Yoga: A Few Simple Stretches

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Yoga: A Few Simple Stretches
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2001

Here are a few simple Yoga stretches for those days when life gets you in the neck, in the back, in the shoulder or for the dreaded internetitis rigor mortis. Always work within your comfort level, it is meant to relax and stretch the muscles not to force them. Tip for blondes: chairs used should not have wheels.

Neck Stretch
Sit comfortably, close your eyes and breathe. Inhale and as you exhale, gently let your right ear drop towards your right shoulder. Repeat as many times as your comfort level allows. Do not force the stretch, let gravity pull your ear towards your shoulder. Inhale again and return to the centre position. Repeat for the left side.

Shoulder Rolls
This is the stretch you should use if you have been working at the computer for a long period of time. Sit on a chair and slowly roll your shoulders forward, up and back. Repeat several times within your comfort zone. Roll your shoulders the other way, starting at the back and moving up and forward. Lift your elbows as you roll your shoulders forward and back to accentuate the stretch.

Chest and Shoulder Blade Stretch
Stand comfortably, reach your hands around your back and clasp your hands. Inhale and as you exhale, pull your arms straight and out behind you. Hold and breathe. Work within your comfort zone.

Forward Bend
Sit on the edge of your chair (Note: See tips for blondes) with your back straight and your feet planted firmly on the floor about two feet apart. Inhale and as you exhale, reach your arms down towards the floor, resting your ribs on your thighs. Let your arms hang. Hold and breathe deeply. You will feel the stretch along your spine. Inhale, round your back and slowly climb your legs with your hands until you are back in a sitting position.

Side Stretch
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms over your head and clasp your hands. Reach towards the sky and inhale a deep breath. Exhale reaching up and over to the right side. You will feel the stretch in the left side of your body. Hold and breathe. Inhale and return yourself to the centre position. Slowly while exhaling, unclasp your hands and lower your arms.

Sun Salutation
This is a great warm-up or just a nice stretch to add to your daily routine. It is an easy way to build strength and flexibility. This is a series of twelve poses performed in a flowing movement. Work within your comfort level and don't expect a smooth flow immediately, that will come with time and practice. Proceed as follows:

Mountain (Position One)
Stand with your feet together but slightly pigeon-toed. Big toes touching and heels apart. Clasp your hands at your heart level in a prayer position.

Back Bend (Position Two)
Inhale and stretch your arms over your head and arch your back. Keep your legs and bum firm and your feet firmly planted on the floor. Do not force the bend.

Forward Bend (Position Three)
Exhale and stretch forward and down. You are trying to bring your hands flat to the floor beside your feet and your head to your knees. Work within your comfort level.

Lunge (Position Four)
Inhale and hold your breath while reaching your left leg back to rest on the ball of your foot. Your right knee is tucked under your chest. Align your knee over your ankle and your shoulder over your knee.

Plank (Position Five)
Still holding your breath, reach your right leg back, keeping both legs straight and tightening your abdominal muscles.

Stick (Position Six)
Exhale, lowering your legs, hips and chest together to within a couple of inches of the floor.

Cobra (Position Seven)
Lower your hips, point your feet and inhale. As you inhale, lift your chest towards the sky. Keep your elbows slightly bent and pressed close to your ribs.

Downward Dog (Position Eight)
Tuck your toes under and exhale. While exhaling, lift your bum and bring your body into an inverted V shape.

Lunge (Position Nine)
Lift your head and inhale while bringing your right foot forward between your hands.

Forward Bend (Position Ten)
Exhale and bend forward. Bring your left leg up to meet the right and drop your head to your knees.

Arching Back (Position Eleven)
Inhale and straighten your back. Bring your arms above your head. Look up and arch your back while keeping your feet firmly planted.

Mountain (Position Twelve)
Exhale and return your hands to the prayer pose.

You then repeat the entire sequence stepping back with the other leg. This is quite a thorough stretch for the body and a deceptively simple but vigorous workout.

Whether you devote a few minutes a day, 20 minutes three times a week or use as required, any of the above stretches will bring relief, release and physical benefits. The illness-wellness continuum requires us to nurture our minds, bodies and spirit. Yoga nurtures all three in a positive way.

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