Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Remember yoga?

I have been a yoga devotee for many years. For more than four years, I religiously went to yoga classes two to five times a week, evening classes and early morning classes, even Saturday mid-morning classes.

Then, a couple of months ago, I sort of stopped going. My attendance trickled out. I chose to sleep in on Saturday mornings. After an instructor change (actually a couple of changes), I stopped going to the 6 a.m. classes and switched that time slot to cardio instead. And my favorite classes, 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights, seemed awfully late to be at the Y on summer evenings, and a good time slot to do other things instead.

I have not abandoned yoga forever. I consider myself on something of a vacation from yoga. When fall rolls around and the evenings are no longer light and inviting, I will return to my original yoga home (the Tuesday/Thursday night classes) and re-establish myself. I hope the instructor doesn't think I've abandoned her entirely! I doubt that I will go back to the 6 a.m. classes anytime soon. I understand that the new instructor does a very "relaxing" class, and I don't need relaxing at 6 a.m. If I was going to be relaxing I would be in bed! I will, however, try to get to the Saturday morning classes at least a couple of times a month.

In the hiatus, however, I have toyed with the idea of doing a few yoga poses on my own time. On the 4th of July I was reading a copy of Body + Soul magazine and came across a short yoga routine that really appealed to me. They call it the "No Sweat Workout." No sweat because yoga generally, and these poses specifically, usually stretch and possibly strengthen, but do not rev up your heart rate or heat up your body. Fine with me, I get enough of that stuff by running! This article does, by the way, suggest that these yoga poses will also work your heart by stretching and compressing the torso.

I made a couple of trips to bookstores to find a copy of the magazine for myself. Little did I know that I could get the entire article online here!

Once I had the magazine, of course it sat, open, by my chair for several weeks before I actually tried the poses for myself. But last night, before I went up to bed, I slid onto the floor with the magazine by my side. The routine consists of six poses, each of which you should hold for one to three minutes.

Well, okay.... Actually I could only hold the poses for about 30 seconds. I seem to be pretty tight. Partly it's from neglecting the yoga and stretching for a while, partly because of running, and partly because I am not too bendy at the best of times! I figure that gives me something to work toward, holding the poses for longer and longer periods.

The article describes the poses in detail, but here's a quick run-through.

Butterfly. Sit on the floor with bent knees (hopefully flattened to the floor) and soles of the feet touching. (Move your feet away from your body as needed to accomplish this.) Fold forward at the hips, reaching your arms forward with the palms together. Hold this position. Hopefully as I get more flexible (again), my body will get closer to the floor!

Sphinx. This always been a favorite with me. So nice for the back! This is one pose I wouldn't mind holding for one to three minutes. Lie on your belly on the floor and prop yourself up on your forearms. Lift your chest and keep your shoulders back. Hold.

Seal pose. (I know this as cobra.) From sphinx, raise yourself onto your hands and press your torso up away from the floor, arching the back. Come out of the pose by sinking into child's pose and resting a few minutes there.

Quarter dog pose. From hands and knees (or from child's pose), stretch one arm straight in front of you and bend the other perpendicular and rest your forehead on it. Keep your hips above your knees and stretch your back. Hold. Change sides.

Lateral dragonfly. Sit with your legs in a wide straddle and your back straight. Bring your torso to one side with the opposite arm stretched over your head. Bend your other elbow and bring it to the floor in front of your knee, resting your head in your palm as you stretch. (I could not get my elbow to the floor; I had to rest it on my leg.) Hold, then repeat on other side.

Lying spinal twist. Another favorite. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms stretched out to the sides. Drop both knees to the floor in one direction. Extend your arms and turn your head to the opposite direction. Hold, then change sides.

Finish with a few minutes in corpse pose (lying flat on your back and resting quietly).

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