The benefits of yoga are well documented. It is not only valuable for your physical body, but it is extremely meditative and therefore, great for your mind as well. In this way you will experience a double benefit from this practice.
No matter what kind of yoga practice you decide to undertake, make sure you do your homework. Determine which poses and positions are right for your body and which are not. There is a ton of information available on the Internet from yogis and other yoga experts that will help you as you invigorate your life with this practice.
I love yoga because it is very challenging physically and mentally. As a professional athlete, I use yoga in the off-season to train my body and mind. I enjoy the physical adversity this practice offers. At times it can be more difficult than any other physical training exercises I have done for my sport.
I mainly utilize a yin yoga practice, especially now while I am in-season. I find it helps me to rehabilitate my body. I try to do two to three sessions of yin yoga stretching per week. I have found it very beneficial to do this practice in the evening before I go to bed. It is a great way to meditate and clear the stress from my body and mind as I detach from the day. I often have my best nights of sleep after a yin yoga session.
The following is a short yin yoga session that should take you approximately 30-40 minutes depending on how long you hold each position. Suggested time lengths are given for each pose, as well as a detailed description of each pose. It is important that you don’t rush into any of these positions. Yoga is about being patient with yourself and where you are with each position. Do not try to force yourself into the position; rather, slowly fall into it. You will gain flexibility for each pose as you hold it for longer stretches of time. As you hold each pose longer and longer, your body will become more flexible. Slowly work your body into each pose.
1. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
This is a breathing exercise to help you calm and focus your mind before you begin your practice. Using your thumb and whichever other finger you want (ring, index, etc.), you are going to go through some alternate nostril breathing. Cover one nostril with your thumb while inhaling through the open nostril. Then cover this nostril with your other finger and exhale through the other nostril. Breathe in again, cover, and exhale. Continue until your feel relaxed and ready to practice.
2. Child’s Pose
Suggested length 3-5 minutes. Begin by getting into table top position on your hand and knees. Keep your hands and knees about shoulder-width apart. Then you need to bring your big toes together and form a triangle within your knees as you separate them. From this position gently extend your arms in front of you while sitting your rear towards your heels.
3. Half Pigeon
Suggested length 3-5 minutes for each leg. I have yet to do a pose that stretches out my hips like Half Pigeon. From the table top pose you are going to lift one leg off the ground (it doesn’t matter which leg you start with) and bring it to the front of your body. The other leg will straighten behind you. The goal is to keep the hip of the front leg on the ground as much as possible. As you position your front knee you can also press into the toes of your back knee in order to position your back leg. Repeat with the other leg.
This pose takes a lot of practice in order to get a very deep stretch so in the beginning you will want to keep your elbows on the mat. As you gain flexibility you can place your head on the mat and stretch out your back leg behind you.
4. Supta Baddha Konasana
Suggested length 3-5 minutes. This pose is a great way to stretch out your groin. Begin by lying on your back with your knee bent. Bring your heels as close to your pelvis as possible with your feet and knees together. When you get into a comfortable position slowly allow your knees to separate and fall to the ground until you feel a stretch on both sides of the groin.
5. Caterpillar Pose
Suggested length 3-5 minutes. This is a forward fold in which you straighten your legs as much as possible in front of you and gently bend forward. If your hips are very tight and this isn’t possible, then it is ok for you to keep the slightly bent in front of you. It is also suggested that you sit on something such as a yoga block, blanket, or pillow if you feel tightness in your hips. It is very important that you don’t rush this pose because it can cause a lot of strain on the lower back.
6. Sphinx Posture
Suggested length 3-5 minutes. Being by lying on your stomach with your elbows bent to the side. From this position you gently lift up your torso by pushing your hands against the ground. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. You should feel slight pressure in your lower back. Relax your shoulders and don’t tense up your back and upper body. Soften everything and stay relaxed.
7. Viparita Karani
Suggested length 3-5 minutes. This is a very simple inversion pose that drains lactic acid from the legs. Place your hips on the base of a wall. Then lie flat on your back and raise your legs to the wall overhead. For extra support, use a block, blanket, or pillow underneath your sacrum.
Suggested length 10-15 minutes. This is the finishing pose. You need to lie on your back and extend your legs to the ground. Place your arms and hands comfortably at your side. Allow your feet to fall to the side if that is comfortable for you. Stay in this pose for as long as you wish.
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