Yoga Flow: A Beginner's Guide To Stretching
A few year’s ago a friend invited me to a hot yoga class.
It was a new studio that had opened across town, and I was told I’d have a good time. Upon looking at my iPhone's calendar, it didn't take much convincing for me to accept her invitation. After all, I was newly single, the class price was reduced (thank you, Groupon!), and I thought it’d be fun to scope out the scene and try something new.
At the time I considered myself not extremely flexible, which seemed to be a deterrent going in. However, I soon realized my instructor never expected me to walk into the class as loosely disjointed as Gumby.
“The ability to elongate your spine and touch your toes will come in time,” I was told. With that said, I forged onward.
Throughout the 90-minute session, I put my body in positions that I never knew were possible. The stretching of the spine, hips and shoulders felt so painfully good that, at moments, my eyes watered like a leaky faucet. Pairing that aspect with the excessive heat meant I stumbled out of the room not only sopping wet but also physically and emotionally exhausted. Despite the self-inflicted torture, I craved more.
Fast forward to today, and I’m still practicing yoga several times a week. It makes me feel good and more alive than ever before. And bonus, I’m now able to stretch my hands beyond my toes, flat to the ground.
If yoga has got you apprehensive, do yourself a favor and research its benefits.
Upon a quick look, it’s not hard to find the impact it has on one’s health. From improved flexibility, muscle strength and posture to lowering your blood pressure, blood sugar and boosting immunity, the ongoing lists and positive case studies will have you reading for days.
Although there are significant differences in climate between hot yoga and more traditional forms, such as vinyasa and power yoga, the poses themselves are vastly similar.
If you’re thinking of becoming a yogi, but aren’t quite ready to test it out in an instructor-led class, here are a few beginner poses to help you get on your way to revival:
With your eyes closed, stand tall and still with your chest open and broad and your hands at your side. Keep your feet together, perhaps with your big toes touching, and feel the floor and the sensations in your legs and back. If you’re stiff, separate your feet slightly. Let your arms rest at your sides, with fingers together.
In the downward-facing dog, your body forms an inverted V-shape. With feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist and press your flat palms into the ground, hips in the air. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, slightly in front of your shoulders, and the arms, shoulders and back should line up in a straight, diagonal line. At any time, you can take a break by resting in child’s pose, and then come back into down dog again.
From downward-facing dog, simply bend your knees and lower your butt to your heels as you bring your chest toward the floor over your knees. With your knees apart, rest your belly and chest between the legs. Lower your shoulders and head to the floor and stretch the arms out in front of you.
From all fours, move your right knee forward between your hands. As if you're lunging foward, slowly straighten your left leg behind you, keeping the knee and top of the foot on the floor. Now rotate the right knee toward the right wrist and bring it down to the floor with your right calf flat on the floor and your right foot resting under your left groin. Lower your upper body over the bent leg, either all the way to the floor or resting on your elbows. Inhale slowly.