As the weather starts to get colder and the days get shorter, it is a good time to think about ways to slow down, nurture your body and calm you mind. One of the best ways to do this is through yoga. This ancient practice was originally created to help people still thier thoughts so they could mediate. It definitely helps with that, but also has the added benefit of improving circulation, getting more oxygen to the brain and toning the body.
Like any exercise, the most important thing is to start off easy and be consistent. With that in mind, here are five simple yoga poses. If you do them every day they will help you to prepare for the coming winter and the holidays. Remember: when you practice yoga, the most thing is to take long, slow breathes. When holding the poses, don’t push your body to the point of pain. It’s ok to feel a bit of discomfort, but don’t go past that point. Pushing yourself too hard provides no added benefits and can actually lead to injury.
START: Sit in a comfortable cross legged position. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, slowly count the number five. Try visualizing the number 5 in your mind as you do this. Fully exhale all the air. Take a deep inhale and then, as you exhale, now count the number four in your mind. Again, try and visualize the number 4. This time, try and make your exhale a little longer than your inhale. Continue this process of slowly inhaling and exhaling while counting down the remaining numbers (3,2 and 1). When you finish slowly open your eyes.
Pose 1: Warm-up.
Inhaling, raise your hands toward the ceiling. Interlace your fingers.
On the exhale, stretch your body to the left. Go as far as you can while keeping both of your sitting bones on the ground. Make sure to keep your shoulders down (they’ll probably want to come up towards your ears). Hold this for five slow, deep breathes.
Inhale and return your interlaced hands towards the ceiling.
On your next exhale, repeat the process on the right hand side. After five breathes return your hands back towards the ceiling, then relax your arms at your sides.
Pose 2: Standing chair pose
Come to a standing position. Bring your feet together- make sure your toes are pointing forward. Inhale and raise your arms toward the ceiling. Clasp your palms together, extending your fingertips towards the ceiling. Again, make sure you keep your shoulders away from youe ears. Exhale and bend your knees as much as you can, keeping your heles on the ground. Hold this for five breathes. After the fifth exhale, inhale, straighten your legs and bring your arms comfortably to your side.
From your standing position, bring your feet hip width apart (toes facing forward). Bend your knees slightly. Let your head and arms fall towards the floor. If your hands touch the floor, grab opposite elbows. Take five slow, deep breathes like this, letting the crown of your head fall towards the floor. The idea here is to relax your body completely. After your fifth exhale, inhale and come to a standing position.
Come to a kneeling position. Make sure your knees and feet are hip width apart. Bring your hands to your lower back. With your hands supporting your lower back take a deep breathe in. Exhale and drop your head back. Hold this for a breathe. On your next inhale, lean as far back as you can. The goal is to have your chest facing the ceiling. Make sure you keep your hips in the same place (they’ll want to come back towards your heels). Hold this pose for five deep breathes. After your fifth exhale, inhale and come back to an upright kneeling position. If you feel a little light headed it’s ok- simply take a few more breathes here until it goes away. Then come to a comfortable position laying on your back.
Lie on your back. Bend your right leg and, keeping your shoulders and back on the floor, bring your right knee across your body, trying to touch the floor about two feet to the left of your left knee. Your right knee should be pointed towards the wall to your left (see photo). Your right arm should be extended out to your right. Bring your gaze towards your right fingers. Hold this for five breathes, then repeat on the opposite side. With each breath, try to relax a little more into the pose.
FINISH: Lie on your back and close your eyes. Take a few moments for yourself to let yourself completely relax, and allow the benefits of the yoga you’ve just done to be assimilated by your body.
If you take a few minutes to do these five poses every day, you will notice a difference. Your mind will feel calmer ad your body stronger. Enjoy!