25th October 2017
Firstly, it’s my rest day for the 30 day challenge, so that’s why there’s no blog post on that day today!
So I love yoga. I try to practice it regularly, not always successful at that but something is always better than nothing. One thing I do find difficult is fitting in both gym and exercise, alongside yoga. I like focusing on one thing at a time so I think I find it overwhelming. But we can only try, can’t we?
So today I thought I’d talk through yoga poses I’m a particular fan of, and why that is! How exciting! I’ve made a post on the power of yoga in which I reflect on the benefits of yoga and what it does for me, so do check that out!
So let’s get too it. What are my favourites?
I absolutely love this pose! To do this, start in a forward fold (hang upper body over legs, dangle like a rag doll), and move your feet so that they’re further apart with your toes pointing outwards. Then start to crouch down, like a frog, and keep your bum off the floor, pushing your elbows in to your legs whilst pushing your legs in against the opposing force. If this is too difficult or uncomfortable in any way, modify by placing your hands on the floor, rocking back and forth to massage your feet, or lift your soles off the floor. This is a great stretch for the hips, and I find it to be a really grounding pose. It works different areas, and by working opposing forces (your elbows and legs pushing in different directions) you can get a lot of muscles working to maintain the posture. It’s quite meditative when you manage to find the variation that suits you.
Such a great stretch. Begin on your hands and knees, then extend your hands forward past your shoulders, and slide on through on to your stomach (sorry, my explanations aren’t great). Place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and lift up, so that your arms are like two railroad tracks pointing forward in a straight line. This is a great stretch for the back, and you’ll probably feel it in your upper arms too. Similar to malasana, I really feel that it has a therapeutic, meditative feel to it. It isn’t as physically taxing as the cobra, but still offers a nice stretch that you can relax at the same time. It’s quite comfy too.
Okay, bear with me. I know this doesn’t look doable for many, and probably looks quite intimidating, perhaps. What I love about it, is that it’s not so advanced that it feels impossible, but it’s challenging enough to be stimulating and fun to master! It really challenges your balance and so is good for building on this, as well as leg strength and allowing for a nice hip opener. To master, check out this video which breaks it down better than I could in words! For me, I have to build up to it. It’s best to do it slowly and gradually, and not dive in, otherwise you’ll probably fall flat on your face! It’s always good to warm up first, perhaps with a few sun salutations, particularly warrior 1 and 2 poses which warm up the hips well and are good poses to do just before the half moon pose. A few tips: work towards straightening your front leg, always maintain openness in your chest so you’re not caving in, and test your balance by looking up towards the ceiling.
Similar to previously, this is quite a good pose for challenging your balance, and it provides a great stretch for your legs and hips. For variations, you could place your hand on your shin, foot, or on the floor to the left of your foot, and you could also bend your front leg slightly. Work on maintaining a straight line along the length of both arms, and rotate your upper body so that it isn’t caving in towards your front leg.
I really like doing this stretch after a work out. It’s very diverse – it stretches both the side body, and the straightened leg. Again, it’s quite therapeutic, and quite grounding, I find. I like to place my arm that isn’t stretching up on my extended leg, or hook my hand around my foot. The key is to not round forward, which is very tempting, and natural to end up doing here. Mainain that side extension, and try and envision your heart facing forward and up, not hunched over. To end on this, I like to then tilt my upper body so that it’s facing my extended leg, and then round forward, gripping one hand around my foot and placing the other on my leg. It offers a nice stretch in another part of the leg.
Halasana (plow pose).
This is definitely a challenging pose, but you don’t have to reach the most advanced version to reap the benefits of it. Your feet don’t have to touch the floor, they could hovver. You could bend your legs. I like it because I think it’s cool and great to look at, and it provides a really nice stretch for the back and legs. The key is to not push your chin into your chest but maintain a gap, which I find one of the most challenging things about it. I have to build up to this and can’t do it straight away, it’s good to loosen up your leg muscles before attempting this. I remember feeling really thrilled when my feet managed to touch the floor – it’s a great pose to practice, you feel a sense of accomplishment when you master it.
Ragdoll- forward fold.
Classic pose during a yoga flow. Bend your legs, let your arms droop, let your head hang. Just chill out. I like to rock back and forth on my feet, and twist left and right. I like how there isn’t a set rule for this pose, just find what feels good and experiment with it. Sometimes, it’s the simplest and easiest poses in yoga that we need the most.
And finally (before I get even more carried away..) Dancers pose.
Like the half moon, I find this really fun to master! It is challenging. I particularly find it hard for mastering balance and not falling out of the posture, and also straightening the standing leg. This is one of those poses that I feel you have to get the form exactly right which can play on my mind when I do it, and I actually don’t do this pose very much but I should do it more. Again, there’s no need to do the hardest version. You don’t have to reach a mahoosive and flexible extension on the bending leg, just try and find what feels good (without injuring yourself!). You could press your hand in to a wall to help stabilise you as you lift your back leg.
Can I just say..despite efforts it’s hard to find pictures of men doing yoga on google. I feel that yoga is largely advertised as a female, feminine practice, but it really shouldn’t. Yoga should be accessible, and IS accessible for both men and women, of various abilities. You don’t need to be advanced, and majorly flexible. Yoga is a good way to improve your flexibility, but the most important thing is finding what feels good for your body. That’s the priority. Exercise is all about targets, goals, striving for perfection – but yoga offers something unique. It’s both a psychological and a physical practice. So put on something comfy and hop on to your mat!