Hip openers have many benefits including increased flexibility, range of motion, and mobility. Athletes need hip opening stretches to help them perform better in their sport. Hip opening poses help with digestion and circulation. They also make spines and knees happy because they take some of the pressure off of those areas. Almost every yoga pose (asana) stretches and opens the hips to some degree. The goal is to loosen the hips so that the rest of your body is happy and you can do more physical things (like bending over or sitting on the floor). Remember that hips need stability too, so it is important to find and maintain balance while working on the hip area. Note hips that are too flexible can also hinder athletes and the rest of us.
Shoulder stretches and chest openers have many benefits and also show up often in yoga practice. Stretching the shoulders helps to counteract the effects of hunching over things like computer keyboard and the car steering wheel. Hunching interferes with correct breathing and posture. This is tiring and creates stress. Stretching the shoulders and opening the chest feels good because of improved breathing and posture. These stretches help with more challenging poses. Again, take your time and be gentle with yourself. It’s painful to over do any stretching.
Jamie and I follow a progression from gentle, warming stretches to more complex asana. Our intention is to lead you safely through a satisfying practice. It is important with all yoga asana that you pay attention to your body. We can see the outside and make corrections and suggestions. You feel the inside and know when something is not right for you. It is always okay to modify a pose or stretch to fit the needs of your unique body. It's also always okay to pass.
Poses That Work on Hips & Shoulders
Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise or Svarga Dvidasana is named for the beautiful tropical flower and is all about blooming. We all know that its difficult to get all the way there however it's fun trying and challenges are enjoyable. It works the hips and shoulders and strengthens the legs. It promotes calmness, patience and balance.
Tortoise or Kurmasana is a soothing pose even though it looks pretty impossible. An intense forward fold it works on the hips and shoulders. It tones and stabilizes the spine. Deeply relaxing, it gives the student the opportunity to go inward.
Ardo Mukha Svanasana - Downdog
Gomuhasana - Cowface
Dhanurasana - Bow
Bhujangasana - Cobra
Sukasana - Easy Pose
Low & High Lunge
Wide Legged Forward Fold
Garudasana - Eagle
Virabhadransana - Warrior
Trikonasana - Triangle
Parighasana - Gate
A new study by Harvard University has shown that daily mediation can increase the gray matter in your brain. They looked at 30 minutes a day however other studies show 10 or even one minute can improve your cognitive abilities. Here is a simple way to start your home practice. Its best if you can set up a consistent time in a quiet place for your daily meditation.
Use your imagination to create a place that you can go to for meditation. Consider this a safe place. It can be anything from a mountain trail to a sunny beach or it may just be plain darkness. You can imagine sounds or music (or you can play some). Tell your body to relax. Breathe deeply. Try to breathe in to a slow count of 4 or 5 and to increase your exhalation by a second or more. Repeat to yourself, “I am.” Allow your thoughts to come as they do. Let them go. At first it may be hard to quiet yourself, and after a while you will go to that meditative frame of mind quickly.