Free yoga tips and movements for your home practice

Lion pose (Simhasana) to release rhomboids

Ideally sit kneeling with knees apart, but if that is not comfortable, you can sit cross legged.

  • Have the knees apart. Bring the palms of the hands flat on the floor in front as close to you as possible, with the fingers pointing towards you, arms straight. Look up, arch the spine and hold this posture as you breathe into your belly.

Simhasana

  • To perform this posture classically, look in between the eye brows, extend the tongue as far out as it would go to the chin and make the sound “Ahhhhh” (like a lion roaring) on exhalation.
  • When you come out of the pose, lift the hands off the ground and rotate the wrists a few times….

Benefits:

This posture stimulates the pituitary gland in the centre of the head – the master gland, which controls all other glads in the body. This posture also works on stretching into the tendons through the wrists  and releasing the rhomboids – the muscles in between the shoulder blades.

Locust pose to strengthen your back

Locust

 

Practicing Locust pose is one of the quickest ways to strengthen the lower back muscles.

How to practice:

    • Lie on your tummy. Have the arms beside you and hands tucked underneath your hips or thighs for support. Explore a bit and find a comfortable position for your hands – maybe making your hands into fists and placing them somewhere in between your pubic bone and iliac crests (hip bones), i.e underneath the lower abdomen. Or perhaps, move the hands down towards your thighs. But can you find a place for the hands that supports you and start lifting one leg a little off the floor and then the other leg.
    • Full version: Lift both legs, both arms off the floor, lift the head, keeping the chin tucked in and hold with Breath of Fire for a few seconds (panting like breathing, which you perform through the mouth, focusing on exhalation).

Benefits:
Locust pose strengthens and increases flexibility throughout the entire back of the body, including the spine, legs, buttocks, and all of the muscles surrounding ribs and upper torso. Practicing Locust builds up the muscles in your lower back, which helps to support your spine. By lifting the front of your body, you also stretch through the chest, which helps to open the lungs and improves breathing.

Contra-indications:
pregnancy and back injuries.

 

 

 

 

From raised vajrasana (kneeling) arms out to the sides

Open up your heart

In some yogic traditions, it is said that by opening the heart centre, all other chakras open. It is at the heart that we begin to experience unconditional love and compassion. On a physical level, the heart centre relates to the upper and mid back. The nervous system connects through the physical heart at T4 and T5 vertebrae. This is in between the shoulder blades where a bra strap would be or where your fingers meet when you reach round behind you.

The following sequence helps to open the heart – both physical and emotional. Please note, that some people might experience an emotional release within 2-3 hours after performing the sequence (if done intensly or for the first time). That could be laughing or crying.

Alternate between child pose and flower opening

On all fours, buttocks towards heels, face down on the mat

  • From the child pose (Balasana), as you inhale, look up and come to raised Vajrasana (kneeling), lifting your arms up towards the ceiling and slightly to the sides, opening the chest.

IMG_0801

  • Exhale, tuck your chin in, bring the shoulders forward into slouch, back to child pose again. Do this a few times – alternating between raised vajrasana and child pose, coordinating movement with the breath. When you come up to raised vajarasan, look up towards the ceiling and bend the spine backwards (take this as far as you feel comfortable).

 

Other movements and poses that work on opening the heart are Cobra, Cat and Cow.

Threading the needle shoulder release

A lot of shoulder, neck and back problems are due to poor posture, lack of exercise, poor muscle tone, as well as lack of awareness when performing day to day activities. The following movement work on releasing the tension around neck, shoulders and upper back, as well as opening up the breathing. The best results are achieved when the movements are coordinated with the breathing.

How to practice:

  • Come onto all fours with your hands underneath the shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Have the hands closer together, knees wide apart. As you breathe in, float your left arm up to the side.

 upper back and shoulder release

  •  As you breathe out, bring the arm down, turn the palm upward and slide the left arm behind the right hand, keeping the left arm and the right hand in contact with each other (think of this as ‘threading the needle’ where thread and needle are close to each other). Continue going up and down following your breath……

 Threading needle2

  • Start to extend the movement further. As you float the arm up, take it higher up towards the ceiling, but go gradually. If your neck is fine, follow the movement of the arm with your nose…..

 Threading needle3

  • Each time as you bring the arm down and slide it on the floor, press with the back of the hand into the floor to open the shoulder blade up. Aim to eventually bring your shoulder on the floor and, perhaps, stay in that position for a few seconds breathing…

 Threading needle4

  • Swap sides.
Pelvic floor exericse

Moolabandha – not just pelvic floor exercise

According to yogic physiology, one of the fastest ways of quickly bringing about yoga, which really is balance of breath, body and mind, in the present moment, is through moolabandha – tightening of the pelvic floor muscles. By contracting or pulling up on the pelvic floor muscles you bring about a realignment of the physical, mental and psychic bodies. It is also found to be useful for treating mental disorders.

Moolabandha is both a physical and psychic/mental practice. On a physical level, Moolabandha increases the nervous stimulation to the lower abdominal organs and so it is good for digestive and reproductive disorders. In women, it is useful for treating prolapse and also is wonderful during pregnancy. In men, it aids in the prevention of prostate cancer.

Moolabandha activates the peripheral nervous system, which in turn influences the parasympathetic nervous system. This reduces heart rate and breathing rate and is therefore a quick way to reduce feelings of stress and tension. This promotes relaxation and a more balanced state of mind, making it a useful pre-meditation exercise.

Yogically, Moolabandha increases energy levels in the body, yet calms the mind and body, and balances the hormonal system. 

On a physical level Moolabanhda is similar to pelvic floor exercise taught in pregnancy classes. Yet Moolabanhda can be performed on a psychic level whereby it is the actual contraction of Mooladhara chakra (the seat of Kundalini or primal energy), thus making it a very powerful practice.

Location

The muscles of the pelvic floor form a sling that runs from the pubic bone to the tailbone. There are actually 3 sets of muscles down at the pelvic floor. When we perform Moolabanhda classically, the actual location of the muscles that need to be tightened is:

For women: on the posterior side of the cervix.

For men: inside the perineum, midway between the scrotum and the anus.

Location of moolabandha

At first you may find it hard to isolate Moolabanhda and will that you are also contracting the anus and the urogenital muscles. But over time you will be able to do that. Try to keep the abdomen relaxed as you practice Moolabanhda.

Moolabanhda is an advanced practice and not easy to practice. It is fine to contract all the muscles of the pelvic floor (if you cannot isolate the correct muscles) – you will still benefit from the practice!

How to practice

In Yogahealth classes we often incorporate awareness of tightening the pelvic floor into movements (it makes it easier to practice this way).

We also perform Moolabanhda on the out breath (rather than classically on the in breath). This is because on the in-breath, the downward action of the diaphragm causes an increase in pressure in the abdominal cavity, thus exerting a downward force on the pelvic floor muscles, which can weaken them further. Since a lot of people suffer from incontinence (especially women after giving birth), we practice strengthening pelvic floor muscles, which is more effective when done on the out breath.

 Applying Moolabandha with pressing lower back down

 Knees pointing up

  • Lie on the floor, on your back. Draw your knees up so that your feet are flat on the floor in semi-supine, adjust your spine and do whatever you need to do. Tune into your breath. Bring your hands onto your lower abdomen, somewhere above your pubic bone and below your navel. Breathe in and make your belly bigger so that it is rising, and breathe out and pull your lower tummy in. Breathing in, expanding the lower abdomen and breathing out, sucking it in….
  • See if you can feel that subtle movement in the curve of your lower spine as you breathe in and out each time. As you breathe out and pull your tummy in, press your lower back down slightly. As you breathe in, allow your back to arch slightly and as you breathe out let it come down towards the floor………………
  • Stay with this, but as you breathe out, tighten the pelvic floor muscles (pulling inwards and upwards for women and contracting perineal muscles for men). So as you breathe out, pull the tummy in, press the lower back down and draw the pelvic floor muscles in and up. Inhaling relaxing and making your belly bigger, arching the lower back slightly…. A few times like this. This practice has quite a dramatic effect on the mind when you’ve done it for a little while………………… Leave that.
Tree 3

How good is your balance?

We start to lose balance as we age. It is one of the first motor functions that we start losing. Yoga helps to improve balance, thus keeping you younger for longer. Here are 3 balancing poses you can practice. When you practice balancing movements, notice that you tend to lose the breath before you lose the balance, so focus on breathing. It is also easier to stay balanced if you focus your eyes on something not moving in front of you.

 

Balancing on one leg

Stand with your feet together. Bring the arms out to either side. Keeping your right foot off the floor start to trace semi circles with your right foot in the air – from the outside of the left foot, across to the right, and to the outside of the left foot. This is where you give yourself permission to totter as you explore how balanced you are. Pay attention to your breath.  Swap sides.

Balance

Tree pose

Have the arms out to the sides for balance. Bring the right foot on to the left foot. If that is easy, then place the right foot higher up – perhaps, all the way up to the left knee. Then bring the hands together into a prayer position, in front of your chest. Hold and breathe. Notice what happens to your mind, your consciousness.

Tree 1

If you feel quite balanced here, then you can take the arms up above your head. Swap sides.

Tree 2

 

Classic Natarajasana (Lord Shiva’s Pose)

To help you balance in this position, you can use a chair or wall for support (holding onto the chair or wall with the hand).

Bend the left leg, and lift the left foot off the floor behind you. Hold onto the left foot with the right hand (opposite hand), and stretch the left arm up. Press the left foot into the hand, creating some space between the foot and the buttock, hold for a few seconds. The balance here comes from pushing the foot into the hand – it is the tension of the foot pressing into the hand.

Lord Shiva's pose

If you find it easy, you could lean forward, keeping the back straight and the arm in front of you. Swap sides. Then roll the shoulders a few times to release the tension there.

Natarajasana 2

Benefits of shavasana

Why do we come back to Shavasana?

Traditionally yoga classes finish with resting in Shavasana. We also start the classes by checking in while resting on the backs in Shavasana and include short periods of Shavasana throughout the class.

Shavasana is breath and pose of assimilation. When we come back to the balance of Shavasana, any changes we have made during the movements in any part of the body, let’s say in the hips, are transferred to the whole central nervous system, the whole body-mind system. This is how integration and assimilation happens. So we come to Shavasana a lot to bring everything back to wholeness…………………

Shavasana can sometimes be described as one of the most difficult postures because here we do nothing, which for some people can be extremely difficult.

How to practise

  • Get comfortable lying on the back on your mat with your legs long, your arms along side of your body or out to the sides. Find your symmetry and make any adjustments to your body, whether it is lifting your head or drawing the knees into the chest briefly – whatever feels appropriate.
  • Notice the sounds around you – any sounds coming from the outside, like the sound of the traffic, the sound of the birds, wind, people, etc and any sounds inside the room you are in. Take a few minutes to really listen to those sounds……
  • Tune into your own breath. Begin to breathe in such a way so that when you breathe in you start to allow your belly to rise, and to fall as you breathe out…. Breathing all the way in and breathing all the way out…..
  • Feel the contact your body has with the floor – the back of the head and the floor, the shoulder blades and the floor, the left and right arms and the floor, the spine, buttocks, both legs and the pressure under the heels……
  • Notice the sensations in your body…. perhaps, feeling any tingling in your hands or feet, sensing the heart bit, feeling the temperature of the air on your skin – the exposed parts where it is cooler and the covered parts where it is warmer….
  • Notice the benefits of integration, benefits of coming back again and again to the sensations in Shavasana to consolidate your gains in flexibility, in strength, in relaxation…..

 

psychic sleep, reducing stress and anxiety

Yoga Nidra relaxation

Yoga Nidra is a simple yet very effective practice that reduces the effects of stress on the body and mind, providing deep relaxation and rejuvenation. It is often called psychic sleep because it’s as though you are sleeping, yet you remain conscious (aware) at a subtle level.

The main feature of Yoga Nidra is the systematic rotation of consciousness throughout different parts of the body. It may also involve visualisations, awareness of feelings, and awareness of breath.

Yoga Nidra is such a simple practice, yet it has many therapeutic benefits. This is because many diseases arise from tensions in the body and mind. The following disorders are those that respond well to the practice of Yoga Nidra.

  • Insomnia (not only can Yoga Nidra help you to get to sleep, but even if you can’t sleep it still gives you the same benefits as sleep. It is said that practicing Yoga Nidra for half an hour gives you the equivalent of 3 hours of sleep)
  • Anxiety
  • Alcoholism and drug addiction
  • Severe pain (relieves pain by stimulating the pituitary gland to release its own suppressing chemicals)
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Colitis and peptic ulcers
  • Hypertension
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases

Although you can practice Yoga Nidra yourself – simply scanning through the different body parts it is far more effective if you are guided by someone else, or by a voice on a CD.

Yoga Nidra deep relaxation                Basic body release and yoga nidra

Download printable version of Yoga Nidra Info Sheet here. To purchase Yoga Nidra CD or a download, click here.

Camel2

5 Tibetans

Five Tibetans is a set of movements that stimulate and rejuvenate the entire psycho-physio network, and are rumoured to be the source of the fountain of youth!

They stimulate full energy flow through the chakras and enliven corresponding nerves, organs, and glands. These exercises also tone and strengthen the major muscle groups, contributing to a strong, resilient physique.

In Yogahealth classes we often include Downward Dog into Upward Dog (Tibetan #5) at the end of the class for its energizing and strength building quality.

Downward Dog

Double leg lifting (Tibetan #2) is another popular Yogahealth movement for strengthening the abdominal muscles.

Double leg lifts

Occasionally, in classes we also perform Camel (Tibetan #3). Being a back bend, it works on opening the heart, as well as on stretching and toning the neck, buttocks, thighs and the whole front surface of the body.

Camel2

Five Tibetans is a strong practice and we recommend that is practised by intermediate students. It is great for those students who are lacking energy, as well as for loosing weight.

Download Five Tibetans Info Sheet here with full instructions and illustrations on how to practice. 

circling knees

Yoga for lumbar lordosis

Lordosis, also known as sway back, is an exaggerated curvature of the lumbar spine. This causes a shift in the position of the pelvis, pushing the abdomen forwards and buttocks backwards. Lordosis can lead to excessive pressure on the spine, causing pain. Poor posture, as well as tight hamstrings, are often the causes of lordosis. 

The following are simple movements that help flatten the excessive curve in the lumbar spine, thus reducing the pressure on the spine and relieving lower back discomfort. For best results, it is recommended to practise this on a daily basis.

Engaging lower back from semi supine

Knees pointing up

Rest on your back. Draw your knees into a semi supine position, with your feet flat on the floor and shoulder width apart. As you breathe out, press your lower back into the floor. Relax as you breathe in. You can do this either by tightening the abdominals or by gently pressing into the floor with the feet. Do this 10-15 times.

Circling the knees

Rest on your back. Draw your knees above your chest and hold onto your knee caps – one hand on each knee cap. Start to circle the knees, moving both knees together as one unit – first in one direction, then the opposite direction. Breathe as you do that. As you circle your knees, focus your mind on the circles your hips are drawing on the floor. You can experiment and make larger circles, if that feels easy. If you feel any discomfort, make smaller circles. If you would like to go further, as your knees move away from you, tuck your chin in (only if your neck is fine), lift the head and shoulders off the floor, allowing your arms to straighten. Rest the head down, as you draw the knees towards you. Feel how the circles you are drawing on the floor become more like an egg shape.

circling knees Benefits:

  • Releases the lower back.
  • Flattens excessive curve in the lower back (lordosis).
  • Realigns the sacral vertebrae.
  • Tones abdominal muscles.

See also Lower Back Quick Fix and Basic Sciatic Release.

Looking at the elbow side to side

Yoga for headaches and eye strain

 

Tension in the neck can often leads to headaches and neck pain. The following is a quick neck release which can be done sitting on a chair or standing (even right now in front of the computer, as you read this post), which helps relieve tension in the neck, as well as helps to ease headaches. The movement of the eyes is really important for this release to be effective. Eyes have muscles connected to the neck, so to move the eyes is to release tension through the neck. Thus, this release thus is also great if you suffer from eye strain (e.g. from working on the computer too much).

  • Have your hands somewhere comfortably behind the back of your head, fingers interlaced. Bend the knees (if you are standing) slightly so that your hips can be relatively stable. Keep your knees bent and turn your whole upper body left and right, without straining – only go where it is comfortable for you and notice how far you can go.

Upper body twist

  •  Go slowly off to the left with your upper body and pause there on the side. Move your eyes only from side to side – maybe you can see your elbows – breathe at the same time. Make sure you do not strain. Come back to centre and repeat on the other side.

Looking at the elbow side to side

  • 1st recalibration: Bring yourself back to center (hands are still behind the head) and take your upper body again side to side and see if things are starting to change without any pushing.
  • Pause on one side and look at your right elbow. Keep your eyes looking at your right elbow and take your upper body from side to side – with your eyes fixed on the right elbow, knees bent, breathing. You don’t need to go too far, you can make it a small movement without strain. Come back to centre and look at the other elbow and again go side to side, keeping your eyes fixed on this elbow. Are you breathing? Are you keeping your knees bent? Come back to centre, bring the arms down and shrug the shoulders.

Upper body twist with eyes3

  • 2nd recalibration: see what’s happened with your neck – look left and right and notice what has changed. Can you see further on each side? Do you feel more freedom in your neck?

What to learn more about headaches and neck pain? Download our Headaches and Neck Pain Info Sheet here.

 

Semi supine

Semi supine for your spine

Reduce muscular tension by simply resting in this position

Semi supine is a starting position for a lot of movements that we do in class. It is also used as a resting position for people with lower back problems.

HOW TO PRACTICE: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees pointing up to the ceiling. The knees and feet are approximately shoulder width apart.

Knees pointing up

Ideally you would place a book or a small pillow (not the one you use in bed – use a really small one) under the head. This is to align the neck vertebrae, so that the neck lies flatter against the floor.

 20 minutes is the ideal time to lie in semi supine to get the full therapeutic benefits, however just 5 or 10 minutes is still effective. Anywhere between once a day and three times a week is good.

Semi supine

Benefits:

  • The main effect of Semi supine position is to realign and lengthen the spine and so reduce unnecessary muscular tension. By releasing and freeing up the neck your head can move forward and upward, relative to the neck, and the spine can lengthen and the back widen.
  • You might experience increased energy levels due to a decrease in muscular effort and excess tension.

What can you do while you rest in Semi supine?

You can simply lie there and see what happens. You’ll probably discover that your mind takes over and you find yourself planning what you want to do next or thinking about what happened today. Or you might even drift off to sleep.

To gain more benefits from your yoga practice, you can, instead, bring your attention to listening and listen to every sound around you. Are there cars passing on the street? Are there any birds singing outside? Can you hear neighbours? Is there a sound of a clock ticking nearby? Are there any other sounds you can hear?

You could also scan your body, checking to see if there are any sensations, any feelings of tightness or ease in your body.

When coming out of semi supine, do so slowly and with awareness. Perhaps, roll to one side first before coming up to sitting.

Semi supine is a position of the Alexander Technique.

Lower back drawing knees

Lower back quick fix

Did you know that there are some yoga moves you can do it bed? In fact, we recommend our students to do these movements first thing in the morning when they wake up (and before they even get out of bed), as well as last thing in the evening (when they are already in bed). This helps to realign the lumbar vertebrae and release any tension in the lower back

Basic lower back release

  •  Rest on your back. Draw the knees above the chest and hold onto your knees with your hands. Start to rock gently from side to side. Experiment by rocking with your knees together and then with your knees apart.

Lower back release

  • You could even roll all the way to your side, opening your knees wide apart in the centre, so that you stretch into your inner thigh muscles, and then bringing the knees together at the side. When you are on the side, tuck your chin in, lift your head off the floor and look over your shoulder towards the mat to stretch into the side of the neck. Make sure that you are breathing – you could inhale as you move through the centre and breathe out as you roll to the sides.

Lower back release 2

  • Pause in the centre. Still holding onto your knees, as you breathe out, draw the knees towards your chest, as you breathe in, let the knees move away from you. Repeat a few times….

Lower back drawing knees

Benefits:

  • Stretches the large back muscle, called quadratus lumborum
  • Releases the lumbar.
  • Flattens excessive curve in the lower back.

 

Knees side to side from semi supine

Yoga for the hips

A lot of our students report that they feel more freedom and stability in their lower back and hips since they started doing yoga. The movement described below is one of Yogahealth basic releases that we include in every class. We also recommend to practice this on a daily basis (or twice a day, if you like), especially you suffer from tight hips and lower back

Knees side to side – hips and lower back release

 

Semi supine

  • One a time, draw your knees up into semi-supine – feet flat on the floor, wide apart. Begin to slowly take both knees together to one side, come back through the centre and over to the other side. Continue from side to side like that. Keep the feet fairly wide apart so that the pelvis can roll freely here. Press with the instep of your right foot when you take the knees to the left and with the instep of your left foot when you take the knees to the right – this allows you to roll your pelvis even further. Feel the stretch through the hips, the lower back, and perhaps, down the leg.

Knees side to side from semi supine

  • A stronger movement is to roll the head in the opposite direction to the way the knees are going. If you are familiar with the movement then you could breathe out to the sides and breathe in to the centre, otherwise, breathe in any way you feel comfortable.
  • Next time your knees are over to your right, pause there. Draw the left leg level and past your right knee (keep it close to the floor). Then take it all the way back to where it was before (back to semi supine with the feet apart) and take both knees across to the left, pause there and draw the right knee past the left knee, towards the shoulder on that side. Do a few of those from side to side. You could use the hand on top of the knee to take the knee down towards the floor. Feel the stretch into the lumbar spine. If it is easy, hold the posture on each side and breathe deep into the abdomen.

Drawing knee on top

Benefits:

  • It is a great warm up for the spine and hips (it is recommended to do this release before attempting stronger movements or postures).
  • Releases the lower back and loosens the pelvis.
  • Since it is a twist, it works on kidneys and on balancing the endocrine or hormonal system in the body. 
Lifting head with both hands

Yoga for your neck and hunch back

Do you know why people get hunch back as they get older? It is because they don’t do yoga!

We are offering you a free tip of how to keep your spine straight and flexible.  

Below is a basic neck release which we include in all our classes. We recommend practising this on a daily basis to prevent rounding of the spine. This is also wonderful for alleviating neck and upper back pain.

  • Rest on your back in Semi-supine with your feet flat on the floor, quite wide apart. Interlace the hands behind the back of your head. Take a breath in, and as you breathe out, lift the head to look down the midline of the body. Inhale and rest the head back down. Do that a few times. See if you can lift a bit further each time (only if it doesn’t cause any tension or pain). Notice what lifting the head does to the lower spine and consciously press the lower back into the floor each time you lift the head.

Lifting head with both handsYoga to prevent rounded back to release neck painYoga to prevent rounded back to release neck pain

  • Instead of going through the midline, next time you lift your head, go more towards one knee than the other. Rest the head down as you inhale and then exhale and lift the head towards the other knee. Alternate sides a few times. Only go as far as you comfortably can. Feel the stretch at the back of the neck, and how it also stretches in between the shoulder blades.

Lifting head to sides

 

Benefits:

  • Realigns the cervical (neck) vertebrae. 
  • Strengthens the neck.
  • The whole nervous system and all the meridians pass through the neck, so to release it is to stimulate the whole nervous system.
  • Flattens the curve in the upper back (in between the shoulder blades), which gets exaggerated as we age and creates a rounded shoulder appearance. In extreme cases it would be called a hunch back. When practised regularly, lifting the head with both hands helps to keep the spine straight.

Yoga at your Computer

Do you spend a lot of time in front of the computer? If you reading this, the answer is most likely to be yes. And whether you are aware of it or not, you are, most likely, to have tight neck and shoulders. (We all do, to some extent, due to the fact that the neck, while being the most fragile part of the spine, has to support the weight of the head.)

Try this shoulder and neck release right now, in front of your computer and be amazed at how good it feels! It only takes 4 minutes to change your body.

 

Psoas tightness release

Feeling stressed? Release your psoas.

A lot of lower back and knee problems are affected by tight psoas muscle. Psoas is a muscle deep in the abdomen which runs from the lumbar vertebrae and attaches onto each thigh bone. It works to lift the legs and rotate the thigh.

 Psoas muscle is connected to the adrenal glands and it is the first muscle to tighten when we become stressed. It is intimately involved in the fight or flight response. A chronically tightened psoas continually signals your body that you are in danger, eventually exhausting the adrenal glands and depleting the immune system.

 This simple exercise helps to release tight psoas.

 Psoas tightness release

Come to raised kneeling (vajrasana) position on the floor. Bring your right knee forward, so that the right foot is flat on the floor and the knee is bent at the right angle. Tuck your tail bone under, get straight through the spine. Bring your focus of attention to the left knee and get a sense of ‘dragging’ it forward, without actually moving it. You should feel some tension on the front of your pelvis, on the front of the left thigh. Hold that tension, as you breathe, for up to a minute. (Make sure that you do not lunge onto the knee – everything should be at the right angle). Swap sides.

Marjariasana

Cat and Cow – one yoga move you should do every day

Marjariasana (Upward and Downward Cat) is a great practice to do on a daily basis (morning and/or evening). Do you know that Cat and Cow works with every muscle, every organ, works with the central highway for the central nervous system – the spinal cord? If you don’t do any yoga, practising just this regularly will help increase your flexibility dramatically. 

  • Preparation: Come onto all fours. If you need to support your wrists, you can come to the edge of your mat or even roll the mat under your wrists. Have your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Before you start the movement, spread your fingers wide feeling your weight distributed evenly onto the entire palm of the hand. Press your fingers into the floor and towards the knees. Feel the pressure in your arms and in the shoulder blades.Marjariasana
  • Upward Cat: Let your breath initiate the movement and let your eyes guide you. As you inhale, lift your head and tail bone up towards the ceiling. Arch the back and press your fingers into the floor. Let your breath do the movement. 
  • Downward Cat (Cow): Wait for the breath to come out and as you exhale, tuck the chin in, let your eyes look at your nose a
    nd then down towards the navel, round the back, lift the shoulders towards the ceiling (as if someone had their hands in between your shoulder blades and you are pushing up against their hands), pull your tummy in and press the hills of the palms into the floor. Do it a few times, bending the spine in one direction as far as possible and in the opposite direction and paying attention to your bMarjariasanareath. Check that your hips do not move through space – it is just a movement of the spine. Once you have the mechanics of this worked out, it’s really useful to speed it up.

 Benefits:

  • Upward and Downward Cat stretches, stimulates and aligns the whole spine, improving flexibility.
  • It also helps to circulate the spinal fluid. Because the spine is the main pathway for the central nervous system, it works on every nerve in the body.
  • Improves the flexibility of the neck and shoulders.
  • Strengthens the lower back and abdomen.
  • Stimulates the optic nerve, making the eyes sparkle.
  • Balances the hormonal system (and thus the emotions), working particularly with the thyroid gland, pancreas and ovaries.
  • Because of its effect on the female reproductive system, it is very good for menstrual disorders and cramps.
  • It is a great posture to do when pregnant, although tightening or stretching of the abdomen should be avoided.
Salute to the Sun

Salute to the Sun

Yoga works by bringing about balance – balance between the left and right sides, balance between mind and body, between up and down, left and right. One of the ways this is done classically inmost forms of yoga is through a sequence of movements called Surya Namaskara or Salute to the Sun.Salute to the Sun

Salute to the Sun is a very invigorating practice, which brings a lot of energy and increases circulation. Practising Salute to the Sun on a regular basis stretches your entire body, helps to build upper body strength and tone all the organs in your body. It is particularly beneficial to practice early in the morning.

Safety note: if you are new to this practice, we recommend that you do basic neck, lower back, sciatic and shoulder releases first.

Download printable Salute to the Sun Info Sheet with full instructions on how to practice.