Breathe Deep with These 5 Yoga Poses from Adina Crawford
Not only do you need to breathe to live, but your breath also plays a crucial role in all types of physical exercise. It ignites and engages your body’s muscles, improves the mind-body connection and empowers you to dig deep when pushing through discomfort. Many runners find that focusing on their breathing helps them get through tough spots in workouts or races.
Yoga can help you regulate your breath through movement and the practice of proper breathing techniques. This can, in turn, increase energy, improve flexibility and even dispel negative thoughts.
Practice these five yoga poses while focusing on your breathing to bring your body into balance and reclaim your sense of calm.
Benefits: Stabilizes core and abdominals, hips, arms, back, and neck.
How to do it: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat, hip-distance apart. Your shoulders should be aligned on the mat. Extend your arms toward the floor. Press your feet into the mat and lift your hips up. Your gaze should be up towards the ceiling.
Variation: (pictured) Clasp your hands under your legs, pressing the pinky side of your fingers down. Modifications: Place a block under your sacrum.
Reclined Cow Face
Beginner to intermediate
Benefits: Opens your hips, relieves back pain, and stretches your legs.
How to do it: Begin by lying on your back with your back pressed firmly into the mat. Cross your right knee over your left knee and squeeze your thighs together. Lengthen your spine and keep your feet flexed. Pull your legs toward your chest and hold them there for one to two minutes. Switch by crossing your left knee on top of your right knee. Modification: Use a strap to hold your feet or, if you cannot hold your feet, grab the tops of your shins. If you’re looking for a deeper stretch, pull your feet toward you.
Legs up the Wall
Benefits: Improves circulation in your legs, reduces fatigue, relaxes your back, hip, and knee joints.
How to do it (option 1): Find a wall that is clear of any objects. Bring your mat close to the baseboard. Turn your body sideways so that your left or right hip is against the baseboard. Begin by lying on your back. Gently bring your legs up to the wall. This may require you to maneuver your bottom close to the baseboard for the proper adjustment. Your legs should be straight against the wall with your torso, spine, and back fully aligned and straight. Place one hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly.
If you don’t have access to a wall, use this version instead:
How to do it (option 2): Begin by lying on your back. Place your feet firmly on the mat, close together. Bend your knees and bring them close to your chest. Slowly bring your legs straight up, flexing your feet at the top. If needed, use your hands to add support or touch your big toes for a deeper stretch (pictured). Hold for five minutes or more, depending on how your body feels.
Variations: Extend your hands out to a T for an added arm stretch, create the letter “L” with your arms or open your legs wide with the back of your heels pressed against the wall.
Modifications: Use a strap for a deeper stretch by placing the strap on the arches of your feet prior to extending your legs up the wall. Place a bolster or folded blanket under your hips.
Single Knee to Chest Pose
Benefits: Soothes your lower back, massages your spine.
How to do it: Begin by lying down on your back, stretching your body out with a deep inhale and exhale. Relax your shoulders, bend your knees, and place your feet firmly on the mat. Draw both knees to your chest and interlace your hands below your knee caps.
Release your right leg, extend it long and place your heel on the mat, flexing your foot. Continue to hold your left knee below the knee cap, drawing your knee closer to the midline of your chest. Bring your gaze up to the ceiling.
Hold this pose for one minute and then switch, repeating this with the opposite leg. This can be done two times for a deeper stretch in your quadriceps.
Variation: Grab behind one knee and hold your leg. Modification: Bring your knees wide and grab the front of your knees, or hold the back of your knees for added support.
Knees to Chest Pose
Benefits: Soothes your low back, stretches your thighs and hips.
How to do it: Begin by lying down on your back, stretching your body out with a deep inhale and exhale. Relax your shoulders. Bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the mat. Draw both knees up to your chest and interlace your hands below your knee caps. Keep your gaze up toward the ceiling. Give yourself a big hug by wrapping your arms around your legs.
Variations: Plant your feet on the mat Modifications: Use a strap, towel or tie under the arches of your feet. Widen your knees and grab either the front or back of your knees.