Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fix It With Yoga

Get Toned with Yoga 
Firm up your soft spots with these poses help you strengthen and define the underlying muscles in your arms, back, glutes, abs, and thighs (from Seane Corn, a Los Angeles-based celeb yoga instructor)

Hold each pose for three to five long breaths — or at least 30 seconds.

Move 1 Bear
From downward dog, walk your feet to your hands and separate them a mat's width apart, lining up your feet with the edges of the mat. Bend your knees, aligning them with your hips, bring your torso between your thighs, and extend your arms out in front of you.

Move 2 Kneeling Locust
After two breaths in downward dog, move to all fours. Lift and extend your right arm and left leg, keeping both straight and in line with your flat back. Tighten belly and glutes, then release and switch sides.

Move 3 Forearm Plank Leg Raise
Get back into downward dog, and then lower onto your forearms. Keeping elbows directly under your shoulders, walk your feet back into a low plank. Hips can be slightly lower than shoulders but not higher. Next, tighten your abs and lift your left leg a few inches. Hold and then switch legs.

Move 4 Reverse Chaturanga
From plank, drop your knees and straighten your elbows. Tighten your biceps and triceps and lower your body, keeping your hips level with your shoulders, and hold yourself just inches above the mat. Return to plank in one slow, fluid motion. Repeat five times

Yoga in The Car
Use Yoga to De-Stress Your Morning Commute
Learn how yoga can help you take control of your commute (Paige Greenfield)

If your drive time leaves you feeling tense, it probably leaves your back, spine, and neck feeling like a three-car pile up. Commuting is becoming the most stressful part of our day. Waiting at traffic stop lights makes us uncomfortable and edgy. Not to mention stiff. Too much travel time can do a number on the body from the head to the feet. Zeer suggests using the time you spend sitting in traffic not fuming but decompressing your car cramp (Darrin Zeer, author of Travel Yoga: Stretches for Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and More!)

The jam: Breath
Whether you have a tractor-trailer or a hungry T-rex on your tail, the effect on your breathing is probably the same faster and shallower. Best move aside if possible and let the animal pass. Then reset your nervous system with yogic ocean breaths (ujjayi pranayama), which can be done anytime, anywhere (yes, even while operating a vehicle), and it serve to settle the nervous system almost instantaneously. "Long, slow, deep breaths immediately release tension," Zeer says. Here's how: Close your throat. Inhale up the back of your throat for at least four counts, and then strongly exhale the breath through the nose. The warmth and regularity of these breaths soothes the brain and the body to brace you for any ups and downs during your workday. Practice this breathing technique the second your tush meets the driver seat to prepare yourself for the commute. Then use it again when you turn off the ignition. And make it your go-to tool when traffic ties up. Use at least 5 to 8 rounds of this breathing technique in each of the following tension-curbing exercises.

The jam: Neck
When traffic comes to a standstill, work out the kinks in your neck by slowly rolling your head around in wide circles. Keep your shoulders down and, when you find a tense spot, hold your head there and take five breaths. Let each exhale release some tightness. Roll your head very slow twice to each side.

The jam: Shoulders and chest
While stopped, sit upright with your feet hip-width apart and knees directly over your ankles. Interlace your fingers behind your head and relax your elbows and shoulders so they are limp. With your chest lifted and your chin tucked, stretch your elbows backward. Feel your shoulders loosen and your chest expand. Take five breaths, relax for a few breaths, and repeat. You might even hear a cracking on your exhale.

The jam: Back
When traffic isn't moving, reach your hands overhead. Inhale deeply, and on your exhale, fold your body forward vertebra by vertebra until your arms and upper body are hanging over your thighs (or the steering wheel) like a rag doll. (This works better if you're not driving.) Take five deep breaths. Next time fold forward and grab either elbow with the opposite hand. The weight of your arms will open up your lower back, letting the stretch creep into your hamstrings too. Feel almost weepy with relaxation? Good.

The jam: Hips
Instead of banging the "on" button and answering e-mail with lightning speed when you get to your desk, do a pose while your computer boots. Standing next to a wall for balance, place your right foot against the inside of your left thigh (or calf, if that feels better). Then balance by pressing the foot into the standing leg. To open your hips press the leg of the bent knee backward. It won't go far, but the effort opens both hip joints. If you find your foot sliding down the leg, hold the ankle. Stand tall by lifting your sternum and flattening out your back. Take five deep breaths. Switch sides. Then seize the day.

Get Rid of Cellulite
Learn how yoga exercises can help you get rid of cellulite and burn fat

Besides whipping your leg muscles into sexy shape, yoga can help smooth spongy thighs too. "Cellulite is a symptom of reduced lymph circulation," says Atma JoAnn Levitt, head of the integrative weight-loss program at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. For those of you who skipped biology class, lymph is the bodily fluid that contains white blood cells. Yoga [helps] lymph flow more freely through fatty areas, flushing toxins and reducing cellulite. Inversions, or upside-down poses, like these two are especially good for moving lymph along.

Shoulderstand, modified (ardha salamba sarvangasana)
Lie on your back with your arms by your side. Bend your knees and rock your legs up, bringing your knees to your forehead and placing your hands under your hips to support them. Keeping your elbows on the floor, hold for 8 to 10 breaths. Then slowly release your knees and roll gently back onto the floor. Learn this pose from a teacher before attempting it on your own. Then practice it once every other day.

Plow pose (halasana)
Begin in half shoulderstand (above). Now straighten your legs, extending them back out over your head, and rest your toes on the floor. Straighten your arms on the floor, palms down. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths, before bending your knees back to your forehead and lowering your body down onto the floor.

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