I’ve been doing yoga for a long time now, and I find it the perfect exercise. It helps me to relax and stretch, especially important when you do a lot of cardio such as running.
Along with meditation, yoga gives me a way of dealing with life’s stresses and calms me down. Nowadays, you can easily download an app such as yoga.com studio and Daily Yoga (both available on iPhone or Android), and even on youtube there are loads of videos to choose from. This is a good way to practice at home if you can’t find a class near you, but I recommend classes for anyone who wants to get started. After a while, you can mix up your own routines at home as I do, tailoring them for how much time and energy you’ve got.
Here are some of my favourite poses which I always tend to include:
The matsayasana or fish pose is performed lying on your back, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it is easy. I sometimes include this in a routine after doing a shoulder stand, as it compliments it well. Lie on your back with your legs together, inhale, lift your pelvis slightly off the floor and tuck your hands in under your lower back. Then lift your chest, and tuck you head in as if you were trying to get your forehead to reach the floor behind you. Avoid putting too much weight on your head as you can easily hurt your neck that way. Stay in this pose for 10-20 seconds, breathing in and out deeply.
Downward dog, also known as adho mukha shvanasana, is one of the basic yoga positions and part of the sequence known as the sun salutation, a great way to start the day. Unfortunately, I am usually too busy being a Mum in the mornings to start every day that way, but I still make time for the pose when I do my yoga. From the position of all fours, tuck your toes in, press into your hands and lift your hips up to the ceiling. Keep the arms straight, feet hip width apart, and let your head hang loosely. You can stay in this position for 10-30 seconds, breathing in deeply, or for as long as you feel comfortable. You can really feel that stretch in your hamstrings.
The warrior poses in yoga are fantastic for stamina, and they are aptly named as you feel strong and invincible while you are doing them. This one, virabhadra, gives you strength in your arms and legs. Stand with your feet about four feet apart and turn to face your right, bending your right knee into a right angle, and stretching out your other leg. Lift both your arms into the air, palms flat and to the floor. Your right foot should be pointing forward, and your other foot out to a right angle. Breathe and feel the strength of a fierce warrior! I usually stay for up to a minute in this one, but don’t forget to breathe.
It feels like such a relief after stretching to go into balasana, the child pose. First, sit up with your knees bent underneath you, knees and feet together. Then slump your body over your knees, with your arms stretched out in front of you. If you like, you can then move them to lie loose alongside you. This is a great one to end an energetic sequence with.
This is an exhiliarating pose though not usually best for beginners. Lie on your back and put a folded blanket under your neck if necessary. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor, exhale, then push your tailbone up into the air. Keep your thighs parallel, and put your hands under your pelvis if that helps you with the lifting motion. Keep your knees over your heels. Stay like this for up to one minute, if you can, and remember to let your body go down gently and gradually to the floor once you are ready.