The benefits of a regular yoga practice are innumerable. From easing anxiety, to balancing hormones, to building strength and flexibility. All areas of your body and life can be enhanced with the practice of yoga. The following sequences are specifically designed to help women during major life transitions.
First let's start with a few poses that are good for everyone, at any time:
- Sukasana. Sit comfortably on a blanket with legs crossed, neutral spine, and relaxed legs. Close your eyes and feel your breath. Place one hand on heart and one hand on belly. Slowly start to deepen and lengthen the breath. This reduces anxiety and stress, and improves mental clarity, lowers blood pressure, aids digestion, and tones the muscles of the back.
- Tadasana. Stand tall, feet hip-distance apart, parallel. Micro bend in knees, neutral pelvis, open heart. Ears over shoulders. This helps posture and physical awareness.
- Balasana. Sit on heels, fold forward, extend arms forward and relax head to ground or support. This relaxes the back muscles, relieves constipation, and calms the nervous system.
- Cat/Cow. Come to hands and knees in a table top position; on inhale lower the stomach, pull shoulders back, heart forward, gaze up and sits bones up. On exhale round the spine, draw belly in, tail bone down and gently tuck chin.
Yoga for teens can be so helpful in improving self-esteem and body image, enhancing creativity, and improving focus.
- Chakki Chalanasana. Sit with legs extended forward and wide, extend the arms to shoulder height and interlace fingers. Circle torso over hips. Inhale as you lean back and exhale as you come forward. This tones the back muscles, abdomen muscles, arm muscles, and opens up the chest and the groin. It also tones uterine muscles and helps in preventing painful menstrual cycles.
- Baddha Konasana. Sit with soles of feet together and knees wide, hinge forward in the hips. This stretches inner thighs and knees, while improving hip and groin flexibility. It helps in intestine and bowel movement, and eases fatigue from long hours of walking or traveling. Through this pose you can also find relief from menstrual cramps and discomfort.
- Yoga Nidra. Also know as yogic sleep, yoga nidra is a type of guided meditation that can be therapeutic. It cultivates relaxed awareness of body, breath, and mind, encouraging all to surrender and to compassionately 'be here now' without judgement.
Prenatal yoga: the focus is to connect to your changing body, connect to growing baby, and take time for self care.
- Malasana. Start standing feet wider than hips with feet angled out at about 45 degrees. Lower hips toward the ground. Hands can come to prayer pose with elbows pushing the knees wide. This opens hips and stretches the low back, a great pose for preparing for birth.
- Chakravakasana. Come to hands and knees, long spine. Extend right leg straight back and left arm forward. Hold for five breaths and repeat on other side. This strengthens the core muscle and helps balance and stability.
- Viparita Karani. Lay on the ground with legs up the wall to reduce leg swelling, rest tired legs and feet, and relieve fatigue.
Postpartum yoga: remember to be gentle, gentle, gentle. The goal is to allow the body to rest and recuperate. (Also note that exercise should be avoided until four to eight weeks after delivery.)
- Setu Bandhasana. Lay on your back, bend knees, and bring heels close to sits bones. Inhale and lift hips, exhale and draw navel in and lower hips. Repeat 10-20 times with breath. This activates core muscles, tones the back, glutes, and abs.
- Supta Badhakonasana. Grab a sturdy pillow and block or a few books and create a 'ramp.' Also grab a sturdy blanket and roll it into a snake-like shape about three feet long and four inches thick. Bring the base of your spine to the bottom of the ramp, soles of the feet together, knees wide. Place the middle of the blanket on top of the feet and tuck the tails in under your shins. Lean back and relax. Stay five to 20 minutes. This posture stretches the groin, opens the chest, and relaxes the spine.
- Gomukasana. Sit comfortably, extend right arm up above head, bend elbow and reach in between shoulder blades with left hand and come up to hold right elbow, hooking the fingers of the right hand. This relieves neck and shoulder pain caused by holding and nursing baby.
- Supta Virasana. Create a ramp with a bolster and block, release sits vine to flirt or prop in between heels and recline spine of provided support. This pose helps hot flashes, opens up the front of the body, and creates a sense of surrender.
- Adho Muhka Svanasana. From a table top pose, tuck toes, press into hands and lift hips up and back. Hand should be shoulder distance or wider, feet hip distance or wider. Micro bend or greater in knees and the spine lengthens. This pose helps memory, supplying the brain with oxygen-fresh blood and lengthens the legs and spine.
- Uttanasana. Stand comfortably with feet hips-distance apart and fold forward at the hips. Allow the torso to dangle. Knees can bend as much as needed. This pose can help ease anxiety, irritability and insomnia.
Whitney Roginski is owner of the Yoga Co-op in Glenwood Springs. A lifetime valley resident, Roginski has practiced yoga for nearly two decades and teaches numerous classes at her studio.