Yoga

Yoga & stretching help and tips

Yoga for the Splits

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Here are some great poses to get your hamstrings and inner thighs stretched out.

Top Left: Triangle pose is great to prepare for the deeper stretches. I always start my stretching and yoga practices on my feet, bending more in my hips and simply letting my upper body drop and focus on my breathing. Whether I start with a forward fold or triangle, it’s a great start. For this pose, separate your legs, one in front of the other. Bend your front leg, take your hand opposite of your front leg, place it on the mat next to your foot and breathe, looking up at your other hand that is straight in the air.

Top Middle: Go straight from triangle pose into warrior (or lunge) simply by changing your upper body position to straight up. Find the deepest lunge you can by bending yous front knee more, pushing your back leg as straight and far as you can without dropping your back leg at all. It should be straight, not bent.

Top Right: Bring your back knee down to the floor slowly from Warrior. From this lunge position, straighten your front leg and bring your booty back over your back knee only slightly, you should not look like your are sitting on your back leg at all. Lean your chest down towards your front leg, place your hands on either side of your foot, trying to even get your fingers past your toes by reaching out as far as you can. Breathe and try to get your nose to your knee.

Middle Left: Pigeon Pose. If I had to chose a favorite yoga pose, it’d be this one. It’s a hamstring and hip opened. I love it so much for so many reasons. I make my girls I coach do it often for many things. Simply bend your front leg, like a half Indian sit children do. Keep yous back leg straight. Try and push yourself further down deeply in your hamstrings. It hurts so good.

Middle Middle: In Pigeon, simply fold forward. Try to place your forehead on the ground, your arms straight out by your head. Reach far with your fingers. Feel the stretch from within your inner legs. Breathe deeply. Close your eyes and listen to your heart pumping.

Middle Right: Come up, and still in pigeon, bend your back leg and grab your foot. Be sure to keep your upper body straight with this, chest is up.

Bottom Right: Mermaid. From the bent leg pigeon pose as above, place your back foot in your elbow if you can, and clasp hands together behind you. This takes hamstring and back flexibility (don’t worry, you will fall over a few times in the beginning, I did too).

NOW SPLIT! The Bottom Middle and Bottom Left are me in my bad leg splits. One has me we chest up, trying to push myself down, and the other is being in a split and simply folding over your front leg, putting your chest on your leg if you can with hands reaching out in front by your head. To get into the split, get back into the lunge with bent front leg, then straighten it like in the pose in the Top Right pic, and simply try to slide down as far as you can!

Middle Split

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For middle splits, there are a lot of poses to work on.

  • Sit in pike (feet together, straight legs in front of you/like a forward fold but sitting) and bend over, trying to lay your chest on your legs, putting your nose to your knee, reaching your hands out in front, past your feet.
  • Straddle your legs (separate out to the sides, still straight) and point your toes. You will bend to each side, going straight towards the leg and then also going to the side (side bend). When bending forward toward your leg, your chest is down, trying to get it on your leg, nose to knee, you can grab on to your foot or reach past it. Do on other leg. For going to the side, sit straight up in your straddle sit, arms up by your ears, now fold from your middle and bend towards that leg. Switch to the other leg.
  • While still in straddle, sit straight up, arms straight up by your ears, now fold forward, trying to get your forehead/chest on the ground in front you. Walk your hands slowly out in front of you as far as you can. Be sure you keep your legs straight out, your knees facing up towards the sky.
  • Bring your legs in from straddle, so that your legs are bent with knees out the side and your feet are together right in front of you. This is the butterfly sit you probably did in PE in school. Try to bring your feet in as close as you can, and push your knees down with your elbows. Hold. Breathe. Now push your feet out slightly and try to fold forward, trying to put your nose to your feet. Breathe.
  • Get up onto your knees, separate your legs as far as you can while on all fours, push down, pushing your knees further and further away (like a middle split but with bent legs rather than straight). Drop your upper body to the ground and hold. We call this the frog sit/froggy in gymnastics/cheer. This helps to get that deep stretch you get in the middle split, minus the pain if you have not mastered the actual split yet. This also helps with healing injuries and soreness in the leg/hamstring/glute area. Try to do this stretch with your chest up, holding yourself up on your hands, trying to bring your booty down to get a deeper hamstring stretch.
  • Now do for the actual split. Go down into it slowly. If you go into any of your splits very quickly and uncontrolled, you may pull something and won’t be able to stop yourself. Please be cautious.

 

 

Happy Stretching!

 

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Importance of Stretching-Even if you don’t workout

The latest craze in the world, especially in the female population, has been yoga. And there is a good reason why! Yoga gets your body moving, it helps you escape from your stressful daily life, it moves your body when you have been sitting at a desk all week, for 40 hours or more. It helps you get a break from studying for school. It helps you get the blood pumping, release energy, actually even build muscle slowly over time. Stretching has so many benefits, whether you are suffering from insomnia, stress, feeling bloated or tired, having the usual back pain from sitting too long, or to prevent/heal injuries. Stretching has so many amazing benefits, you would have to be a fool not to get into it!

Yoga, stretching, whatever you want to call it

You don’t even have to necessarily do ‘yoga’. You don’t have to know those crazy poses and moves. I can barely pronounce them myself, so you don’t need to know them either. I just want you to understand even bending down and touching your toes (forward fold) and breathing deeply for a couple of minutes to escape and gain some sanity back during a hectic work day. By doing this daily, you will eventually be able to completely fold over, touching your nose to your knees with your legs straight, reaching your hands behind your feet. And you will feel alive and awesome.

Start small-it’ll make a difference

If you are already working out, you can probably handle more advanced things, but still, be careful. Don’t go jumping into a full on split too quick and rip a hammy (pulling a hamstring hurts- I am still recovering from an injury 6 years ago in my show-off cheerleading days. This injury is what got me into yoga and stretching daily). Start with downward dog, deep lunging, warrior poses, table pose, and simple things. I started with simply typing in ‘Yoga for Beginners’ and following some yoga people on Instagram (yogagirl, beachyogagirl, and ellefit are some of my personal faves). Don’t EVER think to do good at yoga you have to be able to hold a handstand for 8 hours and do fancy stuff like that. Just trying it, even if the most advanced you get is wheel pose (a back bend or bridge to normal people), you are doing the best you can and that’s amazing.

‘But I already work out’

Yeah, so do I. And I get a good workout even at work. But guess what? Yoga and stretching should be done even more by people who work out a lot. The more flexible your muscles are, the more work you can do, the more movement you can do and the less likely you are to pull something or become injured. Stretching after working out also prevents some soreness, and injuries. Even if you are a strong Hulk, you can benefit tremendously from stretching.

Prevents joint pain, arthritis, back pain, spinal problems, lowering heart attack risk,help reduce depression/anxiety/stress

With all of these benefits, why wouldn’t you want to pick up the habit of stretching, even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes a day? Working out does wonders. If you stretch in the morning, you can get some energy to make it through the day ahead and feel lighter on your feet. If you stretch after eating a big meal, you can help prevent stomach aches and bloating. If you stretch before bed you can help your body go into relax mode and drift right off to sleep.

You don’t need a class, you don’t even technically need to go out and buy a yoga mat

Yeah, they’re cute and all. But do you actually need a yoga mat? No. If you have carpet or rugs, you are totally fine. The yoga mats are more useful for hard wood/tile floors or stretching outside. Save money and just use your carpet in the bedroom as your stretching area.

Build up to the advanced moves

I was a gymnast and cheerleader for a long time. Now I coach. I could handle jumping right into head/forearm/hand stands with no problem. I can also do back bends all day. You may never have done a sport in your life. And that is totally fine. Start with trying to do head stands against the wall if you feel comfortable, but please read up on proper form, possibly ask an instructor to guide you some one on one (try to find a cheap beginner class at the local rec center or YMCA and ask to get extra help after class) or at least make sure you have another person to help spot you and hold your legs if needed to ensure you put your weight on your hands (or elbows depending on your position you choose to execute the head stand) and not on your neck or any other bad area. The easiest way to get into a headstand is to lace your fingers together in front of you, place your hands on the floor and place the top of your skull into your palms. Straighten your legs with your toes pointed and still on the ground. Try and test putting your weight on your elbows that are bent and on the ground (your forearms are on the ground as well as you are still clasping your head). Now jump your legs into a tuck position (knees bent, feet off of the ground). Make sure you are sucking in your belly, keeping your spine and neck straight, supporting your balance in your forearm and elbows. Now straighten your legs with your toes to the sky. Squeeze your booty and stay tight. If you are using the wall a lot for support in the beginning, that’s okay. Stay in this position as long as you can to try and get the feel for it as well as trying to gain the muscles needed to be able to hold this without the wall one day. Eventually, you can start trying to get your legs off of the wall slowly to find your balance and hold the position without support for as long as you can. Then you will be able to try it away from the wall completely.

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Here are some basic stretching moves you can try anywhere and at any level!

 

Happy Stretching 🙂

 

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