Yoga when you’re not so bendy isn’t always a lot of fun. In class you’re surrounded by a sea of flexible bodies, yet you struggle to get your own body into the correct positions, let alone feel the strengthening effect yoga is supposed to have on your muscles. When we become more flexible, yoga is the most beneficial – you can move in ways which help you build muscle so it becomes less of a stretch session and more of a workout. But what if we told you there was a way to get strength from yoga, without having to be super stretchy? Don’t worry, these poses will still increase your flexibility.
This one sounds simple, and it is. But it’s a great way to start of your session to connect your mind to your body. With your feet together, stand tall and your eyes closed. Let your arms hang by your side but keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Stay here for 4-6 deep breaths, taking it your audible surroundings and tuning into how each limb and muscle feels.
With your feet hip width apart and your heels lowering into the ground as much as possible, press your palms into the ground. Lift your hips up towards the ceiling using your lower abs. You should feel this kicking into those lower abs and a long stretch across your hamstrings and calves. Make sure your spine I straight and on a diagonal. For a more active downward dog, press your right heel down to the floor, then as you release it, press your left heel down – and repeat.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and send your arms into the air, palms touching. Moving with your backside first, move as if you were about to sit down on a chair. You’ll only be able to go so far – the aim isn’t to end up in a squat position! Make sure your tail bone is tucked under and your spine is straight. Hold this for 4-6 breaths.
This is the classic yogi position, but the good news is you don’t have to be super stretchy for it – tree pose uses strength and balance. Standing on one leg with your body straight, draw the other leg upwards. Your non-supporting knee should be bent outwards towards the side, not in front of you. To balance when you move, draw the big toe of the elevated leg up the inside of your calf and inner thigh. Stop where it feels comfortable, but you are still having to balance and concentrate. Hold this for as long as you can before switching legs.
Lie on your back with your feet firmly on the floor and your knees bent. Starting with your tail bone, move your spine upwards one vertebrate at a time, until your weight is on your feet and your shoulders. Your spine should be straight – don’t let your lower back sag or over extend. Hold this for 4-6 breaths before coming down one vertebrate at a time, but in the opposite direction.
This is a good one to do from downward dog. When in the downward position, kick one leg through so the foot is in between your hands (or as far forward as you can get it). Make sure your back foot is at a 90° angle to your leg. Your back leg should be straight and your front leg bent. Once balanced, lift your upper body so it is sitting comfortably on your hips. Your arms should be stretched over both legs, so your body is facing inwards.
The plank pose in yoga is a bit different to the conventional one with your forearms on the floor. It’s the same sort of idea with your body straight, toes tucked under, your bum and pelvis tucked in. The only difference is that your palms press into the floor directly beneath your shoulders and your arms are locked out. Engage your abs to ensure you keep your spine straight and don’t hurt your lower back.