How Yoga Benefits Your Body through Five Simple Stretches

How Yoga Benefits Your Body through Five Simple Stretches

Laurie head shotPosted by Laurie Fanelli, guest blogger

It’s tough to find time to go to the gym, let alone a weekly fitness class, but there are several moves you can do right in the comfort of your home to help you prepare for the day ahead. From strength to stillness, Mayo Clinic suggests stretching can help improve flexibility and range of motion while increasing blood flow to your muscles. To me, it’s a great way to start the day.

Most of these yoga benefits are enjoyed right from the floor, so be sure to lay out a yoga mat or towel before getting started in the morning.outdoor yoga has benefits

Also, check out Angela’s three breathing techniques to learn more about this yoga essential. And remember, it is always best to check in with your physician before starting any new exercise routine.

Neck Stretches

seated yoga pose

Waking up stiff and sore isn’t pleasant, but some light stretching can help you shake off even the worst crick before it hampers your mobility during the day. To begin this stretch, sit on the floor cross-legged. Make sure your back is straight and your head is facing the center of your body. Take a few breaths to relax, and as you exhale, rotate your head to look over your right shoulder. Hold this pose for a few more breaths, return to the center, and repeat on your left side.

Modification: If you’re unable to sit cross-legged on the ground, you can also perform this neck stretch while sitting up straight in a sturdy chair.

Cat Stretch

Cat Stretch is a great way to loosen your spine as you focus on deep breathing. Start on your hands and knees with your back straight. Hollow your back and lift your head up as you inhale. Then lift your back up (like a frightened cat) and drop your head down as you exhale.

Modification: If you have wrist pain, drop down to your elbows instead. If your knees are sore, place a soft towel under them as you perform this pose.

Downward-Facing Dog

get yoga benefits from downward dog pose

Downward-Facing Dog offers some of my favorite yoga benefits, because it allows you to stretch your back and calves while strengthening your arms at the same time. Start on your hands and knees, inhale as you straighten your legs, and exhale as you lift your hips up into the point of a triangle. Slowly place your heels on the floor, and you should feel a gentle stretch in your calves. Place your head down so your body is in the shape of a V. Hold for several breaths and gently return to your hands and knees.

Modification: This move can be a bit tricky your first time, but you can achieve some of the same stretches with a Sitting Forward Bend. To do this, sit up straight on the floor with your legs outstretched. Inhale as you slowly reach your hands over your head, exhale as you lean your body forward, and move your hands to touch the furthest part of your legs within a comfortable range.

Warrior 1

The Warrior Pose is a cornerstone of yoga, as it represents both strength and stillness. Start with your feet about four feet apart and raise your arms until they’re even with the floor. Turn your right foot out to a 90-degree angle, and gently turn your head, arms, and torso to the right. Then, bend your knee 90 degrees as well. Hold this position for several breaths, return to the center, and repeat on the left side.

Modification: Don’t worry if your legs feel strained; simply lessen the distance between your feet, bringing them closer together until you feel more comfortable. The important thing is to make sure your knee doesn’t drift over your toes, as this could put added pressure on the knee joint.

Full Body Stretch

As the name suggests, the Full Body Stretch loosens the muscles in your back, legs, and arms. Lie on your back with your feet extended and your arms at your side. Inhale, and slowly lift your arms over your head until they reach the floor behind you. Relax this stretch and exhale. As you inhale again, focus the stretch on your right side, then exhale and relax. Inhale, stretch the left side, and repeat.

Modification: If the stretch is too intense with your arms on the floor, place a large pillow at the top of your head, on which you can rest your arms just above the ground.

What are some of your favorite morning stretches? Drop us a line in the comments, or share your advice with us on Twitter through #GoodMatters.

Image sources: Wikimedia Commons | Wikimedia Commons | Wikimedia Commons

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