Touch your toes and feel happier. Here's how..
Updated: May 21, 2018
Yoga is sometimes referred to as a form of meditative movement because in addition to offering physical benefits like improved flexibility, strength, and balance, it also helps with relaxation, breathing, and mental well-being.
As one wise Yoga teacher put it, “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.”
During the Good Morning Yoga Classes in front of the ocean in Sal, Cabo Verde, we regularly practice these 5 poses, because they not only improve your flexibility and bring you closer to touching your toes, they also reduce levels of inflammation, stress, blood pressure, depression and sleep problems, as well as beneficially impacting lower back pain and anxiety, improving physical function (the ability to walk and move), and boosting metabolism to help with weight loss.
Standing with your feet hip-distance apart, exhale as you bend forward, hinging from your hips, rather than pulling from your low back. Clasp your hands around the opposite elbow and let your head hang loosely.
With your weight evenly distributed in your feet (not just your heels), inhale, and then straighten your legs with each exhale by engaging your quadriceps (the muscles of the front upper leg).
Firing your quad muscles allows your hamstrings (back of your thighs) to relax. You'll also want to engage your deep core muscles to release your lower back during this stretch. Remain here for 10 long, deep breaths.
Start with your feet and knees aligned under your hips with your arms reaching out at shoulder height. Take an inhale, and exhale as you sit back into the pose as deeply as possible without your knees splaying or heels lifting. Hold for three long, deep breaths. Repeat three to five times.
3. Kneeling lunge
Tight hip flexors can hold you in a pelvic tilt that inhibits forward bending. Kneeling lunge is a great pose for releasing them. Step into a basic lunge position with your back knee bent.
Rest your hands on your front thigh or on your hips, take an inhale, and as you exhale let your pelvis sink downward. Keep your hips squared forward. Engage your buttocks to increase the stretch in your hip flexors. Hold for five long, deep breaths on each side.
4. Pyramid Pose
When done correctly, the pyramid pose stretches your hamstrings (backs of the thighs)with proper pelvic alignment. Step one leg back 18 to 24 inches with your toes angled slightly out. With both legs straight, hinge from your hips to bend forward, placing your hands on the floor either side of the forward leg without rounding your back.
To establish proper pelvic alignment, draw your forward hip back while pushing your back hip forward. Engage your quadriceps to keep your legs straight and stretch your hamstrings. Hold for five long, deep breaths on each side.
** If your flexibility prevents you from reaching the floor with your hands, use two blocks (or books) to rest your hands upon to begin with. With time and practice you will notice your flexibility increase, but don’t push it to begin with or you will put too much pressure on your hamstrings.
5. Extended child's pose
This pose is a restful one intended to stretch low-back extensors and encourage the pelvis out of an anterior tilt. From a kneeling position, reach your arms forward as you exhale and press your hips back toward your heels. Your knees can rest together, or wide apart. Rest your forehead on the floor or a block (or cushion). Hold for five long, deep breaths.
Remember, everyone's body is different, so take your time with these poses, go at your own pace, don't forget to breathe deeply ... and most importantly, enjoy the journey to touching your toes. You'll learn a lot about yourself on the way down.
Have yourself a great day :)