Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Standing Knotted Spinal Twist

This one falls into the category of "things to do when you're bored at a cocktail party." Or maybe not.

1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.

2. Fold forward and reach your right arm between the knees

3. Bend your right elbow and reach your hand toward the ourside of your right hip (I said the outside of the hip, not the crack of the butt, please. That doesn't look pretty.)

4. Take your left arm around the back and clasp the hands. (If you're going, "Hands? What hands?" you may need a belt or a strap to help you here. If so, let the belt/strap hang from your left hand, then grab it with your right hand.)

5. Without letting go of the hands (or belt), try to straighten your legs, and raise your left shoulder (which will both make your back revolve and lengthen it.) Stay about ten seconds, breathing slowly, and feel the spine elongate.

That's it! Standing knotted spinal twist accomplished! Release, and repeat on the other side (i.e., threading your left arm through, clasping the hands by your left hip and revolving your shoulders to the right this time.)

AVOID IF: You experience any discomfort whatsoever through your knees or your back. Please don't force: if using a strap doesn't help you to get into the position, you may not yet have the range of motion through your shoulders or hips to accommodate this position. I'd rather you back off than strain a muscle. BENEFITS: Fantastic and effective way to release tight shoulders, stretch the hamstrings, and reset the back. ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: I was kidding about doing this at a cocktail party. But if it suddenly strikes you as a good idea, you may have exceeded your cocktail allowance and need to look for a designated driver.:-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Quick Mental Refresh Pose

This may look a little weird or sound a little hyped, but you can really reset yourself in as few as eight breaths, or two minutes.

It's based on the yogic principle of pratyahara: sense withdrawal.

THE SETUP: Sit comfortably, on a chair or on the floor. Place your pinkies together just below your lips. Touch the tip of your ring fingers just above the lips. Gently position your middle fingers against your nostrils, but only press them when you're neither breathing in nor breathing out -- during the pauses. Index fingers press your eyelids shut. (Wait, keep them open so you can keep reading the instructions.) Lastly, the thumbs occlude your ears; i. e., they press the flaps of your ears in to keep out sound. THE PRACTICE: With your eyes and ears shut, take 8 very slow breaths, listening to the sound that they make and pausing briefly at the top of the inhalation (and pressing the nostrils shut with your middle fingers) and at the bottom of the exhalation (again pressing the nostrils). Those extra-slow breaths should go in slowly and deeply and come out unhurriedly; all in all, they should take about two minutes to complete. Just pay attention to the sound of movement of air... or maybe even hear blood pumping in your veins. BENEFITS: You get an immediate boost of alertness that's not unlike having slept a little more. It can really re-center your mind in the midst of a chaotic situation, emotional fluctuations, excessive demands, or multi-tasking distractions. Great to do before meditation. AVOID IF: This position is very gentle, so I can't think of counterindications. If you experience shortness of breath or elevated heartbeat, it's because you're trying to hold the breath instead of letting it flow slowly at its own rhythm. Try to adjust it. Also, if the reason you're doing this is to make up for the fact that you only slept 3 hours last night, it may do the trick... but if you only slept 3 hours because you were out partying and drank too many mixed drinks... the bets are off. :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The legs-up-the-wall spine release

... also known as the "no, really -- I really am doing yoga" position...

Sit sideways to a wall so your hip touches the wall. As you lie on your back, swing your legs up the wall and sit close enough that your buttocks are against the wall. Stay for 5-10 minutes for best results. If you have access to a wall while waiting for your yoga class to start, it helps focus your attention inwardly.

BENEFITS: This is fantastic for dealing with back aches (lower or upper), for de-stressing, and for promoting hamstring relaxation. AVOID IF: You experience any discomfort to your spine that lasts longer than 10 seconds.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The reclining warrior

... Also known as "Traffic cop standing in front of a truck that doesn't seem to be slowing down.":-) start in a conventional Warrior 2 position (inset illustration). Straighten your front leg. Bend the back knee (it'll point to the side.) Shift most of your body weight to the back foot. Bend your left elbow, with the forearm vertical now. Next, flex your front wrist with your palm facing forward. Hold for 3 slow breaths, repeat on the other side. BENEFITS: Strengthens your thighs, aligns your back, supports deeper breathing. AVOID IF: If your knees feel weak or you have any joint pain, shorten the duration of holding the pose or skip it altogether.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Knuckle Spine Release

The knuckle spine release is not to be confused with that time back in 9th grade when your brutish cousin hit you in the back. :-)... Fists are positioned on either side of the spine and however high up the back it's possible to go. Lie on your back with your hands in this position and use your body weight to sink into your fists. Let the muscles lining the spine soften against your knuckles. Stay for 10-30 seconds, breathing slowly. BENEFITS: Helps release shoulder and back tightness. COUNTERINDICATIONS: If you can't get your arms comfortably in this position, skip it.