Next week is our second annual Stretch Heal Grow yoga retreat and I am very excited. We have an incredible team this year including yoga teacher Leo Mowry. This week Leo is my guest blogger and she has some great tips for a short but effective yoga practice. Thanks Leo!
I’ve been teaching yoga for almost 13 years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about creating a home practice for my students, it’s the importance of keeping it simple. As such, when Jasmin asked me to “guest blog” for The Deva Life, I realized that I had to come up with a super-effective practice that’s so easy that anyone can do it, and in a short period of time.
As a longtime yoga therapist, I’ve also realized the value of suggesting poses that offer the most bang for their buck. For example, poses that don’t just improve flexibility, but also relieve stress. To that end, I’ve come up with the simplest possible practice; just 2 poses! This teeny tiny 10-20 minute practice will substantially soften tight shoulders and hips, leaving you a little easier in your body, and quieter in your mind. I hope you enjoy it!
1) Supported Heart Opener: (softens chest, shoulders, arms)
- Roll a yoga mat tightly (standard size mat, please, or a tightly rolled towel or blanket to simulate the size of a rolled mat) and sit down with your knees bent and feet planted. Place the bottom of the mat at your bra strap and lie down so it’s aligned along the spine and supporting the head. Extend the legs straight out in front of you (knees bent with feet planted if the lower back isn’t 100% happy) and relax. You may feel like the rolled up mat is digging quite aggressively into your back. This usually signals a tight upper back and these sensations should gradually subside as you relax and breathe. Focus on the breath as you relax for a few minutes, letting go of tension and clenching as best as you can. Then, remove the mat and notice how your shoulders connect with the ground.
- After a few minutes in position “a”, if the sensations have subsided and you’d like to increase the stretch, grab your tightly rolled mat again. This time, you’re going to lie in a “t” position: legs straight out in front of you, arms straight out at shoulder height with the palms facing up. The mat should be placed parallel with the arms, at bra strap level, and should be aligned evenly from left to right. The arms should be extended above the mat, on the floor; not on the mat or below it. Extend the legs straight out in front of you (knees bent with feet planted if the lower back isn’t happy) and relax. Focus on the breath as you relax for a few minutes, once again letting go of tension and clenching as best as you can. Then, remove the mat and notice again how your shoulders connect with the ground.
2) Legs Up the Wall: (softens hips, lower back, legs)
Lie down with your legs straight up a wall. If it’s a big leg stretch or your lower back is lifted off the ground, move your buttocks away from the wall until the lower back is on the ground and the spine is neutral. For comfort, you may need a little softness under the lower back in the form of a folded blanket, small pillow or folded towel. Imagine the thigh bones descending easily into the hip sockets, and bring a slight bend to the knees, taking care not to collapse the pose. Bring your focus to the hip creases, relaxing and breathing easily for several minutes.
Please remember that yoga should not hurt, and it’s always best to consult a doctor before beginning any exercise regimen. Moreover, the length of time we can comfortably hold a pose varies from person to person. If discomfort arises and persists beyond a few breaths, come out of the pose. Feel free to contact me with any questions!
Leo Mowry, August 2014