By Janet Ungless
Try this sequence from Yin Yoga instructor Magen Banwart, owner of New York City's MB Fitness Mind Body Connection two to four times a week. "You’ll feel an increased sense of relaxation right after the first stretch,” she says. As weeks pass, your posture will improve. “After practicing for about three months, my clients say, ‘I feel 10years younger!’ And they look it, because they’re so much more flexible.”
Sit on the edge of a folded blanket or cushion, pelvis tilted forward. Bend knees, press the soles of your feet together. Rest hands on feet, let knees drop, and bend forward until you feel a tug in your hips or spine. Hold for one to five minutes.
Targets: Hips, groin, spine (and the ligaments that run along it)
Sit on the edge of a cushion. Bend your left knee as you move the sole of your left foot to the in-side of your right thigh. Inhale, and, as you exhale, place your hands on each side of your leg. Lean forward; hold for twoto five minutes. Switch sides; repeat.
Targets: Hips, lower back, hamstrings
Spinx or Seal
Lying on your stomach, place your forearms on the floor in front of you.
Relax your shoulders, press your arms into the floor, and lift your chest slightly; you will feel gentle pressure in your lower back. If you do not have low back troubles, try a more intense stretch: Lift your chest higher by pressing hands on the floor and straightening your arms. Hold either position for two to five minutes.
Targets: Lower back, spine
Start on your hands and knees. Bend your knees, and push your butt back until you’re sitting on your feet. Then extend arms in front of you, and rest your forehead on the floor. Hold for two to three minutes as you breathe deeply and slowly. This is a resting pose, designed to help the muscles in the back recover from the Sphinx or Seal and other back bends. Use it any time your body needs a break.
Sit on the floor with legs extended. Look down and lean forward, reaching hands toward feet. Grab your lower legs and, if possible, stretch further and gently grasp your ankles or feet. (Bend knees slightly if you feel pressure behind them.) If you’re stiff or have back problems, try this version: Place a pillow on your knees, cross your arms, and place them on the pillow. Look down, lean forward, and rest head on your hands (as shown here). Hold either position for two to five minutes.
Targets: Legs, spine
Lie on your back with legs extended. Bend your left knee to bring it close to
your chest. Move the left knee across your body, and rest it on or near the floor. Extend your left arm along the floor, reach your left hand toward your head, and rest your hand on the floor. Hold for two to three minutes. Switch sides; repeat. To end the sequence, lie on your back, legs extended, with your eyes closed for two to three minutes.
Targets: Spine, hips, shoulders and chest