Well, in all of my 52 years, I have never done a yoga session.
What? I know right!!!
I did look into classes once, but couldn’t see myself ‘downward dogging,’ as I didn’t think I was flexible enough for it: I literally can’t touch my toes. Never have been able. Plus, I was told you may relax so much that it’s not uncommon to foossy/pass wind. What? Umm, No thanks! Definitely not in public! And so I decided it was not for me.
In the last few years, I have suffered from agonising back pain and have trouble getting my undies and socks over my feet on a daily, let alone twisting my aged, creaking joints in all manner of unnatural angles. But, I have worked up to being able to walk a good 3-5km a day and my back is oh-so-slowly regaining some strength.
Doc says it’s time to try to add a little more flexibility, balance and stretching into my daily routine (other than just walking for exercise).
Yoga as a form of self-care
It’s no surprise that my anxiety and stress levels have been peaking over the last few months (whose hasn’t in this COVID climate?) So, I have been trying to prioritise self-care, and Yoga, I feel, definitely fits into the self-care category.
I have decided to add a daily yoga session prior to my mindfulness practise.
I feel I am embarking on a new journey of sorts…
According to Healthline.com, the benefits of yoga are many and varied.
It has been proven that yoga provides not only physical but also mental wellbeing benefits (God knows we can all do with that in the present climate!)
Yoga incorporates breathing exercises, meditation and poses designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress.
It is a symbiotic form of exercise that not only increases body strength and balance but creates awareness and harmony in both body and mind. It promotes muscular flexibility and is a calm and gentle form of exercise you can practise daily. Sounds good!
Also, and this was a huge plus for me: you don’t need to pay any exorbitant gym fees, or need any heavy equipment to do it.
What do you need:
Just a quiet spot, in or outside, and a thick blanket/mat or something to provide cushioning between you and the ground. Also, you can do it in the comfort of your own home, so if you are going to embarrass yourself; hey! you’re alone!
Yoga incorporates Ujjayi breathing and this is what differentiates a yoga pose and simple stretching.
How to do Ujjayi breathing
- Exhale with your mouth open, making an ‘haaarh’ noise. (Like you are trying to fog up a mirror).
- Practise this 3 times, then try using the same constriction in your throat as you did for the exhale, for your inhale.
- Close your mouth and try to make a similar sound, by using your nose to inhale and exhale. (Use your nose to fog up the mirror)
- Inhale through your nose slightly deeper, and then exhale slowly.
- Try to keep your attention on your breathing as you doing each yoga pose.
NB: It’s normal for your mind to wander. Gently try to bring your attention back to your breathing.
Here is how my first ‘at home’ yoga session went…
Be gentle with the comments, this was my first time remember!
Before attempting any new exercise, contact your healthcare provider to make sure it is right for you.
After practising my Ujjayi breathing for a few minutes, I launched into:
1. Cats Pose.
- Assume a four-point kneeling position.
- Turn your toes under.
- Engage your core by imagining there is an ice-cube under your belly button and you need to lift it a couple of millimetres to keep your belly-button away from the cold.
- On your inhale, curl your spine downward and look forwards.
- On your exhale, round your spine like a cat and look toward your thighs.
- Repeat for 5 full breaths.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
- Engage your core.
- From your four-point kneeling position, exhale and lift your knees away from the floor.
- At first, keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor.
- Then slowly start to straighten your legs and lower your heels towards the floor.
- Feel the length in your spine. (Don’t worry if your heels don’t flatten to the floor).
3. Open Twist
- From your downward-facing dog position, step your right foot forward between your hands.
- Place your left knee on the ground.
- Be sure to keep your toes curled under.
- Place your right hand on your right hip.
- Twist your torso so it’s facing your right thigh.
- Inhale and draw everything to the midline.
- Then exhale twist.
- Continue 3-5 rounds of breath.
- Go back to your downward-facing dog position and then repeat on the other side.
- Return to your downward-facing dog position.
4. Warrior 2
- From your downward-facing dog position, inhale and step your right foot forward between your hands with toes facing forward.
- Spin your back foot so it’s parallel with the short side of your mat.
- Rise into a standing position and make sure your front knee is right over your ankle.
- Straighten your back leg
- Raise your arms to shoulder height, palms facing down.
- Look over the fingers of your front hand
- Hold for 3-5 breaths.
5. Reverse Warrior
- From your Warrior 2 position, exhale and turn your palm up.
- Inhale and reach your right arm up towards the ceiling, whilst lowering your left arm down your left leg.
- Lift your chest and hold for 3-5 breaths.
6. Extended Side Angle Prep
- From your reverse warrior position, place your left hand on your left hip.
- Inhale and lean your torso forward, placing your right forearm on your right thigh and palm upwards towards the sky.
- Exhale and lift your left arm up so your bicep is next to your ear with your palm facing towards the ground.
- Think about creating length in the side of your body.
- Hold for 3-5 breaths.
7. Return to Downward-Facing Dog
- From your Extended Side Angle Prep, circle your hands down and touch the ground either side of your front foot.
- Spin your left foot to face the front of the mat
- Step your right foot back, shoulder-distance apart from the left foot and push back into downward-facing dog.
From your Downward-Facing Dog Pose, step your left foot forward between your hands and complete Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior and Extended side angle pose with your left foot forward.
8. Lying Down Twist
- Lying down on your back, place your feet flat on the ground, knees towards the ceiling.
- Place your arms straight out along the ground to form a T shape.
- Keep your knees bent and together and drop your legs to your right-hand side.
- Hold 3-5 breaths.
- Twist legs slowly to other side and hold 3-5 breaths.
9. Happy Baby
- Lying on your back, bring your knees to your chest.
- Extend your arms between your legs and grab the underside of your feet with your hands.
- Flex your feet and push your feet into your hands
- Hold for 3-5 breaths.
10. Savasana (By far, my fave pose-LOL!!)
- From Happy Baby, release your feet and extend your legs straight out.
- Place arms by your side, palm upwards.
- Relax for 5 minutes and concentrate on your breathing and feeling your body at rest.
After completing my first ‘at home’ yoga session this morning, I realise how stiff and inflexible I really am. Yet, I felt quite invigorated afterwards. (That could be me just mentally ‘patting-myself-on-the-back’).
I am proud to say, no noisy butt issues either.
It took me between 15-20 mins; perfect length of time to fit into anyone’s busy day.
I intend to incorporate it into my nightly mindfulness practice before I jump into bed for the night.
*Since writing this blog, I am happy to say I have stuck to my intention of daily yoga practice. I genuinely feel like like I am becoming a little less stiff and inflexible, so that’s a plus! I will confess, the 5-minutes of mindfulness relaxation at the end is my fave part of the session!