Becoming more flexible and pain-free sounds like a new year’s goal for all, but it may not always be at the top of your to-do list. Concerns like time and priorities may keep you disconnected from your body. Yet, disconnection itself can lead to even more anxiety, insomnia and stress.
I started teaching yoga in 1980 at a very young age in my mother’s gymnastics school in western New York. As a certified yoga teacher since 2009, I run retreats from Maryland to Mexico and Central America. My current company, Celebrate the Pelvic Floor, runs retreats for women, in-person and virtually, from around the world.
Through yoga, these women not only have improved their flexibility and released their pain, but also have grown more fit and feisty! There are so many benefits to this practice.
According to ancient tradition, connecting mind and body through practice is literally the definition of yoga. And this mind-body connection is always available to you. Your capacity for it is unlimited, as long as you continue to practice.
When you allow yourself to relax in a pose, your heart rate lowers as you tap into your parasympathetic nervous system. You’re stimulating blood flow to the targeted area, which then warms and rehydrates your deeper tissues. That hydration allows for movement as you settle into a deeper stretch. And this is the sweet spot where you stay.
Here are three easy yoga poses to practice in the privacy of your home to boost your flexibility and release pain.
Preparing for your poses:
- You’ll need approximately 15 minutes
- Keep a blanket nearby for warmth
- Keep pillows nearby for comfort
- Turn on a relaxing playlist
- Turn off notifications, but keep your cell phone nearby for the timer
Important note: Once you arrange your body into each pose, start your timer for three minutes, relax as deeply as you can and simply breathe.
Pose 1: Child’s Pose
Why: It’s the perfect place to start to calm the mind and bring you to a more inward focus. Child’s Pose stretches the back, thighs and pelvic floor and conditions the joints of the ankles, knees and hips.
How: Come into All Fours Pose (on hands and knees), move your knees wide and bring your big toes to touch. Drop down to your elbows, hips are high, bend the knees and sink the hips back toward the heels. Rest your forehead on a pillow or your hands. Set your timer, close your eyes, be still and breathe normally and naturally.
Modification: If your feet cramp, roll a towel and place it under your ankles. If your knees and/or hips feel super tight, don’t sink back to your heels. Keep your tail pointing high and relax your pelvic floor.
Transition: When the timer sounds, return to All-Fours then move into a prone position on the front body. Take a few mindful breaths here before moving on to the next pose.
Pose 2: Resting Half Frog Pose
Why: This pose reduces hip and low back pain, relaxes the muscles of the pelvic floor and helps heighten sexual energy.
How: In a prone position, turn your face to the right (resting on your left cheek), move the left arm down to the side, then slide the right bent knee around the right side toward the right elbow, stretching the hip and inner thigh. Set your timer, settle in, rest and breathe gently.
Modification: If it doesn’t feel comfortable lying in a prone position, lie on your side then bring a knee up toward the chest.
Transition: When the timer sounds, move to the other side for three minutes. After both sides, slither slowly onto your side body in the fetal position. Enjoy a moment of mindfulness here before moving on to the next pose.
Pose 3: Reclining Queen Pose
Why: Because of the name itself! As well as stretching the back and opening the heart, this pose can calm anxiety as it releases tension around the diaphragm for better breathing.
How: Arrange a small firm pillow under a larger softer pillow then lie back on both. Legs can lay long — or bring your feet together, bend the knees and open the hips for Butterfly. Open the arms out to the sides, palms up as you breathe deeply and slowly, softening your low belly and perineum on the inhale. Set your timer, smile and be a queen.
Modification: If your low back feels unsafe, roll to your side and remove the small firm pillow then return to the pose. And if the pose feels too intense for the hips and/or inner thighs, place two small pillows under the knees.
Transition: When the timer sounds, on an exhale, roll slowly onto your side, push up to a seated position, move the pillows to the side and return to your back.
Take a moment here — lie still, eyes closed, hands resting near your low belly, fingers pointing toward your pubic bone. Feel the heat of your body, breathe slowly and smile.
These poses are powerful work — just keep practicing. Remember your body needs just three minutes in each pose for maximum effect to boost flexibility and release pain. So, find your pose, make any adjustment that needs to be made to be comfortable then simply breathe and be.
This is the way to honor you in 2022!