Yoga made easy for everyone
By Jenn Gray
Anytime is a wonderful time to start a yoga practice! One way to start is by trying a few poses in a chair. This is helpful if you’re at work all day, or if it feels challenging to get down to and up from the floor. You may even find yourself practicing yoga on an airplane!
CATCH YOUR BREATH
A very important part of yoga is paying attention to how you are breathing. Do your inhale and exhale feel even? Maybe a little jagged? Have you noticed your breath lately? Breath work is critical in your yoga poses. In fact, your breath is all you need to receive one of the most valuable benefits of yoga; oxygenated blood!
First, it’s helpful to start out with your natural breath. This is when your breath feels like a wave. Imagine a peaceful beach in the morning. As you inhale picture the wave coming in, and as you exhale picture the wave going back out to sea.
Next is the “cleansing breath.” It might sound like a teenager’s “huff,” but in fact it brings the opposite feeling. Try to inhale deeply through your nose, and when you exhale do it with big sigh or “HAAAAA” sound. The cleansing breath relaxes the shoulders and the jaw. I like to do several of these to relax and begin my yoga poses, as it’s my favorite.
ARE YOU SITTING DOWN?
Try sitting in a chair and let both feet touch the floor. You may add a block under your feet or sit in a chair that’s lower to the floor to make this comfortable.
The first pose is a forward fold. As you inhale raise your arms up to the sky, and as you exhale bend forward just as far as you feel comfortable, letting your arms and hands touch the floor or dangle. Take a few breaths here. Allow your head to be heavy, your neck long, and your hands relaxed. When you are ready to sit up, rise up slowly and one vertebrae at a time. Let your head come up last.
The second pose is a combination of two poses; cat and cow. While seated, place your arms wherever they are comfortable – this could be on the arm rests or putting your hands on your hips. As you inhale bring heart forward, as though you are arching your back. If it’s comfortable, gaze up toward the sky. As you exhale, send your spine as far back to chair as comfortable and lower your chin as you gaze down to the floor.
The third pose is called “eagle arms” and it’s a great way to create space in your upper back and between your shoulders. As you inhale open your arms wide, like you’re giving a big hug. As you exhale bring your arms together and cross at elbows. It will feel like you are stacking your elbows. Your hands may touch, or your arms may stay open and apart. On your next inhale lift elbows just a little, and as your exhale lower your elbows back down. Try just a few, and then repeat with arms switched for the other side.
The fourth pose, pigeon pose, is very popular for your hips. While seated, bring one ankle across the opposite leg and place it above your knee. Try to relax and stay seated. You will notice pretty quickly that pigeon pose in the chair is very effective for opening the hips. Repeat on the other side.
STAND UP FOR YOGA
This tick tock pose helps to open your side, from your shoulders to your hips. Stand up and keep your knees soft, your hips facing forward and your feet firmly grounded. As you inhale, bring your arms up overhead and reach up to the sky. If it feels comfortable you can interlace your fingers and point your index fingers up. Otherwise, you can keep your hands apart. As you exhale reach both hands over to the side. Repeat several times and when you feel balanced out come back to just standing.
Blinking lights and prayer wheel will quickly build heat in your hands and fingers, giving you a break from being on your computer or phone. Keeping your natural breath, lift your feet up onto your toes and raise your arms overhead. Open and close your hands quickly and repeatedly, like a blinking light. When you feel heat in your hands, stop “blinking,” turn your feet open about 45 degrees (or diagonal), bend your knees, bend your elbows and slowly lower your arms. When your hands lower completely, shake them out gently, as though you are shaking water off of them, and with bent knees swing your arms around gently. This will release tension in the low back and hips offering a gentle twist.
Balance poses are very important for our concentration and our bodies. This tree pose with a chair will let you hold the pose longer and focus on your breathing. Stand up next to or behind your chair, so that you can easily hold onto the chair. With both feet rooted on the ground, take a breath and find your balance. Lift your left foot up and bring all of your weight into your right foot. Turn your left knee open (like a gate) and place your left foot at your right foot or along your right leg for support. If you need the chair, use it. If you don’t need the chair, you don’t have to use it. Place your hands above your head, at your heart, or anywhere they feel comfortable. As you breathe, focus on rooting into your foot, lifting your hips, softening your shoulders, and sending your tailbone toward the floor. Hold for as long as you can, and then try on the other leg.
Jenn Gray teaches yoga in Las Vegas. She earned her RYT-200 in hatha yoga from All About Yoga, and is also certified in expressive yoga and dance from Jada Fire/Barefoot Sanctuary. Contact Jenn at firstname.lastname@example.org