Yoga is one of the best-things for your overall health. As well as strengthening your immune system by promoting better breathing and draining the lymphatic system, it also encourages relaxation and helps with sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Just ten minutes a day will make a difference to your wellbeing – as well your strength, tone and flexibility.
These six poses are my top picks to do each day;
EASY SEATED WITH A TWIST
Sitting cross legged is a challenge for many, but the benefits are vast. It improves flexibility in the hips, strengthens the core and when you add in a twist it stretches the spine and aids digestion.
Sit on the floor in a cross legged position. Draw your abdominal muscles in and make sure your back is straight. Breathe, allowing the chest to lift as you inhale. If your knees are higher than your hips, you’ll find it hard to sit with your spin erect so sit on a folded blanket. Inhale, exhale and turn to your right side. Rest your right hand against your left knee and place your left hand on the floor behind you. Hold and breathe. When you’re ready, exhale and release. Repeat on the other side.
Many people struggle with this pose at first but with a little perseverance it becomes a favourite. It strengthens the whole of your body as well as stretching the hamstrings and back.
From a hands and knees position, inhale, exhale and straighten your arms and lift your hips so you resemble a ‘v’. Breathe. I advise all students to keep their knees slightly bent for a moment in order to release the back. Make sure your fingers are spread far apart and that there is equal weight underneath each part of the hands. If you cab, straighten your legs, whilst continuing to lift the hips. If you’re flexible enough your heels will touch the floor. Hold for at least three breaths before exhaling and releasing.
Balances are great for mental focus, improving hip stabilisation and strengthening your gluteus medius – one of the muscles in your buttocks. Many Westerns are weak in the area, because we sit down so much but weak glutes can contribute to back and knee pain – because the other muscles and tendons will attempt to do the job of the glutes. People that find balancing hard often have a tight piriformis muscle or a ‘busy’ mind. With practice you’ll improve.
Stand with your feet straight and hip width apart. Focus on a spot on the floor or wall in front of you. When you feel balanced place your left foot onto your right thigh. Ensure you keep your hips facing forward and that you haven’t shifted your weight onto your right. Breathe. Inhale and lift your arms above your head placing your hands in prayer pose. Hold for three breaths. Repeat on the other side.
This pose is great for core and back strength – as well as thighs so it’s ideal if you have knee issues making it a favourite amongst footballers who are prone to ‘dodgy’ patellas.
Lie on your back with your arms by your side, palms flat. Bend your knees so that your feet are as close to your bottom as possible (if you feel any pulling in the knees, move the feet a bit further away). Inhale, exhale lift your bottom and hips as high as you can. Once your hips are in position, bring your arms in under your body and clasp the hands. Hold and breathe, release as you exhale.
EYE OF THE NEEDLE
This is THE one pose that everybody should do everyday. It stretches all the external rotators – so wonderful if you’re tight in the hips which many people are due to too much sitting. If you suffer with sciatic pain this position can help as it gently stretches the piriformis muscle, which is in your buttocks.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your head should be flat on the floor with your chin tucked towards your chest. If you’re tight in your shoulders or neck this may be uncomfortable, so support your head with a yoga block or folded blanket. Inhale, exhale, place your right ankle bone over your left thigh. Draw your left leg towards you and breathe. You will feel a strong stretch in you left leg. Hold for at least three breaths, before exhaling and swapping sides.
Your psoas muscle connects your spine to the top of your legs. It’s also connected to the fight or flight response and the muscle will contract due to emotional or physical tensions. When you don’t release your psoas the muscle remains contracted and the end result is pain in your body – often felt in your back but many experts believe that all pain in the body can be tracked back to a contracted psoas.
You’ll need a chair and a yoga block or folded blanket for your head. Place your chair in front of you and lie on your back. Inhale, exhale and swing your legs up so they’re resting on the chair. Ensure that your head is resting on your support. Lie like this for at least five minutes – it takes that time for the psoas to release.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF YOGA
It teaches you how to breathe correctly using the whole of your diaphragm which will strengthen your immune system, reduce your stress levels and increase your energy levels. If you’re not breathing fully you’re more likely to suffer with panic attacks and develop conditions such as insomnia and depression.
It boosts your immune system meaning you’re less likely to get infections and other ailments.
It protects your spine and strengthens your back.
It perfects your posture, so you’re less likely to have the many conditions associated with standing or sitting incorrectly.
It makes your bones stronger – which is especially important as you age.
It improves your flexibility so you’re less likely to have aches and pains.