paradis_yoga 7-28-11

Yoga for your day

By Andrea Krejci Paradis
Contributing Writer

Have you ever heard yoga does great things for your mind and body but have never taken the time to try it?

Have you tried yoga and wanted a recurring practice but can’t seem to find the time?
Taking time for longer sessions is important, but yoga can be practiced in short moments throughout the entire day. You don’t need to set aside a full hour in order to reap the benefits from poses such as Easy Pose or Forward Fold, and you don’t need to be flexible in order to try.
In this article I’ve highlighted five yoga poses from which everyone can benefit. Can’t practice them every day? That’s all right! Why not use these poses for miniature breaks from the craziness of life?

And of course, before starting any new exercise regime, check with a doctor if you have any concerns.

1. Awakening Forward Fold
Getting up in the morning can sometimes be a chore. That pesky alarm can make for a rude awakening. A refreshing pose to do after waking up is a Forward Fold. Your neck, back, and hamstrings will stretch and you’ll feel blood rushing to your head when folding forward. That blood is carrying revitalizing oxygen and gives a lovely kick-start to your fuzzy brain.

Start standing with your feet hip-distance apart. Take a deep inhale and then as you exhale, slowly roll down your spine. Be aware of any tight muscles, especially early in the morning, and feel free to put a slight bend in your knees. When you find your stretch, hold. Gently shake your head making sure your neck is loose. Allow your arms to dangle and for the stretch to feel good! When you’re ready to come up, slowly roll up the way you went down.

2. Mindful Movement
Do you ever feel like you are floating through life, missing things happening around you? Mindful movement is one of my favorite yoga practices because you can do it almost anywhere. “Mindfulness” is simply being fully aware of what is happening around you.

Try focusing on each movement of your toothbrush as you brush your teeth. How is your arm moving? Which teeth are you brushing? Or when you are walking, pay attention to how your feet connect with the ground on each step. If your mind wanders, don’t despair — it happens to everyone! Just focus back in and remember practice makes perfect.

3. Desk Downward Facing Dog
Sitting at a desk and staring at a computer all day can take a toll both physically and mentally. It is recommended to any desk dweller to get up at least once an hour to allow the body to warm. When you’re ready to take your break, try doing Downward Facing Dog using your desk. This pose stretches the whole body: arms, shoulders, back, and legs. Not only will you receive a great stretch but you will elongate your crunched spine and prevent blood clots in the legs.

Place your hands on the desk, shoulder width apart. Walk your feet back until you have made a 90-degree angle with your body. Keep your neck long and allow your heart to move toward the floor. Take a few deep inhales and complete exhales. When you’re ready, walk your feet back in to come to standing.

4. Tree Pose
Tree Pose can be a challenging pose for beginners and those working on their strength or balance. Balance can only come with practice, so why not practice while preparing your meal for the night? Tree pose also helps strengthen the small muscles around your ankles and knees and builds strength in the thighs. Be sure to stay away from using any knives if you are working on your balance!

Bring your weight into your right leg. Feel strength in your leg and connection to the ground through your foot. When ready, pick your left foot off the ground and place it on your inner right leg. The foot can be at your ankle, calf, or thigh, but make sure you skip your knee joint! For a modification, keep your left toes on the ground and bring your heel to your right leg. Use your hands on the counter to steady yourself if need be. Switch sides. While holding this pose, why not use your Mindful Movement techniques? Really see the food you are preparing or the dishes you are washing. Feel every movement.

5. Easy Pose
We here in the United States are perpetual chair dwellers. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with sitting in chairs but HOW you sit in the chair can be a problem. Many people (myself included) are big time slouchers. Hunching the spine holds the muscles in an elongated position, resulting in weakness, and the discs providing cushions between your vertebrae begin to break down, possibly causing slipped disks and nerve pain. Next time you sit down to talk on the phone or watch TV, why not consider sitting on the floor in Easy Pose? This pose will help strengthen your back, and stretch your hips. If you have tight hips, this pose might not be easy at first but can eventually feel great!

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bring your knees toward your chest, cross one shin in front of the other, and let your knees open. If your knees are higher than your hips, sit on the edge of a folded blanket or large book. Sit up tall and be aware of any slouching. Visualize your spine growing longer every time you inhale and focus on keeping the length as you exhale. If you would like even more luxury in this pose, place pillows or books under your knees for support.

These yoga poses can be practiced throughout the day when you do not have time for a full session. Allow yourself the luxury of trying the poses for a few moments without any distractions while noticing how you feel. Simply focus on the pose and enjoy the benefits!

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