How about starting the day or taking a midmorning break with an uplifting yoga sequence? Moving in this purposeful way improves the blood circulation, deepens our breathing and moves our all-too-sedentary bones. Not only is the yoga sequence uplifting, it may also help prevent back pain from too much sitting, and it is gentle enough if you already have mild lower back pain.
As always, don’t continue a movement or position if it hurts.
If you would like to join a yoga class on a regular basis, in a group or in private sessions, you can read more about the online yoga classes on this page: https://beneyoga.co.uk/zoom-classes/
This is such a simple exercise, and yet it is profoundly effective to uplift one’s mood and deepen the breath.
Stand with your feet facing forward and a comfortable distance apart.
Inhale slowly and lift your arms, out to the side and overhead or to whichever height the shoulders allow them to go.
Exhale and slowly lower the arms. The secret is to let your breath dictate the movement and not the other way round as it usually goes.
Try this also with your arms going forward, palms facing each other.
Up and down on toes
This is another of my daily go-to exercises. It strengthens the feet and the ankles, improves balancing skills, and as you coordinate the breath with the movement it is a lovely way to quieten the mind.
If you are unsure about your balance, hold on to something or have a wall nearby.
Inhale and lift the heels. Pay special attention to the weight distribution behind all the toes so the inner and outer ankles stay level.
Exhale and lower the heels.
Once you are familiar with the movement, combine this with the arm movement.
A playful movement: just allow the arms to feel floppy and free. Swing them round as you rotate the shoulders from side to side.
The name for this movement is obviously not part of the traditional Sanskrit repertoire of poses, but yoga moves with the times and so do the names. One of my favourite movements are called “karate kick” and “flying dragon”. Where did those names come from? If you google ‘flamingo yoga pose’, you will find a variety of different poses. Not surprisingly, all of them balance on one leg. My flamingo pose combines a balance with a twist. Moving slowly and purposefully on one leg reminds me of a graceful flamingo.
If you have trouble balancing, please do this near a wall or chair.
Inhale and lift the right knee and both arms.
Exhale, turn towards the right knee but keep the hips facing forward. Place the back of the left hand against the right leg.
Inhale, turn forward and lift both arms.
Exhale and lower the leg.
Repeat on the other side.
Stretch against the wall
A wonderful stretch for your spine if it has been in the same seated or standing position for too long.
Stand about 3 feet away from the wall with the legs hip-width or shoulder-width apart. Make sure your feet are straight or very slightly turned in.
Inhale and lift both hands high. Place the fingertips against the wall, about shoulder-width apart or wider.
Shift the weight of the hips over the heels.
Tuck the tailbone slightly, engaging the lower abdominal muscles so the lower back feels longer and more released.
No part of the back or shoulders should be dipping down; this is a common mistake that can hurt the back.
Keep the spine lengthened for a few breaths and come away from the wall with an exhalation and by first bending the legs.
No yoga session is complete without spending some time on the back, relishing the restfulness and the feeling of being supported.
In this movement, we hug the knees to the chest to gently stretch the lower back:
Lie on your back with the knees drawn up to the chest.
Place one hand on each knee and bring both knees a little closer to the chest when you exhale. Make sure not to lift the lower back off the floor.
Inhale and bring the knees further away from you, while the arms straighten.
Repeat a comfortable number of times.
This movement stretches chest muscles, mobilises the spine and can be energising.
Lie on your back with the feet hip-width apart and quite close to the body.
Your arms are extended alongside the body with the palms facing the body.
Exhale and put weight on the feet, on the four corners of the feet. This tilts the pelvis and allows the spine to roll off the floor slowly.
Inhale and stay in the position, making sure the knees are above the ankles.
Exhale and “roll” the spine down slowly.
Inhale while the body rests on the floor.
Once you have mastered the movement for the back, add the arms: moving them next to your head while the spine rolls up. Keep the arms overhead while the spine rolls down. Lower them next to the body on your next breath.
Repeat a few times, moving with the exhalation, going up as high as comfortable and making sure you keep a lot of weight on the feet.
Hug your knees to the chest for a few moments to finish.
Twists can feel wonderful, stretching out the trunk in a diagonal way.
Start with the feet on the floor and knees bent, feet and knees together, arms extended to the side.
Exhale and lower the knees to one side, lifting the soles of the feet but keeping the sides of the feet together. Try to keep both shoulder blades on the floor. Inhale the knees to the centre and exhale them to the other side. The head can move to look away from the knees.
Work slowly with the breath, giving each breath its time.
Always end with at least a five-minute rest on your back. So easily ignored that it may well be the hardest pose in a yoga session, especially if we are to keep concentrating on the breath as well. Use this time to focus on your breathing, simply allowing it to be free and as slow as it wants to be.
Want more inspiration? For stretches to do at your desk, see https://beneyoga.co.uk/7-ways-to-stretch-at-your-desk/ and to read how you can stretch your legs at home, click here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/10-minute-kitchen-yoga-stretching-legs/