Boost Your Health With These Six Easy Stretches
You can boost your health with these six easy daily stretches by Casey Chiang.
Casey is a yoga instructor and co-owner of Zen Hot Yoga World. She’s also a full-time advocate of the high court and member of the Johannesburg bar, so she knows what it takes to find balance in a busy schedule. As a yoga instructor, her mission is to facilitate a space where people can progress on their personal journey of growth and improvement, and one of her primary techniques is to simplify complex poses in a safe and fun environment.
Do these Six Easy Poses At Home
1. Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
What it Does: This is a standing balance pose that aims at both focusing your mind and bringing awareness to your body. It is a greatly beneficial position to try when you are under stress, as it can release a lot of tension held in your shoulder muscles.
- Start by bending your knees. Balance yourself on your right foot and cross your left thigh over your right, then hook the top of your left foot behind your right calf.
- Find your balance and then extend your arms straight in front of your body. Drop your left arm under your right, bend your elbows and raise your forearms. Then wrap your arms and hands before pressing your palms together.
- Lift your elbows and push your fingertips up to the ceiling. Square your hips and chest, draw your stomach in and hold your gaze at the tips of your thumbs.
TOP TIP: Holding this pose compresses 14 of your body’s main joints, and, in doing so, constricts its blood flow. Once the pose is released, it allows newly oxygenated blood to reach your joints.
2. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Preparation (One Legged Pigeon Pose Preparation)
What it Does: This pose helps you to maintain a strong and healthy back, as it stretches your entire vertebral column, which includes your spinal cord.
- Start by coming on to your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Then lift your legs away from the floor, straightening your knees and pushing your heels away from the floor.
- Lift your right leg up behind you, bend your right knee, and then bring it forward, tucking it into your chest. As your spine begins to curve, shift your weight forward from your legs into your hands.
- Lower your right knee down to the mat below you, making sure it sits in between your hands, and finally extend your left leg straight out behind you.
TOP TIP: You ca execute it in two different ways, depending on the physical outcome you would like to have. By settling into the pose, folding forward with your chest down and hands out, you are able to calm your mind and relax your body. However, by choosing to sit upright with your chest forward, opening up your throat, heart and thoracic region, you allow your body to feel energised.
3. Touch the Sky Core Exercise
What it Does: This exercise is aimed at improving and strengthening your core, which is an essential part of your overall strength, as it is incorporated in almost every movement you make, including providing enough balance to keep you upright.
- Lie on your back and ensure that your spine is as flat as possible, before lifting your legs up until your body creates a 90° angle.
- Engage your legs and then lift your hands up to the ceiling as well, with your palms facing each other.
- Take a deep breath and, on exhalation, engage your core, and stretch both your legs and hands as high as possible, keeping eyes focused on the ceiling.
TOP TIP: Strengthening your core can aid lower-back pain, often caused by bad posture. However, while holding this pose, do not lift your legs so high that your coccyx begins to tuck in and curve, as this could cause even further lower-back pain.
4. Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
What it Does: This pose is vital for stimulating your thyroid and parathyroid, the two glands responsible for insulin secretion and a healthy metabolism. It does this by bringing newly oxygenated blood to the endocrine glands in your brain.
- Lie on your mat and lay your arms out next to your torso, then bend your knees and set your feet against the floor.
- On exhalation, push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into the front of your torso. Continue to lift your legs and back up by curling your pelvis and torso away from the floor.
- Try to get your torso relatively perpendicular to the floor. Straighten your bent knees so that your feet are facing the ceiling, and make sure your thighs are in line with your torso.
TOP TIP: This is a full inversion that follows on from the halasana pose. If you need to relieve the pressure in your neck and shoulder, you can push the back of your head down into the mat underneath you, and your legs can hover overhead, anywhere from parallel to the mat to straight up in the air.
5. Halasana (Plough Pose)
WHAT IT DOES: This is an inversion used to rejuvenate your entire nervous system and release the tension held in both your shoulders and neck. By stretching your spine to its maximum capacity, it can have a very calming effect on your body.
- From Sarvangasana, exhale and bend your hips, slowly lowering your toes back to the floor above and beyond your head. Try to keep your torso as perpendicular to the floor as possible, with your legs fully extended.
- Once your toes are on the floor, lift the top of your thighs towards the ceiling and draw your chin away from your sternum in order to soften your throat.
- Press your hands against the back of your torso, in order to push and support your back up towards the ceiling.
TOP TIP: If you need to support your back, you can rest your legs overhead on a stool or yoga block. Alternatively, you can place a folded tower underneath your back, if you prefer. However, it is essential for your safety to keep your head still during the pose.
6. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold)
WHAT IT DOES: This pose is used to lengthen and stretch the back of your body, including your hamstrings, and improve digestion.
- Sit up straight with your legs straight out in front of you. Raise both arms above your head and then bend forward from your hips, with your chin moving towards the toes.
- Place your hands on your legs as far down as they can reach and, if you can, take hold of your toes.
- Lift your head slightly in order to lengthen your spine, and try to get your navel as close to your knees as possible.
TOP TIP: In order to optimize this pose, it is important to lengthen your spine as far forward as possible, remembering to keep it flat the entire time. Do not round your spine or start the pose by taking your forehead down to your legs.