You guys don’t need me to tell you all about the benefits of yoga; that the practice improves flexibility, balance and strength is common knowledge at this point. But did you know that the exercise can also work wonders for your posture (which some might say, could better your life overall)? It’s amazing what all those chest-opening asanas can do to combat the damage we do hunched over our devices, and today, Kate Waitzkin is here with her posture prescription. Click through for a 10 minute sequence to ward off that dreaded computer slouch.
photography by molly winters; instructions and tutorial by kate waitzkin; location mod fitness; outfit from outdoor voices; featured image source
Supported Heart Opener
Place one block on the highest level toward the back edge of your mat, the second block about 8 inches in front of the first block on the middle height.
Sit about one foot away from the lowest block with your back towards the blocks. Carefully, lower down onto your forearms and place your upper back onto the lower block so that the bottom tips of your shoulder blades are in contact with the block. Lay your head back so that the back of your head is supported by the highest block. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-distance apart.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply and stay here for 3 minutes. To come out of the pose, carefully roll over to one side and press yourself up to sit.
Sit in a cross-legged position. If you have difficulty sitting up straight comfortably, with your spine long, place a folded blanket or a block under your seat.
Place your left hand on your right knee and bring your right hand behind you like a kick stand. Inhale, lengthen up through your spine as you lift up through the crown of your head. Exhale and begin to twist your torso to the right. Start the twist with your belly and gradually move up the length of the spine with each breath. Inhale to lengthen, exhale to rotate more deeply. Let your head be the very last thing to turn.
Stay here for 5 deep breaths. Release the twist. Take a few breaths in center, then repeat on the opposite side, twisting towards the left.
Sit with your knees bent and your feet in front of you hip-distance apart. Place your hands behind you with your fingertips pointing towards your hips. Spread your fingers wide and press your palms well into the mat. Slightly bend your elbows straight back as you strongly lift your chest. Stay here for 5 deep breaths, then release. Repeat this position twice more or consider moving on to the following stages.
Set up the same way you did for Stage 1. Take a few breaths with your palms pressing well into the mat and your chest lifted. On your next inhale, begin to lift your hips until they come in line with your knees making a tabletop position with your torso and thighs. Strongly and evenly root your hand and your feet into the mat as you lift your chest and your hips. Thread your tailbone towards the back of your knees so the lower back lengthens and the lower abdominals gently engage. Keep your gaze down towards your navel. Stay for 5 deep breaths, then slowly bend your elbows straight back and lower your hips gently to the mat. Rest for a few breath. Repeat this position or consider moving on to the final stage.
Start from the position in Stage 1. Keeping your chest lifted, stretch your legs out in front of you bringing your feet together. Press your hands firmly into the mat and lift your hips towards the sky just as you did in Stage 2, though this time your legs will be straight. Spread your toes and strongly press your big toe mounds and pinky toe mounds towards the floor. Keep your gaze towards your navel or, if you have a healthy neck, consider lengthening the crown (top) of your head towards the wall behind you. Maintaining this length in the back of the neck, slowly take your gaze up towards the ceiling and back towards the wall behind you. Stay for 3 – 5 breaths. To come out of the pose, slowly lower your hips first and then bring your head back into its natural position.
Come to kneel on your hands and knees. Bring your hands directly under your shoulders with your wrist creases parallel to the front edge of your mat and your knees directly under your hips. Spread your fingers and press evenly through all four corners of your palms. Step your right foot back until your leg is straight with your toes tucked under. Inhale here and on your next exhale, gently engage your lower belly as you step your left foot back. Make sure your feet are hip-distance apart.
Look slightly forward of your mat, but keep the back of the neck long. Push the floor away from you with your palms and engage the front plane of the body drawing your lower belly up and in towards your spine and lifting your thighs and your shins energetically toward the ceiling. Gently draw the center of the chest forward between the arm bones and charge back through your heels. At any point, feel free to lower the knees for added support.
Stay here for 5 – 10 breaths then lower the knees and press back into Child’s Pose.
Downward Facing Dog
Start in a plank pose to find the appropriate distance between your hands and feet in Downward Facing Dog.
Inhale in plank and on your next exhale, press into your hands and lift your hips up and back. There is a tendency to want to shorten your “dog”, but try to resist that urge and enjoy the length and opening that this stance and pose affords.
Press your palms evenly in to the mat, gently hug your outer upper arms in towards your ears and soften the side of your neck. Continue to lift your hips up and away from your shoulders. If you feel any pulling or strain in the lower back, bend your knees. Otherwise, press your thighbones strongly back towards the wall behind you and ground your heels down towards the floor (they do not need to touch the ground!).
Stay here for 5 – 10 breaths. To release out of the pose, bend your knees to the ground and press back into Child’s Pose.
Come to lay flat on your belly and prop yourself up onto your forearms. Bring your elbows directly under your shoulders and your hands in line with your elbows – your forearms should be parallel to the long edges of your mat. Make sure your feet are hip-distance apart and press the tops of your feet down into the mat. Gently roll your inner thighs open toward the ceiling and lengthen your tailbone down towards your heels – this will help to lengthen your lower back. Reach strongly back through your toes. Begin to draw your lower belly in and up away from the floor. Maintain this and energetically drag your hands and forearms back in space (they will not move!) as you encourage your sternum forward and up. Do your best to keep the tops of your shoulders and your neck soft. Stay here for 5 – 10 breaths then spread your elbows out to the side and make a pillow with your hands, resting your forehead down. Direct your breath into your low back and relax your legs.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-distance apart and parallel. Allow your arms to rest down alongside your body. Bring awareness to your feet and gently press down through all four corners of your feet (big toe mound, pinky toe mound, inner and outer heel). Turn your palms to face the floor. Begin to engage your lower belly and lengthen your tailbone away from your lower back and then slowly lift your hips up and away from the floor.
Carefully begin to wrap your right shoulder then your left shoulder underneath your body. If it is available to you, interlace your hands or keep the palms flat down. Allow your inner thighs to soften towards the floor and continue to thread your tailbone away from your lower back (towards the back of your knees). Root down through your upper arms and lift your chest towards your chin. Keep your chin moving slightly away from your chest.
Stay here for 5 – 10 breaths. Release the clasp of your hands, untuck your shoulders and gently roll down one vertebrae at a time. Rest your hands on your belly, close your eyes and take a few breaths observing the energetic effects of this pose.
Shoulder Stretch in Hero Pose
Place your block in the center of your mat. Come to a kneeling position with your knees together and your feet on the outer edges of the block. Bring your hands to your calf muscles and gently pull the calf muscles straight back to make more space behind the knee. Maintain this as you come to sit back onto the block, then remove your hands. If you feel any pain or discomfort in the knees, sit on a second block. This shoulder stretch can also be done sitting on the edge of a chair or in a cross-legged seat, so please support yourself as necessary.
Take your left arm straight out the the side. Bend your right (top) elbow and bring your hand toward the middle of the upper back. Bend your left elbow and reach your left hand up to meet your right. If you are able to clasp hands without using the strap, do so. Otherwise, hold a strap with both hands. Bring your chin parallel to the floor. Stretch up through your right elbow and roll your left shoulder open/back. Keep your front ribs gently drawing back/in towards the spine and your simultaneously lifting.
Stay here for 10 breaths then gently release on an exhale. Rest your hand on your thighs for a few breaths, then repeat on the second side.
From Kate: “I learned this from my teacher, Jenny Aurthur, and I love to put on the “jet pack” when I have to sit at my computer for extended periods of time.”
Step 1: Place the center of your strap around your back so it grazes the bottom tips of your shoulder blades.
Step 2: Bring the long ends of the strap forward underneath your armpits and loop each side of the strap over the tops of your shoulders so the long ends of the strap are hanging straight down behind you.
Step 3: Crisscross the long ends of the strap so they create an X shape across your upper back. You should be holding the left side strap in your right and and the right side strap in your left hand.
Step 4: Bring the remaining length of the strap around your side waist to the front of your body and either tie the ends together or if you are using the yoga belt, loop the strap and tighten it.
Note: You want the strap to be snug enough that it holds your shoulders into the proper alignment, but not so tight that you feel constricted. Stay for as long as you are comfortable!
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