4 Mar 2021 |
What is yoga?
When I first tried yoga I didn’t understand at all what it was or what I was doing; I just thought of it as a class where people went and stretched for an hour. I soon realized that yoga is much deeper and more spiritual than this.
The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’, which means ‘to yoke, attach or form a union’. There are many ways that yoga can be interpreted but for me it is a tool that allows you to bring the physical and internal self together as one, or to withdraw your mind from external activities.
If you’ve never done yoga before, don’t worry. Before I first tried it, I didn’t really know what it was and I didn’t understand what it could do for me. Initially I did it to become stronger and more flexible. Then I began to appreciate the mental benefits thanks to the breathing techniques and meditation. All of this combined is what makes yoga different from any other type of exercise.
Remember, keep practising. Even if you think you’re not making progress, you are. I have been there, too; I used to doubt I could ever do some of the moves. Consistency is key; slow and steady. Don’t let lack of flexibility discourage you. Over time you will open up.
Try these two yoga poses - great for stretching out your muscles and to incorporate into your yoga practice.
STANDING BIG TOE FOLD
Good for stretching your calves,
hamstrings, hips and lower back.
You can use a strap if you have one.
1. Begin in a standing position with your feet parallel, just less than hip width apart. Keeping your legs completely straight, exhale and bend forward, folding from your hip joints, keeping your back as straight as you can, moving your torso and head towards your shin and knees.
2. Slide the two forefingers and thumb of each hand between the big toe and second toe of each foot. Curl and wrap those fingers under and grip the big toes firmly, wrapping the thumbs around the other two fingers to secure the grip. Press your toes down against your fingers. If you struggle to reach your toes use a strap – place it under your feet and hold either side of your feet.
3. Inhale, raise your torso, lifting your head, creating space around your stomach. Straighten your elbows and back. Lengthen your torso, and on the next exhale, start to fold forward. As you do this, begin to straighten your hamstrings while pulling on the strap (if using).
4. Bend your elbows out to the sides and try to suck your belly in, lengthen the front and sides of your torso and through each breath gently lower more into the forward bend. If your hamstrings are flexible you can bring your forehead toward your shins. If your hamstrings are tight then focus on keeping your back in a safe position – as straight as you can – but at the same time feeling the stretch in your hamstrings.
5. Remain here for 5–10 long breaths. Then release the grip from your toes, bring your hands to your hips. Straighten your back and lift your head. With an inhale, come back up to standing.
Good for stretching your shoulders,
forearms, chest, hamstrings and hips.
1. Start in mountain pose (see image at top of article)
2. On an exhalation, step your right foot out so that your feet are 110–140cm (3½–4½ feet) apart. Inhale, raise your arms up parallel to the floor and reach them out to the sides, keeping your arms straight and palms down.
3. Turn your left foot in slightly to the right so the foot is diagonal. Your right foot should be out, facing forwards and leading. Align the right heel with the left heel. Turn your right thigh outward, so that the right kneecap is in line with the centre of the right foot.
4. Exhale and rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis. Then bring your hands behind your back and put your hands together in reverse prayer. Try and squeeze your elbows back and squeeze your palms together. Suck your belly in and open your chest on an inhale.
5. Exhale and start leaning your torso over the right leg. Make sure you keep your hips as straight as you can. Press the thighs back and lengthen the torso forward, lifting through the top of the sternum. Keep your legs as straight as you can. If you are not very flexible, just bring your torso towards your leg as far as you can. If you’re more flexible, bring your head towards your shin or knee.
6. Hold this posture for 5–10 long breaths then come up with an inhalation by pressing actively through the back heel, using your core.
7. Then go to the left side.
To practice some more yoga poses, to learn how to get fit in your own home without any equipment, and for some nourishing, delicious recipes - look no further than this inspiring and innovative workout & meal plan from Tyrone Brennand – Be The Fittest. Available to purchase on Amazon, Waterstones, or your local, independent bookstore.