When people talk about fitness, they tend to focus very largely on either weight loss or muscle building. For most of us, ‘exercising’ means jogging or lifting weights and is mainly done for aesthetic purposes. In reality though, health and fitness constitute many more factors and should also pay attention to things like flexibility, comfort, energy and performance.
While the general public pretty much all have some kind of fitness regime or weightlifting regime (even if they don’t stick to it), it’s much rarer to come across someone who stretches casually. This is a big shame however when you consider that stretching is a great way to reduce pain, to help you stay limber and to increase your energy levels.
Just because you don’t have time to join a yoga class, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t incorporate the principles into your health regimen – and doing so will help you to recapture the kind of energy, flexibility and vitality that you had when you were just a little kid.
To help you get started, let’s look at some basic yoga poses you can use at home. Try to hold each one for five seconds at first. As you get better, you can build up to 20 seconds and beyond.
The Mountain Pose
The mountain pose involves standing up tall with your feet pressed together and your arms raised above your head with your palms facing each other. Reach as high towards the sky as you can while remaining on flat feet.
Downward Dog/Downward Facing Dog
Lie flat on the floor with your hands and feet touching the ground, arms stretched out in front of you. Now walk your hands up towards your feet while keeping them straight and facing your head directly downwards. As you do this, your buttocks should be lifted in the air. Keep your hands and feet flat on the ground and stop when you feel a stretch. This position is downward facing dog.
Three Legged Downward Dog
Why it’s called this, I really don’t know… but three legged downward dog is a downward dog but on only one leg. The second leg meanwhile will either point directly up and back (maintaining a straight line from your back), or will hook over to point in front of you like a scorpion’s tail.
In the boat pose, you sit on the floor with your legs out straight, but then lift the legs up off the floor to point slightly upwards. Meanwhile, you are going to stretch your arms out to either side. Essentially you are balancing entirely on your buttocks.
Warrior Pose 1
Warrior pose one involves keeping your feet three to four feet apart pointing in the same direction (roughly). Your ‘front’ knee should be bent so that you are almost in a lunge, except the back leg is going to be straight. Your arms should be pointing straight up, with palms facing in towards one another. Don’t let the knee lean forward past your toes.
Warrior Pose 2
This is the same as warrior pose 1, except you’ll face out to the side (90 degrees from the position of your front knee), have your arms extended out to the sides with your palms facing down.
This pose is the same as warrior pose 1, except you are going to feed your back arm behind your back to get a stretch on your shoulder and your tricep on that side.
The tree pose involves standing on one leg, with the other leg lifted and resting on your upper quadriceps, foot planted flat against your leg. Keep your arms in a prayer position in front of you, or have them reaching directly up as you would in tree pose.
In a leg extension you balance on one leg, but with your foot pointing out in front you, being held by your heel or toes with one hand on the same side.
Lie on your back with your knees up and feet flat on the ground. Now raise your mid-section and pelvis upwards until they are parallel with the ground.
Start in warrior pose, then lean down to one side so that one outstretched arm touches the ground and the other points directly upwards. Bend both legs if you don’t yet have the flexibility and build up to performing the movement with completely straight limbs. As you get advanced, you can try pointing that leg out directly upwards.
Triangle Pose Reverse
With your legs in the same position, you’re going to twist your body 180 degrees so that the reverse arm is pointing up and the other arm is pointing down.
The crow pose basically involves balancing on just your hands, while balancing your knees against you’re your elbows in a tucked up position. This is also a move that’s used in hand balancing and if you feel like training your upper body strength, you can try progressing from here into a gradual handstand.
Upward Facing Dog
Here you will be lying on your front, but only the tops of your feet are going to be touching the ground. That’s because you will be lifting your upper torso up with straight arms (fully extended) as though you were a seal. Look slightly up and keep the hips tucked down.
From a kneeling position, lean forward with your arms outstretched and facing down towards the ground. You should look as though you are reaching out in front of you, and you should be flattening your body as much as possible. Your feet should be straight so that only the tops touch the ground.
Putting it Together
These are some basic poses that you can start learning yourself, but if you want to turn them into a workout you need to move between them in a sequence. There are endless combinations and possibilities for doing this and many different workouts available on YouTube or elsewhere around the web.
If you want to get started right away though, then here’s a sequence you can try now:
Mountain Pose – Upward Dog – Downward Dog – Three Legged Downward Dog – Warrior Pose – Reverse Warrior – Warrior Pose 2 – Triangle Pose – Reverse Triangle Pose – Tree Pose – Leg Extension.
Try to hold each pose for five seconds to begin with. Perform this whole thing twice – once on each side – and then rest for a few minutes. Repeat the entire sequence three times. If you have done this correctly then you should find that you feel quite tired by the end of it, but that you’ve relieved some of the tension in your limbs and lower back. Repeat this regularly and you’ll find you generally become less stiff and more flexible over time and you’ll love having the kind of energy and freedom of movement that comes from this!