by Michelle DeLong: Is this your year to start yoga, commit to self-care, and feel healthy and happy in your body?
We all have specific areas of the body that tend to ache, cause pain, or grow stiff due to stress or lifestyle. You don’t necessarily need an hour each day to devote to opening up these stiff and tired areas. Start yoga and the habit of self-care by practicing a few simple poses for just a couple of minutes each day. Yoga is a self-healing system that, when used correctly, can balance out the body, relieve pain, build strength, and so much more.
You can start yoga at your desk, at home while the baby is napping, or at the gym: yoga doesn’t have to be practiced in a studio! Follow the YogaToday guide below to bring problem areas like the neck, back, shoulders, core, and hips into balance. Try focusing on one area of the body each week, or even one per day. New year, new healthier, happier you!
How to Start Yoga for a Healthy, Happy Neck
Do you sometimes feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? When you’re under stress, your shoulders tend to creep up towards your ears, causing pain and tension in the neck. Staring at a computer at work all day doesn’t help, either.
To keep your neck happy and healthy this year, take a break from your computer screen and try a simple neck stretch (you can do this while sitting at your desk!) Tuck your chin in towards your chest and take 5 breaths to stretch the back of your neck. Then, tilt your head back and count out 5 breaths to stretch your throat. Next, take your chin towards your right shoulder and take 5 breaths to stretch the left side of your neck. Repeat on the other side.
How to Start Yoga for Healthy, Happy Hips
Tight hips are an epedemic thanks to all the time most of us spend sitting in chairs! Sitting for long periods of time (as well as active lifestyles that include running, biking, skiing, you name it) can lead to stubborn, tight hip flexors. No one is immune! Tight hips are a common culprit of low back pain, so it’s important to take a little time each day to work on opening them back up. Your low back will thank you!
For a quick hip opener, practice gomukhasana. Follow this free video tutorial for a complete how-to! You’ll want to begin by crossing your right leg over the left so that your knees align, and pull your heels in towards your outer hips. Then, instead of taking traditional gomukhasana arms, fold forward for a deeper stretch. Repeat on the other side.
How to Start Yoga for Healthy, Happy Shoulders
Do you find yourself looking down at your smartphone a lot?! Yeah, us too. Smartphone use, as well as anything else that causes the shoulders to round forward (hello driving, typing on the computer, even riding a bike) can lead to tight and weak shoulder muscles. Tight and weak shoulder muscles can lead to bad posture (read all about why good posture is important here).
Take a break from the Iphone scrolling and try this shoulder stretch at your desk! To practice garudasana or eagle arms (full eagle pose video tutorial here) stretch your arms forward, parallel to the ground, and cross the right arm above the left, then bend your elbows. Raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor, and relax the shoulders away from the ears. Try to wrap the forearms and bring the palms together. Then, repeat on the other side.
How to Start Yoga for a Healthy, Happy Back
There is a wise yogi saying that goes: you are as young as your spine! Truly, as we age, we tend to lose mobility in our spine. However, sometimes an 80 year old who stretches regularly will have the spine of a 25 year old, and a 25 year old with bad posture and habits will have the spine of a senior! To keep your spine mobile and youthful, try practicing a seated spinal twist in the middle of the day.
To practice a seated spinal twist, sit upright with your legs extended out in front of you. If your spine is already rounding forward, sit up on a blanket, bolster, or folded yoga mat. As you inhale, extend upwards from your tailbone to the crown of your head. As you exhale, twist to the left, placing your right hand on the outside of your left leg. Unless it bothers your neck, look to the left. Continue to breathe as you hold the twist for 5 breaths. Then, repeat on the other side.
How to Start Yoga for a Healthy, Happy Core
“Having core strength is essential to much more than those six-pack abs (which, hey, can be a pretty nice bonus). Your core is the center of who you are. The core muscles are the central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Whether you’re hitting a volleyball or sweeping the floor, the motions originate in the core.” – Hannah Aylward, Health Coach. Read her full article here.
For some quick core work that can be done at home or really anywhere, practice low boat pose (find a free video tutorial for full boat pose here). To come into low boat, begin in boat pose and lower your mid back onto the mat. Your shoulders should still be lifted away from the mat. Feel your abdominals engage as you reach your fingertips towards your feet. Hold for 5 breaths, 10 breaths, or more… just remember to breathe!