12 simple yoga poses to keep you limber
As you get older, muscle and flexibility loss may seem inevitable.
The good news is, research shows yoga can improve your flexibility and sense of well-being.
In fact, the Arthritis Foundation recommends doing yoga that is gentle on your body, like chair yoga.
To start on your yoga journey, I’ve compiled a few simple exercises that you can do anywhere — at home or at the office.
Before you start, take a moment to think about your breathing. Focus on your breath by closing your eyes and inhaling for two to three breaths and exhaling for three to four breaths through your nose. Repeat this for at least four cycles.
Another good reminder: For all of these poses, listen to your body and talk to your doctor about whether yoga is right for you. You should feel a stretch, not sharp pain. If you feel sharp pain during any of these poses don’t go so deep into the pose or do a modified version.
For all of these seated poses, remember to sit up nice and straight. Pull your shoulders back, and draw your belly button into your spine, keeping your core engaged.
1. Seated twist
Place your feet firmly on the floor, keep your hips facing forward and place your right hand behind you on your chair, by your tailbone.
Inhale: sit up as tall as you can raise your left hand high, creating as much length as possible.
Exhale and place your left hand on the outside of your right knee and gently twist, gazing over your right shoulder.
Inhale again, sitting taller, and exhale, gently twisting deeper. Slowly shift back to center and repeat on the left side.
2. Shoulder rolls
Keep your eyes closed – inhale – shrug your shoulders up to your ears, then exhale and roll your shoulders all the way down your back. Repeat 4 times.
3. Seated cat/cow
Hold your arms out, bending at the elbows with your palms facing out so your arms look like goal posts.
Inhale: gaze up, draw your arms back and push your chest forward.
Exhale: Draw your arms in so that your forearms are facing you. Tuck your chin into your chest and round your back. Pull your belly button into your spine.
4. Mountain pose
Press all four corners of your feet firmly into the floor. Engage your quadriceps without locking your knees. Pull your core into your spine.
Inhale: Lift your arms over head, gazing up. Turn your pinkies in so they are facing each other. Draw your shoulders down your back.
5. Baby back bend
From mountain pose, hold your arms out, bending at the elbows with your palms facing out so your arms look like goal posts.
Inhale: gaze up, draw your arms back and push your chest and hips forward.
Exhale and straighten back up to mountain pose. If you have any lower back issues, you can place your hands on your lower back to support your back as you gently back bend.
6. Forward fold
From mountain pose, exhale: Draw your hands to your heart center, bend your knees slightly and pull your core in.
With a long straight spine, slowly hinge forward at your hips till your hands comfortably reach your thighs, shins, or toes. If you are very flexible and need more of a stretch straighten out your knees.
7. Half-moon (modified)
From mountain pose, inhale: place your right hand on your hip and stretch your left hand high. Remember to keep your feet firmly on the ground, paying special attention to the outside of your left foot.
Exhale: Bend towards the right, drawing your left arm over your head.
On the floor:
8. Downward facing dog
Start from table top position (on your hand and knees, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and your knees below your hips). Spread your fingers wide, and tuck your toes under.
Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor, keeping your knees slightly bent and your heels lifted. Push into your fingertips and lengthen your tailbone away from your back, creating a V-shape with your body. On your next exhale, start to draw your heels down, they may or may not touch the floor. Straighten your knees but be careful not to lock them.
Keep pressing down with your fingertips and roll your shoulders down your back. Hold from one to four minutes.
9. Child’s pose
Kneel down and either draw your knees wide to the outside edges of your mat or keep them straight. Slowly extend your arms forward, resting your chest on the floor and push your tailbone back towards your heels.
10. Low cobra
Lay face down on your mat and place your hands below your shoulders with your elbows to your sides. Press down firmly with the top of your feet (your thighs should lift slightly). Exhale to prepare, then with little to no weight in your hands, gently lift your chest, gazing down so your neck is line with your spine.
11. Pashimotanasa (seated forward fold)
Sit on the floor/mat with your legs extended forward. Inhale and sit up as tall as you can, extending your arms up. Exhale and fold forward, places your hands on your thighs, shins or reaching towards your toes. On every inhale, lengthen your spine and on every exhale, fold deeper.
12. Savasana (corpse pose)
Lie on your back with your palms facing up, in a completely relaxed state. Pull your shoulders together just enough to lift your chest slightly. Let your legs spread out wider than your hips and let your feel fall to the side.
This is one of the most important poses, as it allows your body to restore and receive all the benefits of the poses, as well as allowing for your mind to rest in a meditative state.
Amita Aung-Thwin owns Amita Yoga and has been teaching Vinyasa Power Yoga for over a year. She also specializes in power yoga with restorative elements for stress relief and mindfulness added in the corporate setting. Amita believes that yoga serves not only an invigorating workout, but a vehicle to re-connect with yourself. She sees yoga as a powerful, healing, life-changing tool, and considers it an honor to be able to share it with others.