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Storms can happen in life at any time. Epicurus said "Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests". So often those challenging moments in life are our greatest teachers, and make us more skilled pilots to navigate the highs and lows that life can bring. Weathering a storm can sometimes leave us sore, be it physically, emotionally or mentally. For those of you in wintry climates, you may be experiencing physical soreness from all that shoveling. Snow-shoveling involves the muscles of our shoulders, back, legs and arms. These muscles can take a beating from all the repetitive motion, and as we get tired our form can break down, causing us to take on faulty patterns of moving (like using our back too much instead of our legs). Try this simple sequence of poses specifically designed to help soothe those achy muscles.
While practicing these postures, try to take deep breaths in and out of the nose if you can.
Childs Pose - Come onto your hands and knees. Draw your big toes to touch and sink your hips back towards your heels. Rest your torso on or between your thighs, with your forehead resting on the floor and your arms stretching forward. Keeping your knees closer together will stretch your back more, while spreading the knees wide will open your hips. See what feels good for you.
If this pose uncomfortable, try placing a pillow or blanket between your torso and your thighs, rest your head on a pillow, or draw your knees wider apart. Rest here and breathe for anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes. Try to use your breath to gently expand your lower back, middle back, and upper back.
Cat Cow - From childs pose, shift your hips forward and come to a position on your hands and knees. Stack your shoulders over your wrists, and your hips over your knees. As you inhale, arch your back, lifting your tailbone up to the sky, allowing your belly to sink towards the floor. Gaze forward or slightly up. As you exhale, round your spine and draw the belly-button gently up and in. Try to initiate each movement from your pelvis; let your head be the last thing that moves. Repeat this movement for anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on how you feel.
Arm Lifts and Threading the Needle - Staying on all fours, come back to a neutral spine position. As you inhale, sweep your right arm out and up to the sky, twisting open. As you exhale, bring your right hand back down to neutral. Alternate sides, inhaling as your stretch one arm up to the sky and twist, and exhaling as you come back to neutral. Repeat this for at least 5 breaths on each side.
The next time you lift your right arm up to the sky, thread that arm down and through the window of your left arm, coming to rest with your right shoulder and side of your head on the ground. Lift your left arm up to the sky, and wrap that arm around your back.
If this is uncomfortable or your head or shoulder does not reach the ground, try drawing your knees a little wider apart, or further away from your head. You can also prop a blanket underneath your head or shoulder. Take 5 deep breaths here, sending the breath to expand your shoulders and chest. Come back to neutral and switch sides.
Lat / Side Stretch - From a neutral position on all fours, extend your right arm forward so that the pinky side of your hand is touching the floor and your right elbow is straight. Keep extending your arm forward as you sink back into your hips. Don't let your ribs collapse, try to keep a neutral spine. Rest your forehead on the floor, on your left arm, or on a blanket. Your left elbow can rest on the ground. Breathe 5 slow deep breaths here.
Rise up just enough so you can move your right arm to the left, so it will be out in front of your left shoulder. Turn your palm face down. Sink into your hips and breathe into your right side for 5 deep breaths. Rest your forehead somewhere comfortable. Come back up to all fours and repeat these two poses on the other side. After you're done on the second side, rest in childs pose for several breaths.
Knees to Chest - From childs pose, rise up to seated and come to a position with your feet planted on the floor in front of you. Slowly roll onto your back, lying on the floor. Hug your knees into your chest and give them a squeeze. Take several breaths here. Rock a bit side to side. Take one hand on each knee and make some circles with your knees. The circles can be big or small, do what feels good for you.
Figure Four Stretch - Release your legs so that your feet plant on the floor directly under your knees. Cross your right ankle over your left knee creating a figure four/triangle shape between the legs. Keep flexing your right foot; don't let it sickle/bend. Wrap your hands around the back of your left thigh or the front of your left shin. Your left arm will go to the outside of your left leg, and your right hand will thread through the space in the figure four to meet it. Rest your head and back on the ground. Take five breaths here and then repeat on the other side.
Pelvic Compass - Plant your feet on the floor under your knees. This exercise is meant to be gentle and easy, without much effort at all. Imagine your pelvis is a compass. Press your lower back into the mat and feel your tailbone lift a little, this is the North Pole. Now you press your tailbone into the mat and allow your low back to lift, you are at the South Pole. Having found North and South, now find East and West, a gentle rock of the pelvis side to side. Easy small movements, no big effort, the hips stay on the ground.
Now set your compass to North by pressing your low back into the mat. Start to move your compass from North to East. Rock North to East several times.
Then set your compass to East, and then rock East to South. Rock East to South several times.
Setting your compass to South, then rock South to West. Rock South to West several times.Lastly, set your compass to West, and rock West to North. Rock West to North several times.
Now set your compass back to North, and go all the way around, from North to East to South to West and back to North. Keep going around the compass, spending a little more time on any spot that feels more difficult or unfamiliar.
Now switch directions and go the opposite way around your compass. Feel free to go as fast or as slowly as you'd like. Remember to keep breathing! Take a minute or so in each direction, then come to stillness and notice any sensation or release you may feel.
Legs in the Air - Stretch your legs up in the air. If you can't straighten them entirely, then keep them a bit bent. Point and flex your feet about 10 times. Then start to roll your ankles and wrists in circles. After about 10 rotations in one direction, then switch directions. Allow yourself to rest here. Close your eyes and take a big inhale, then let out a big sigh through your mouth. If you prefer, this pose can also be taken with your legs supported up against a wall.
Either stay here and rest for several minutes, or move into any other postures or resting position that works best for you. Afterwards, take a moment to thank yourself for making time in your day to practice. Namaste!
Many of us spend hours a day hunched over a computer or behind the wheel of a car. Over time this posture can become a habit, creeping its way into the way we stand and eventually into our golf posture. This hunched posture, or C posture, is one of the twelve swing characteristics identified by the Titleist Performance Institute that causes limitations in the golf swing, affecting about 1/3 of all players.
While we may try to find a quick fix for this posture by telling ourselves to straighten our spines or stop rounding our shoulders so much, there are often deeply ingrained muscle imbalances at work that will take some time and effort to reverse.
In the C posture, imbalances are created with shortened upper trapezius, neck, and pectoral muscles, while our lower and mid traps, deep neck flexors, and serratus anterior muscles become weak.
The most significant restriction of this posture is a limitation in thoracic spine extension. Lack of thoracic spine extension can cause a severe loss of spinal rotation, which can limit our ability to create a good backswing turn, causing a loss in power and distance.
Try these yoga postures to help correct these muscle imbalances, giving you freedom to find a more efficient and powerful backswing and overall posture. While practicing these postures, try to take deep breaths in and out of the nose if you can.
Cat Cow - Start with a few cat-cow moves to warm up the spine. Come onto a position on your hands and knees, with the shoulders stacked over the wrists, and the hips stacked over the knees. As you inhale, arch your back, lifting your gaze and your tailbone up to the sky. As you exhale, round your spine and draw the belly-button up and in. Repeat this movement for 10 breaths.
Locust Pose - Lie down on your belly with your arms along your sides, palms faced down, and tops of the feet on the ground. As you inhale, lift your chest and legs off the ground, reaching your fingers back towards your heels. Hold for 30 seconds, then release and rest with one cheek on the ground.
Repeat locust pose, but this time interlace your hands behind your back, and reach your knuckles towards the back wall. Hold for 30 seconds, then release and rest with your other cheek on the ground.
Repeat locust pose one last time. This time, draw your arms out like a 'capital T' with your fingers curled into fists, thumbs turned up to face the ceiling. As you inhale, lift your chest, legs, and arms, stretching the thumbs towards the sky. Keep the shoulders down away from the ears. Hold for 30 seconds, then release and rest with one cheek on the ground (whichever one felt more difficult the first time around).
Chest Stretch – Staying in the 'capital T' position on your belly (palms down), start to roll onto your right hip, keeping the right arm outstretched. Lift the left leg and plant it behind you for stability. For an extra stretch, the left arm can lift up to the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds, then roll back to center and repeat on the other side.
Upward Plank - Come to a seated position with your feet planted on the floor, knees pointing up. Bring your hands several inches behind your hips, fingers pointed forward. Press your hands and feet into the floor and lift your hips to the sky, bringing your torso and thighs parallel with the floor. Without compressing the neck, drop the head back. Hold for 30 seconds, then lower down and rest. Roll your wrists in a few circles to release any tension.
Spinal Twist Variation – Lie down on your back with your arms out like a capital T, palms faced up. Bend the knees and draw them into the chest. Take a deep inhale, and as you exhale lower your knees to the right side. Take a few deep breaths here. Start to become aware of your left arm. Then as lazily as you can, start to slide the left arm along the floor until it's alongside your left ear. Continuing this lazy effortless feeling, let the left arm glide across your face until it meets your right arm. Then slowly slide the left fingertips down the length of the right arm past your right fingertips. Pause for a breath, then lazily slide the left hand back across the right arm, across the chest, and open back up to the twist. Exert as little effort as possible when doing this.
Repeat two more times on this same side, then draw the knees back to center and repeat three times on the opposite side. Remember to breathe deeply.
To finish your practice, take a moment to do any other stretch your body feels like it needs. Then lie on the ground and rest several minutes with the legs and arms outstretched, eyes closed. Resting at the end of your practice gives your body and mind time to integrate the effects of your practice.
Feeling tense and tight at work with no time for yoga? In just a few minutes, these simple stretches work the 6 major movements of the spine and help open the shoulders and hips.
While doing these stretches, try to take long deep breaths in and out of the nose. Send the air into your belly, ribs and chest.
- Side Bend - Sit on the edge of your chair. Place your left hand on the left side of the chair. Reach the right arm out to the side, up and over to the left. Reach through your fingertips, palm facing down, feeling a stretch down the whole right side. Take a few deep breaths, then release and switch sides.
- Twist – Sit in the middle of the chair with your knees together and your left hand on your right knee. Inhale and grow tall, and as you exhale twist to the right, placing your right hand on the back of the chair as you twist open. Hold for several deep breaths, then exhale back to center and switch sides.
- Eagle Shoulder Stretch – Drawing the forearms in front of you, cross the right elbow on top of the left elbow. Draw the backs of the hands towards each other, crossing the wrists and pressing the palms together if you can. Lift your elbows, drawing the fingers away from the face, and relax the shoulders. Take a few deep breaths, then repeat with the opposite elbow on top.
- Chest Opener – Sit on the edge of the chair and interlace your fingers behind your back, palms facing towards each other. Stretch the arms back, placing the hands on the upper part of the chair if you can. Take a few deep breaths here, then on your last exhale bend forward, taking the knuckles towards the sky. Hold for a few breaths, rise up and release.
- Figure 4 Stretch – Sit on the edge of the chair. Cross your right ankle on top of your left knee, creating a figure 4/triangle shape between the legs. Grasp the right knee with your right hand, and the crossed foot with your left hand. Take a deep inhale and draw the chest forward, and as you exhale hinge from the hips, coming into a forward bend. Hold for several breaths, then rise up and repeat on the other side.
Close your eyes and take three deep breaths to close your practice. At the end of your third breath, as you exhale, let out a big sigh through your mouth. Thank yourself for taking a few minutes out of your day to practice.
I was new to Yoga when I first went to one of Erica's classes. She made me feel very comfortable and showed me how yoga could help me in my athletics. I used to play semi pro football and noticed how yoga was helping me stay stretched and was improving my mobility. Not only on the field, but also in my weight training at the gym. I have stopped playing football, but am currently training with Erica in private sessions to help keep me mobile in my weight training.
- Eric M.