It can be hard to practice yoga at home. At the studio, there’s no computer calling your name, or chores begging to be attended to. So don’t make it a big deal! Doing a few simple poses at home (or work) can greatly compliment classes at the studio. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
#1: Legs up against the wall
Find a little bit of wall space (or a closed door) and send your legs up the wall, lying on the floor. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily need to be as close to the wall as possible to find a good stretch. If you’ve got tight hamstrings, or a tight low back, keeping a little bit of distance between you and the wall can do wonders. If that proves to be difficult, or no wall space is available, you can also prop your calves up on the seat of a chair/couch to achieve a gentle variation of this stretch. This pose can be very refreshing and relaxing. Consider using it as an alternative to a power nap!
#2: Standing quadriceps stretch
Reach back for one foot, and grab ahold of your ankle. If balancing on one foot is difficult, feel free to steady yourself with your free hand. One of the natural tendencies when beginning a balancing pose is to hold your breath, so make sure you’re breathing deep while holding the stretch. This pose gets into a big muscle group that we demand a lot from, but don’t always give enough attention to. If you can manage to gently tuck the tailbone, as you drag the knee back, you’ll also be able to stretch into hip flexors as well.
#3: Standing forward fold
Start with your feet hip distance or together, and with an exhale try to fold forward with a long spine before reaching your hands to the ground (or chair, or blocks!). If you feel a stretch mostly behind your knees, consider bending them, which will move the stretch into the hamstrings rather than the tendons behind the knee. It can also help any low back discomfort to exit and enter the pose in a small way. When ready, with an inhale, stand partially back up, and on the exhale re-enter the pose. An added benefit of this pose is no equipment is required and it can be done in a small space.
#4: Shoulder Stretch – Hands behind the back with interlaced fingers
Reach your hands behind your back, and interlace your fingers. If possible, try to press your palms together flat, and if this is difficult, gently bend the elbows. After pressing palms together consistently, try to bring hands a little lower behind you. You can also stick your sternum out, and gently tilt your chin up. This stretch is great if you spend a lot of time at a desk, or in a chair. Broadening the shoulders, opening up along the collarbone, don’t forget to emphasize the inhale here to encourage a deeper stretch.
#5: Crocodile Pose
This pose isn’t quite a stretching asana, but it still has value to offer. Lie face down on the floor, bringing your hands together, palms down, to create a little pillow for your forehead. Then spread out your feet behind you, a bit wider than your hips. The purpose behind this is to encourage diaphragmatic breathing. By spreading our ribs and hips, the breath naturally goes to the belly, and using the weight of our body as resistance can help enable a deeper breath. This strengthens our diaphragm to encourage better breathing for your typical practice, and is an easy relaxation technique.