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