Stretch & Strengthen
by Natalie Rousseau, ERYT, Tofino
This simple sequence will help improve core strength
Extended child's pose
Begin an all fours in the centre of your mat. On an exhale breath pull your hips over your heel, flattening your toes and extending your arms out in front of you. Rest your forehead on the floor between your arms. If that is not comfortable rest a small cushion beneath your forehead. Draw 5 deep slow breaths through the back of your throat and allow the back of your body to expand with your breath.
This simple forward bend lengthens the spine and releases tension in the low back.
Extended cat's pose
On an inhale breath lift back up to all fours and tuck your toes under while speading your fingers wide. Extend from heart to tail, drawing your shoulders back to expand horizontally across your chest.
This simple extension of the spine helps create more room for breath by opening the chest and ribcage.
Downward facing dog pose
On your exhale breath lift your knees and press back into Dog Pose, straightening your arms and taking your gaze towards your knees. Roll your sitbones up and press back with your quadriceps (fronts of your thighs) to lengthen your hamstrings (backs of your thighs) and calves. If your legs are very tight allow your knees to remain slightly bent but keep your arms straight and your spine long. Maintain a relaxed face and smooth, steady breath. Hold for 5-6 deep breaths. Release back into Extended Child's Pose and repeat the entire sequence from there three to five more times before moving on.
Dog Pose stretches the legs and spine while strengthening arms and upper back. With the head resting just below the heart you also recieve the nourishing benefits of a gentle inversion.
Lying on your belly bring your elbows beneath your shoulders pressing your forearms into the floor. Allow your feet to be hip width apart and your tailbone long and soft. Press downward through your elbows and forearms and at the same time lift your collarbones sending your upper spine into your heartspace. Draw your upper arms back keeping your shoulders down and lengthen back through your legs and feet without gripping through the buttocks. Spread the tops of your toes into the floor and take 5 slow deep breaths.
This simple backbend opens the upper back and chest without compressing the low back.
Plank pose on elbows
From Sphinx Pose interlace your fingers, tuck your toes under, and firm your thighs to lift your legs and pelvis off the mat. Roll your inner thighs towards each other and lengthen your tailbone towards your heels. Do not let your shoulders bunch up around your ears, continue to press down through elbows and forearms while drawing the upper arms back and extending through your chest. Keep your lower belly firm and your breath steady. Take 5 breaths here, try not to rush, especially on the exhale. After 5 breaths release back into Sphinx flattening your toes and palms and lengthening the belly. Repeat Sphinx and Plank on Elbows 3 times each coming into Extended Child's Pose to rest when you are done before moving on.
This pose strengthens the core line of the body protecting your back and giving better support to all your poses.
Reclined two knee twist
Laying on your back stretch your arms wide at shoulder height pressing the palms into the floor. Draw your shoulderblades down the back of your spine and bend your knees directly over your hips so your shins are parallel to the floor. On an exhale breath lower feet and knees to the left side of the body and allow them to relax into the floor. Soften upper back and both shoulders into the ground, take your gaze right and draw 5-6 slow full breaths through the pose. To come our bring your head to centre on an inhale, legs to chest on an exhale. Repeat on the right side, gazing left.
This relaxing twist releases tension in the upper mid back, massages digestive organs, and nourishes the spine.
With your feet hip distance apart and about six inches from your buttocks, allow the arms to rest by your sides, palms down. Press downwards through your legs and feet and begin to lift your hips towards the ceiling. Lengthen your tailbone towards the backs of your knees and try not to grip with your buttocks. Gather your shoulders and upper arms beneath you, rooting them into the floor and lift upwards through your sternum, expanding horizontally across your chest. If you like you can interlock your fingers beneath you and lengthen your arms towards your heels. Breathe deep, keeping the back of your neck long and your gaze soft. Press downwards evenly through the four corners of both your feet to keep the knees from splaying outwards. Hold for 5-6 slow breaths and when you come out lay the spine down from upper back to tail with control. Repeat this pose three times pressing the soles of the feet to the ceiling in between to release your legs and hips.
Bridge Pose strengthens the back of the body while lengthening quadriceps and hip flexors (front of the pelvis). The shoulders and upper arms receive a good stretch while the chest and rib cage expand, making more room for breath.
Hand to big toe pose
Laying on your back press your right leg into the floor and pull your left knee into your chest. Loop a strap around the ball of your left foot and keeping your spine flat on the floor slowly extend your leg pressing your foot to the ceiling. Allow your hands to walk up the belt so that the inner arms are long but keep your shoulders on the ground. Press your left thighbone away from you as you resist with the strap, gently drawing your leg towards your chest. Try to keep both sides of your waist long and continue to press your right leg firmly into the floor. Take 5-6 slow deep breaths paying attention to all the subtle details. Maintain a calm face and relaxed shoulders. Repeat on the right when you are done.
This pose stretches the hamstring muscles through the back of the extended leg while maintaining a neutral spine.
Laying on your back bend your knees and lift your hips off the floor. Bring your palms down beneath your spine, thumbs touching, and lengthen your arms towards your heels. Now release your hips back down so you are sitting on your wrists or hands and stretch out your legs in front of you, inner thighs touching. Gather your upper arms beneath you and as you press down through your elbows and forearms lift up through the centre of your chest and gently roll your chin back so you are gazing at the wall behind you. Keep the back of your head on the floor while maintaining an even breath and relaxed face. Allow your arms to support you and enjoy the expanding of your rib cage and chest on your inhale breath. Hold 4-6 breaths and come out slowly by straightening your arms again and rolling your chin towards your chest. Bend your knees, release your arms from beneath you and rest your palms on your belly for a few moments. When you are ready repeat the Reclined Two Knee Twist, holding each side for as many breaths as you like. Take time at the end of this sequence to rest quietly in a seated or reclined position listening to your breath and observing the way you feel before your continue on with your day.
This energizing supported backbend opens the upper back and chest freeing the breath and lifting the heart.
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For questions or info, call Natalie at 725-8363 or email firstname.lastname@example.org