There is no better way to begin 2019 than by doing something good for your body, like yoga. This can be as simple as practicing at home for 10 minutes each day combined with meditation.
Here are some moves that will make you a stronger, happier and healthier person in the New Year:
1. Get your spine moving with Cat and Cow pose
Starting in table top position, with the knees below the hips and hands below the shoulders, breathe in as you lift your tailbone up. Let your belly sink to the floor while your head and chest rise. Then, exhale as you reverse, arching your back like a stretching cat. Continue this exercise slowly for 10 to 20 repetitions, breathing deeply and moving at your own pace. These postures help to massage the spine, while also stretching the back and the torso.
2. Get pumped with Sun Salutation A
A dynamic Vinyasa flow will get your heart pounding. Jump back from Uttanasana (Forward Fold) to plank then add a double Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose aka yoga push-up) into your Sun Salutation A, if this is available in your practice. This works your entire body to get your heart rate up and also a great way to start your day.
3. Add a killer move for your thighs with Tip Top Fierce pose or Prapada Utkatasana
This pose stretches the tops of the feet and ankles, strengthens the legs and promotes balance. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Beginners can start out with their feet hip-width apart. For seasoned yogis, do it with your feet together to bump up the burn. Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor. Either keep the arms parallel, palms facing inward, or join the palms together. Exhale and bend your knees, lift the heels up, try to take the thighs as nearly parallel to the floor as possible. Don’t be surprised if you feel your muscles start to shake as you sink deeper into this pose. Continue this movement slowly for 10 repetitions.
4. Build all-over strength with Dolphin Push-up
Dolphin push-ups are another great way to strengthen the entire body and work on mobility. Begin on hands and knees with forearms shoulder-width apart and parallel. Tuck toes, lift hips high, drop head, and reach chest back toward shins. This is dolphin. From here, look forward and reach chin toward thumbs on your inhale. Come almost to a forearm plank but not quite. On the exhale, engage navel to spine, and use core to lift hips back to dolphin. Do 10 to 20 reps and then rest in child’s pose.
5. Let the warrior in you shine
Strike the pose of the warrior. Warrior 2 is a grounded pose that strengthens the legs, stretches the shoulders and helps with digestion. Start standing in Tadasana at the top of your mat. With an exhalation, step backwards with the left foot three to four feet apart. Extend your arms out to the sides parallel to the floor with the palms down. Turn the right foot out 90 degrees, so your toes are pointing to the top of the mat and pivot your left foot slightly inwards. Your back toes should be at a 45-degree angle. On an exhalation, bend deeply into the right knee, so it is at a 90-degree angle. Keep your torso perpendicular to the floor, with your head directly over your tailbone. Do not lean towards your front leg. Hold for up to one minute. Come up to standing and repeat on the left side.
6. Calm your anxious thoughts with Forward Bend
Be it with Uttanasana or a Wide-Legged Forward Bend, getting and keeping your head below your heart is going to calm your nervous system. This pose also stretches your hamstrings, calves, and hips; strengthens your feet, ankles, and legs; and builds awareness of how to protect your lower back. Finally, this pose will build strength in your shoulders and upper back, and it will give length and ease to your neck muscles.
Begin from Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Take a big step back approximately four feet with the right foot. Pivot on the mat so that both feet are facing the long edge of the mat, in a parallel position. Firm the leg muscles and lift through the arches of your feet. Place the hands on the hips. Inhale to lengthen the spine towards the ceiling and exhale to hinge from the hips folding forward towards the thighs.
Reach the hands to the floor and inhale to lengthen the spine again finding along neutral back not rounding the spine, exhale to hinge deeper into the posture. Keep the legs engaged as the upper body releases forward. Keep the palms pressing into the floor and bring the crown of the head towards the ground. Hold the posture for 5 to 10 breaths. To come up, place the hands onto the hips again, engage the inner thighs and inhale to lengthen the spine.
Nerry Toledo is a Dubai-based yoga instructor. She conducts regular give-what-you-can community classes with the goal of making yoga more accessible for everyone. For schedules and locations, go to nerryfit.com.