Strengthening Yoga Moves Even the Non-Flexible Can Master

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Art Credit: emi ito

Yoga is one of the best ways to get fit, especially when you have limited amounts of free time on your hands. Doing a few moves between meetings and errands will help you feel stronger and refreshed. Yet for those of us who can't touch our toes with ease, following an instructor or video tutorial can be quite a challenge! We're not all as bendable as ballerinas, but good news: You can train your muscles to be flexible.

Flexibility offers plenty of health benefits, including a decreased risk of injury, good posture, and better blood flow of nutrients to the muscles. By doing some sort of flexibility training, you'll notice less pain, improved movement, reduced muscle soreness, and better physical performance. Stretching exercises like yoga also help relax muscles and your mind so you stress less.

Maintain smooth and even breathing throughout your poses. You can hold each pose for 20 seconds to one minute, depending on your goal and your physical ability. If you can’t hold your pose, don’t go any further than you are physically able. If you feel that you don’t have enough energy to come out of position, then that's a sign you probably held the pose longer than you should have. So try and ease into it. Increase your length and deepness of each pose day by day rather than trying to perfect them all in one day. Improving your poses takes time, and practice makes perfect. And remember to have fun and relax!

Try these basic poses below to kickstart your yoga practice.

Chair Pose

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Chair pose requires moving both sides of your body in and out of the pose at the same time. This pose helps tone and strengthen your legs and core. Start by putting your feet together or hip-width apart if your body feels stiff. Bend your knees like you're sitting on a chair. Raise your arms straight up with your palms facing inward, holding your position as you breathe in and out. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed and hold your core muscles tight. Try sinking deeper into your knee bend while still holding your arm and core position. If the pose becomes too challenging, try moving your hips up as if coming off of your chair.

Tree Pose

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This pose is all about balance. It helps you center your body, mind, and even your confidence as you steady yourself. Begin by standing on your left leg. Place your right foot on your ankle, thigh, or above the knee, whichever feels most comfortable for you. Avoid placing your foot directly on your knee joint—go above or below it instead. Place your palms together at your heart in praying position. Still feeling shaky? Try standing with your hands against a wall. Lift both your hands off and put your palms together at your center. Your hands will help you maintain a strong tree pose. Use the wall to regain balance if you need it.

Bridge Pose

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Bridge pose energizes the front of your body as you alternate between holding your breathing and holding your pose. This pose targets your hips, abs, and chest. Start out by laying down with your back flat on the floor. Bend your knees toward the ceiling while your feet stay flat on the ground. Your hands should lay flat alongside your body. Pressing your arms and feet toward the ground, push your hips up toward the ceiling. Keep your shoulders pressed to the ground so you don't put too much pressure on your neck. If you want to further this pose, bring your arms under your back as you maintain your arch. Clasp your hands and lace your fingers together as you bring your chest to your chin. Breathe slowly. Release if you feel any discomfort in your head or neck.

Warrior II Pose

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This pose is great for stretching and toning your leg muscles. It may look simple, but warrior pose requires some serious multitasking. Start by standing tall with your legs three to four inches apart, your arms down at your sides. Step your right foot forward and bend your knee into a lunge. Keep your back foot firmly planted on the ground and point your toes outward to the side. Bring your hands to your hips to relax your shoulders. Then extend your arms out to the side with your palms facing down. Your right hand should hover over your right foot, and your left hand should hover over your left foot behind you. Bend your right knee into a 90-degree angle as you gaze over your right hand. (Be sure to keep your knee in line with your ankle, not past it.) Hold the pose for a minute as you slowly breathe in and out. Sink deeper into the pose, while maintaining a tight core. Alternate with your left side.

Child's Pose

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This is one of my go-to poses whenever my lower back aches after a long day of sitting at my desk. Every time you're tired or feeling overwhelmed, try relaxing into this pose. You can easily do child's pose on your mat or on your bed. Start by kneeling down and sitting on your heels. Bring your forehead to rest on your mat in front of you. Then lower your chest as close to your knees as you can. Extend your arms face down in front of you or keep them relaxed at your sides. Lift your butt about an inch off your feet. Sink your body into your pose. Extend your arms and fingers out further in front of you and press your shoulder blades back to really feel the stretch. Hold and breathe at a comfortable pace.