In our daily life, we often sit behind a computer all day, which causes stiffness in our lower back, hips and shoulders. We shorten the muscles around our hip, we have a bad posture because our chair isn’t giving the support we need and we pull up our shoulders close to our ears, because either our table is too high or we created a habit of pulling them up when we are focused and stressed.
Many of the sports we do to release the stress, such as running, football, tennis, swimming, weights & cardio in the gym, do not help us to stretch these areas. So we come home feeling satisfied by the released tension causes by stress, but we still are as stiff as we were before.
Opening up these areas in your body will help you to face problems with a calmer mind, you will feel better and more relaxed more often and you will have less problems with your back, hips and shoulders as you grow older.
In yoga we do a lot of different poses that can help you to release the tensions in these areas. This sequence is good for both men and women. You can do the sequence by using the photos, go from left to right and down, as you read a book.
Some basis rules when you perform the poses:
- Make long, deep and controlled breathes through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer then your inhale. Stay in a pose for at least 3 cycles of inhales and exhales.
- Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
- Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
- While you’re in a standing pose always check your front knee. When it is bent, it makes a 90-degree angle with your ankle; however, it should never go over your ankle.
- There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.
If you need further instructions with the poses, see below:
- Picture 1: Meditation pose. If you sit down make sure your knees are not higher than your hips, which will become very uncomfortable quickly. Preferably, use a block, blanket or pillow to sit on. Make sure your back is straight and your shoulders are low. Breathe in deeply to your belly and breathe out slowly.
If you want to know more about meditation, read this blog entry
- Picture 2: Reclining big toe pose. Lie down on your back; take one leg straight up, 90 degrees over your hips. Hold your legs with your hands where you can reach (shoulders remain on the mat), or use a belt / shawl to keep your leg up. The leg on the mat is straight and your foot is straight up. Breath calmly. Slowly bring your leg down by bending it, bring it close to your chest, and embrace your knee. Stretch your leg out and change sides.
- Picture 3: Flex your feet, and sit on your heels. If necessary free your pinky toe, so it can also touch the mat. Bring your right arm forward; place your left one over it. Back of your hands are facing each other, thumbs are up. Make one more bind by bringing your hands in a position where your palms are facing each other. Bring your shoulders down and your elbows up. Do at least 3 cycles of breath. To come out of the pose undo your arms, place the upper part of your foot on the mat and sit on your heels for a few breaths. Then start again and switch sides.
- Picture 4: Standing forward bend pose. Hang forward with your knees slightly bent while holding your elbows. Feel how, due to your head hanging down, the vertebras in your neck are getting some space. Stay in this pose for at least 5 cycles of inhales and exhales.
- Picture 5: Plank pose, so make it look like you are a straight plank. Have your hips aligned with your body, so not high in the air or close to the ground. Shoulders are 90 degrees over your wrists. Contract your abdominal muscles. Try to stay here for 5 cycles of breath.
- Picture 6: Cobra pose. When you come on the mat, first lay down your whole body. Place your hands next to your chest and with an inhale you press yourself up. Arms are still slightly bent.
- Picture 7: Warrior 2 pose. Turn your back foot to a 45-degree angle. Open your hips towards the side. Roll your shoulders down and back. Look over your front hand. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
- Picture 8: Extended triangle pose. Straighten your front leg. Have your torso similar to the Warrior 2 pose. Bring your body weight forward. Bring your arm down towards your leg. Either grab your thigh, lower part of the leg or ankle. Make sure your torso is parallel with your front leg. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
- Picture 9: Intense side stretch pose. Feet stay in the same position as the Warrior 2 pose, but you diminish the distance. Hips are straightforward. Inhale, straighten your spine. Exhale, come forward. Place your hands on the mat. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
- Picture 10: Buddhist stupa pose. Open your legs as wide as the Warrior 2 pose; make a 90-degree angle with your knee and ankle. Open completely to the side, your feet are pointing outwards 45 degrees. Knees are pointing backwards (countering the tendency to fall forward). Open your arms at shoulder height make 90-degree angles, shoulder, elbow and elbow with wrist. Palms are wide open. To intensify your pose, open your legs further. Stay at least 5 cycles of breath.
- Picture 11: Tree pose. Put all the weight on one leg. Place the other one in your thigh or on your lower leg. Never on the knee! Focus on a point in front of you and don’t let it go. Stand up tall. Hands in prayer in front of your chest. Minimum of 5 cycles of breath.
- Picture 12: Half front splits pose. Sit on your heels. Bring your hips up and forward so they are 90 degrees over your knees. Stretch out one leg, foot points straight up. Inhale, straighten your spine, exhale, come forward (straight back!). Place your hands next to your knee or on your leg. Stay for a minimum of 3 cycles of breath. Change side.
- Picture 13: The crow pose. Bend your knees and come as far down with your hips as possible (butt not touching the floor). Place your hands on the mat, open your fingers as wide as you can. Bring your knee in your armpits or on the outside of your upper arm (not below the elbow). Push with your knees against your arm. Contract your abdominal muscles. Come to the tips of your toes and move your body weight forward. Try to lift one foot, then the other and then both. Balance on your arms as long as you want.
- Picture 14: Boat pose. Place your feet in front of you, hips distance apart. Hold with your hands under your knees; use this force to straighten your back. Keep your back as straight as possible during the entire pose. Balance on your sit bones; take your feet of the floor. If possible stretch arms out on shoulder height.
- Picture 15: Shoulder stand. Lay down on your back. Palms are facing down on the mat. Bring your knees into your chest. With the force of your hands push your hips off the floor. Place your hands in your back. Straighten your legs upright. Walk your hands closer to your shoulders blades. Stay here; wait until you can breath properly. If gravity is pulling you down, walk your hands closer to your shoulder blades and give yourself a lift. Stay for a minimum of 10 cycles of breath.
- Picture 16: Fish pose. Lay down on your back. Place your hands under your hips, palms facing down. Breathe into your chest and bring it up. Place the top of your head on the mat. Make sure the weight is on your hips and not on your head. Stay for a minimum of 5 breath cycles.
- Picture 17: Rotation pose. Lay on your back. Arms are out in a cross. Bring your knees towards your chest. Make a 90-degree angle with your hips and your knees and knees and ankle. Move your legs to the right, look to the left; keep both shoulders on the mat. If you want you can place your right hand on your knees, to add extra pressure.
- Picture 18: Child’s pose. Sit on your heels. Take both your arms up. Bring your hands in front of you on the mat. Rest your forehead on the mat. Breathe deeply into your belly. Let your body come to a rest.