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If a class simply can’t squeeze into your day, there are still ways to fit a little yoga practice into your schedule. Here are seven poses that you can do, day or night, to get a good stretch and a moment of zen.*
#1 — Standing Side Bend
Whether you just woke up, or got up from your desk for the first time in hours, a good move to lean into (literally) is a standing side bend. Raise your hands up over your head, with your palms touching and fingers pointing up to the sky. Slowly bend to one side, reaching up, engaging your core and glutes, breathing slowly. Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the ground and hold for 5–10 seconds (as long as is comfortable) and then switch sides. Repeat as often as you like.
#2 — Standing Forward Fold
Take a bow, because you’re awesome! No, but really, it’s great to stop and take a bow, or practice standing forward fold, a couple times a day just to keep blood running throughout your body and to recenter yourself. From standing (mountain pose), bend at the waist, bringing your hands to the floor. Keep your body loose, and bend your knees if it helps you bring your palms closer to the floor. The goal is to get your face near your knees. When you come out of the pose, do it slowly, rolling up so that your head comes up last. Breath calmly and steadily throughout.
#3 — Downward Dog
We all know how good this feels, especially after a long night’s sleep, or a long day at the office. It’s best to get into this position from table pose, so start on your hands and knees. Then, tucking your toes under your feet, and spreading your fingers wide, push your hips up and reach through your tailbone. Be careful not to lock your arms, and remember to let your head hang loosely. This is all about finding a comfortable place to just be and breathe, so pay attention to your form and hang out here for a while.
#4 and #5 — Cat and Cow
Cat and cow poses are so connected that they could even be considered one pose — we always like to do them together to stretch out our back muscles. Starting in table pose, glide into cat pose, first, by rounding your back as you tuck your tailbone in, and lower your head. Engage your abdominal muscles, picturing a string pulling your belly button through your back and up to the ceiling, lifting you higher. Breathe into this pose, then release for cow. Lift your head and tailbone, letting your back gently round downward. Remember — you are not forcing your back to bend, here, but letting it happen naturally as you work to lift your head and tailbone up at the same time.
#6 — Cobra
While we’re talking about our favorite poses named for animals, let’s give a shout-out to Cobra pose. Open your chest and stretch your shoulder muscles by lying on your stomach, then pushing off the ground with your hands. The tops of your feet should lay flat on the ground, and your eyes should rest on the horizon, not look up.
#7 — Seated Forward Fold
The back of your body needs love, too! And if you need a moment of peace, seated forward fold (sometimes called seated forward bend) is a great way to stretch and destress, simultaneously. Simply sit with your legs extended, then bend at your hips, lowering your torso forward, stretching your arms out so that your hands rest upon (or near) your toes and feet. Over time, you want to get your stomach and chest to lay flat against your legs, but ease into it when practicing this pose solo, without the warm-up a class provides.
Remember, a class has been designed to warm you up and ease you into every pose, making sure your body is ready for what’s next. When you practice the poses individually, out of context of a course, please be gentle with yourself and don’t force it. You’re looking for a stretch that feels good — we don’t want you to get hurt by diving into downward dog.
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