Yoga for the Mind, Body and Soul

Yoga is an excellent way to improve balance, flexibility and discipline. It’s a great alternative form of exercise for any fitness level. The postures mostly work and stretch large core muscles. You might not feel very tired at the end of a session. However if you’re patient with your progress, you will see overall improvement in your physical condition. Yoga is also great to do with friends or as a stress-relieving exercise. Here are some base-line yoga favorites:

Downward Facing Dog

Holding and upside-down position basically massages organs by shifting the ones that are usually crammed next to each other. Down dog also encourages upper back strength and hamstring flexibility.

How to down dog: Place your feet shoulder-width apart on the bottom edge of a yoga mat. Walk your hands (also shoulder-width apart) to the top edge of the mat. Straighten your arms and stick your butt in the air so that you make an upside-down “V” shape. Your arms should create a continuous line with your back, and your legs should be straight. Your heels might not touch the ground, but that’s perfectly fine. To increase the stretch in your hamstrings, you can pedal your heels in a walking motion. This is called “walking the dog.”

Tree

There are many variations on this balance pose based on ability. Sometimes one side of your body might be more balanced than the other. That’s pretty common. Don’t be afraid to use different modifications to fit your abilities the best. Balance can be frustrating, so it’s important to be patient with yourself.

How to grow your tree: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Spreading your toes a little helps your feet grip the mat. Then lift one leg, and place the sole of your foot on the opposite leg. Make sure to avoid putting your foot directly on your knee, as it’s bad for the joint. Your arms, or “branches” of your tree, can be up above your head, in a “T” shape to help with the balance, or in a prayer position. If you lose your balance a lot in this position, move your foot down your leg so that your heel touches your ankle and your toes are on the ground.

Warrior Two

The warrior poses are standing postures that engage core muscles. They require both strength and balance to be done well. While warrior one is a sort of standing lunge, warrior two is all about aligning your hips and shoulders.

How to become a warrior two: Start by spreading your feet as far apart as is comfortable long-ways on your mat. Point your front foot (this pose should be done on both sides, with each foot as the front foot) to the short side of your mat. Then rotate your second foot to about a 45-degree angle. Bend your front leg, but keep your back leg perfectly straight. Your shoulders should be stacked directly above your hips. Hold your arms out into a “T” shape, and turn just your head to look over your front arm. Tuck in your butt to straighten your tailbone. Think of yourself as squished between two panes of glass. Your arms might get tired at first, but the more you do this posture, the less frequently you’ll need to rest your arms. The longer that you hold it, the harder it becomes. It’s also harder with a lower stance, where your front thigh is closer to parallel with the mat.

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