One of my friends on Facebook asked me the other day if there were any poses I would recommend for a gentle early morning practice. Facebook is not the easiest place to respond, so I thought I would gradually put a few of my personal favourites here.
1. Cat to Cow
This pose alternately flexes and extends our spine, helping us to maintain and improve the range of movement in the spinal vertebrae.
- Be sure your wrists are directly below your shoulders
- Be sure your knees are directly below your hips
- Keep the fingers spread wide to help keep the hands open and free
- The elbow crease faces forwards if possible
- Toes under or toes flat
- Lift up and out of the shoulders in A
- Look through between the legs in B
- We inhale as we look up, opening the chest in picture A
- We exhale as we round down, expanding the back in picture B
- SLOW the breath, take your time, enjoy luxuriating in each moment!
2. Reclining Knee over Chest
This pose alternately compresses the ascending, transverse and descending colon of the large intestine giving a much needed abdominal massage alleviating wind, constipation and low back troubles. It also opens our hips, extends the spine and stimulates the thyroid if you bring the nose to the knee.
We begin by raising just the right knee over the chest. The left leg can be fully extended or, if the low back doesn’t feel comfortable, the sole of the left foot can be placed on the mat making it easier to keep the lower back grounded onto the mat.
We breathe deeply into the belly, noticing the squeezing sensation on the right side of the tummy, and seeing the left side expanding and softening as we belly breathe.
Changing legs, we pull the left knee over the chest, extending the right leg or bending the right knee.
This asana can be practiced either in a Yin Yoga style, holding the leg and breathing steadily for several breaths, or can be practiced as a Vinyasa, or flow, where we :
1. Inhale, Right knee to chest
2. Exhale, extend Right leg
3. Inhale, Left knee to chest
4. Exhale extend Left leg
continue as above for 6-8 cycles
To take it a little further, you can raise the head to the knee on each inhale.
3. Head Rolling
We’ve all done this at some point in our lives. It reduces strain in the muscles that hold our heads up, and alternately stretches and compresses the soft tissue around the neck helping maintain neck movement and clear passage to and from the brain.
You can do it kneeling, sitting or standing according to what feels good for you.
I luxuriate in this pose, closing my eyes, feeling every twang and creak as I gently roll my head through 360 degrees. Then I go the other way. Repeating the movement 3-4 times in each direction. Follow it with a few shoulder shrugs to release any tension.