It's muscle recovery month here at VOYA and to coincide with our July Gift with Purchase, wherein you can purchase Serenergise, Muscle Relaxing Body Oil and receive a Feel the Heat, Muscle Warming Gel for Free, this week on the blog, Sligo yoga teacher and wellness coach Danielle Harney shares a simple yoga sequence that will help to improve your flexibility while also helping you to relax. Find just 15 minutes in your day to practice these 7 simple poses and you'll have happy hips in no time.
I focus a lot on the hips in my classes because they are a problem area for many of my students. Hips can get really tight if you spend all day sitting down or a lot of time driving. But they can also seize up from running or cycling, so whether you're sedentary or active, you can't win!
Flexible hips can help to improve your gait, help relieve lower back pain and can even improve circulation in your legs. And you can bend over to tie your shoelaces or hop over a fence or wall when out for a walk with ease... it's not about doing the splits! I've selected the poses below as they're relatively simple and this sequence takes just 15 minutes. Try to do it three times a week and after a couple of weeks you'll start to notice a difference. Don't forget to breathe through your nose as this will help you to relax and focus. Namáste!
Typically, a resting pose, I often use this at the start of my practice to help connect with my breath and centre myself. Sit back on your heels and rest your forehead on your mat or a block. Arms can stretch up along the mat, or rest either side your body (this relaxes the shoulders). Take deep breaths in, gently stretching the intercostal muscles between your ribs, for 10 breaths. Focus on releasing any tension you find in the body.
Good for: Hips and Back
One of my favourites, this stretches the spine and is great for poor posture or stiff backs. Come to all fours, wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Inhale: tilt your tailbone up, drop your belly and gaze up at the ceiling (imagine a cow mooing and lifting up their head!). Exhale: drop your head, round your back and tuck in your tailbone (like an angry cat). Continue for about 10-15 rounds, letting your breath guide your movement.
Good for: Spine
This pose works the lower back (lumbar) part of your core. A strong core helps posture and eases back pain. Lie down on your front. Bring your feet and legs together, sink your pelvis into your mat and slide your hands under your shoulders. Inhale: push down through your hands, lifting up though your head and chest (keep your hips on the mat). Exhale: bring your forehead back to mat. If the upward movement feels too strong on your back, just stay a little lower. Imagine each inhale making your more buoyant. Repeat slowly 3-5 times.
Good for: Lower back
This powerful standing pose works the legs, hips and shoulders. Standing feet together at the top of your mat, step your left leg back about 3-4 feet. Keep your heels in line with each other, your right foot pointing straight ahead and left foot turned in at a 45 degree angle. Bend your right knee so that your thigh is parallel to the mat, but make sure your knee isn't going past the ankle. Keep your feet planted into the mat and your legs strong. Inhale and lift your arms wide over your legs, shoulder height. Gaze at the middle finger of your right hand. Sink deeper through the hips if that feels ok. Hold for 5 breaths, then change legs.
Good for: Hips and Legs
A balance pose is great for clearing the mind. To really succeed you need to just stop thinking! Stand at the top of your mat. Shift your weigh onto your left leg and plant your left foot firmly into your mat. Turing your right leg out, there are 3 positions for the right foot: (1) rest it against your lower left leg, toes on the mat; (2) rest it against left calf or (3) tuck it into your thigh. Just avoid resting the foot against your knee. Stand tall and join your hands together at heart centre. Then try and focus on pushing your right knee behind you, opening up the right hip joint. If you're a bit wobbly, gaze at a fixed point on the ground. To work harder, open your arms wide coming into full tree. Stay here for 10 breaths, breathing deeply into your core. Then change legs.
Good for: Hips and Legs
A fairly gentle but satisfying hip opener. Lie on your back and bend your knees in towards your chest. Bring your hands in between your legs and grab on to the outside of each foot. Then rest your head back on the mat and gently rock from side to side. Stay for 10 deep breaths.
Good for: Hips
The Great Restorer
Also known as 'legs up against the wall', this is great if you're on your feet all day or just feel tired. Fold your mat in half for extra padding, place it against the wall then sit right up alongside the wall. Lie down on your back and bring your torso perpendicular to the wall and swing your legs up against the wall. Try to get your legs as straight as possible and keep your bottom as close the wall as possible. This pose is super refreshing, as the blood flows down from your feet and legs and your heart pumps fresh, oxygenated blood back up. Rest your hands on your belly and just focus on your breathing. Stay here for 5 minutes.
Slowly come upright and sit cross-legged with your hands joined at heart centre until you feel ready to take on the world again!
If you would like to know more about Danielle's Yoga classes or get some tips about the benefit Yoga can make to your life, follow Danielle on Facebook here or check out her website for more Yoga and Wellness advice here.