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Yoga has long been known to increase flexibility and benefit the body in many ways – injury prevention, improved circulatory health and better athletic performance to name just a few. But perhaps even more relevant right now is yoga’s ability to calm the mind, reduce stress and ease anxiety.
Wagner’s own Tatiana Armstrong is not only an incredibly talented graphic designer, she is also a RYT certified yoga instructor and working to get her Yoga Therapy license. To help you get through COVID-19 and it’s day-to-day nuances, Tatiana put together these five yoga sequences to help ease your tension and keep a limber body for summer. These poses are also perfect pre or post-ski days. Inhale, exhale and enjoy!
Alternate Nostril Breathing (nadi shodhana pranayama)
Breath work can be one of the most eye roll-inducing parts of yoga, while also being the most beneficial for the body; especially for stress reduction. Luckily if you’re still under stay-home orders, no one needs to see you do it.
Improve cardiovascular functioning.
Reduce perceived stress levels.
Improvement in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.
Come to a comfortable seat.
Place the right pointer and middle finger to the center of the forehead.
Plug the right nostril with the right thumb.
Exhale through the left nostril.
Inhale through the left nostril.
At the top of your inhale, plug the left nostril with the right ring finger.
Exhale through the right nostril.
Inhale through the right nostril.
At the top of your inhale, plug the right nostril with the thumb.
Repeat for 3-5 minutes.
Finish with an exhale through the left nostril. *
Once completed, release the right hand and breath for 1-2 minutes through both nostrils.
*Finishing with an exhale through the left nostril has been proven to calm the nervous system and therefore reduce the stress response. If you’re feeling lethargic, try ending on an inhale through the right nostril.
Warming up the spine and opening fascia around the lungs is a great way to start any day. Open chest fascia allows you to take deeper breaths while a warm spine helps prevent everyday-injury and maintain mobility. Work to find a “roll” through the spine instead of moving from end-to-end to increase overall spinal mobility.
Stimulates the kidneys and adrenal glands.
Maintain spinal mobility.
Open chest fascia for deep breaths.
Come to table-top on the hands and shins.
Stack the hips over the knees and shoulders over the wrists.
*If skiing has made your knees sensitive, place a folded blanket under the shins.
Spread fingers wide and press into each knuckle.
As you inhale, begin to drop the stomach towards the mat and press the sternum forward.
Pull the chin towards the back of the neck and push the crown of the head towards the ceiling.
Exhale as you push your shoulder blades towards the ceiling
Pull the belly button towards the spine and curl the low back towards the sky, hips energetically push towards elbows.
Continue these cat-cows for 10-15 breaths.
After a few movements get creative with it; moving the hips from side to side or dropping to one forearm then the other.
To add in a little core work, do these cat cows from a plank position. Keep the shoulders over the wrists and heels pushing back with a slight bend in the knees. The tailbone should not lift from a plank to protect your low back.
Activates psoas and legs.
Helps prevent low back injuries and tension.
Increase ankle stability.
From table top, step the right leg forward to a lunge. The knee is aligned over the ankle, not in front. Extend arms overhead, keep the shoulders away from the ears. Feel the left hip slightly scoop under the pelvis to stretch the front of the left leg find a little movement forward and back to deepen the stretch.
For more engagement, balance, and fire, curl the left toes under and press the left heel back coming onto the ball of the foot and beginning to straighten the left leg.
Inhale to work both legs towards straight. Exhale to bend both legs towards ninety degrees and bring the hands to heart center. Move with the breath for 5-10 cycles.
Repeat on the second side.
This lower body sequence is excellent for toning, stretching, and strengthening the legs.
Build, tone, strengthen and stretch the legs.
Strengthen feet and ankles.
Increases the heart rate, stimulating the circulatory and metabolic systems.
Builds endurance and stamina, while toning the nervous system.
Begin with chair pose.
Start standing with hands at heart center.
Bring feet to hip-width distance and “sit” the hips back.
Stack knees over the ankles.
All 10 toes should be visible because the hips are shifted back – maybe even lift the toes off the mat.
Engage the core and lift the heart and arms towards the sky, shoulders stay away from the ears. Inhale here. Exhale and shift the arms behind the hips. Chest comes slightly forward, but hips stay seated back. Move with the breath for 5-10 cycles, bringing the arms overhead, then behind the hips.
Raise up to standing and take few breaths standing in stillness and feel the increased heart rate and breath.
Next, we’ll find a standing figure 4. Find your chair pose again, hips back. Hands can come together at heart center. Shift the weight to left leg. Bring right ankle across the left knee. Keep right toes flexed towards knee to keep the ankle straight and protect knees. Sink the hips back and slowly hinge the chest forward to feel a juicy opening through the back of the right glute and piriformis. Hold here for 5-10 breaths.
Slowly lift the chest and exit the same way you entered the pose. Repeat on the second side.
** Balancing on one foot has so many benefits and know that it’s ok to wobble or even lose your balance. If, however, the balance part is not allowing you the opening through the back of the legs, move through the same sequence with the hands against a wall.
Lowers blood pressure.
Helps calm the mind.
Decreases stress response.
Lay on your back and turn the palms of your hands towards the sky.
Lift one heel an inch or two and reach it forward then slowly lower it to the mat feeling length through the leg. Repeat with the other leg.
Wiggle the shoulder blades under the spine to create a little shelf for the heart.
Take a few deep breaths and relax the legs, arms, shoulders and face.
Let the tongue relax and the jaw unhinge.
If you have a hyperactive mind, begin to count an inhale for 4 or 5 counts, and see if you can make the exhale one count longer than the inhale. Once the count feels routine, switch to saying “inhale” “exhale” for the same counts. Once that is routine, see if you can just breathe with no thought association.
Let the long breaths become natural and lay here for 5-10 minutes.
Know that having 1,000,000 thoughts is one of the most unique parts of being human, and rather than trying to stop thinking, just let the mind wander without “following” or focusing on any thoughts. Choose to see how the mind wanders from an observer perspective, not giving any one thought any weight or following where they’re going.
To exit, deepen the breath. Wiggle the fingers and toes, and roll the head from side to side. Find a fetal position and take a breath there.
Slowly make your way to a seat and bring the hands to the heart then take one of the deepest inhales and exhales of all.
Move on with your day; hopefully a little more open and a little less tethered to your thoughts.
Article by Tatiana Armstrong
Tatiana is not only one of our designers here at Wagner, but also a practicing yogi and teacher. Just like with her skiing, she’s interested in the science and intricacies of yoga and is keeping her mind level and body ready for the next ski season with these practices.