By Barrie Risman
You’re likely aware of, or perhaps have experienced first-hand, the benefits of yoga to help prevent injury, sharpen balance and agility, and improve functionality in movement.
But there’s so much more to yoga than the physical benefits of the postures. Yoga honors the elements of nature – the earth, water, and sky – as part of a conscious, intelligent, and fundamentally interconnected whole.
As you practice these yoga poses, see how they can support not only your body, but also your mind and spirit. Imagine that you’re maintaining the stability of the earth as you strengthen your legs. Embody the fluidity of water as you stretch your hips. Feel the freedom of the sky as you open your chest. Use your yoga to help you fully savor the beauty and power of nature.
- Standing Thigh Stretch
Stand on one foot, using a tree for balance if you need, and grab the other foot in your hand behind you. Gently lengthen your knee down towards the ground for a simple quad stretch. Lengthen your tailbone down and lift your chest up. Hold for 3 breaths and switch sides.
- Figure 4
This pose stretches the outer hips and glutes that tend to tighten up while hiking. Hold onto something nearby, like a tree, if you feel unsteady.
Cross your right ankle over your left knee to create a figure four with your legs. Keeping your right foot flexed, move your hips back and slightly bend your left knee as you sit back as if sitting in a chair. Keep your chest open and spine straight, as you stretch the right side of your hips. Hold for 7-10 breaths on each side.
- Half Downward-Facing Dog pose
I like this even better than the full version when I’m hiking. Stretching back away from the hands with the spine roughly parallel to the ground creates traction along the spine that feels wonderful.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart on your car, a bench or any surface that is about the height of your hips. Walk back away from your hands until your arms are straight and your spine is roughly parallel to the ground. Keeping your knees bent as much as you need to in order to make your back straight, stretch your hips and lengthen your spine back away from your hands. To come out, look forward, walk your feet toward your hands, and slowly stand up.
- Pyramid Pose
This yoga pose is great for stretching your hamstrings and calves, which helps to relieve any tightness that can build up while you’re hiking. Step your left foot back about 3 feet and angle your left toes about 45 degrees. Place your hands on your hips. Keep your hips facing forward as you hinge at the hips to slowly fold forward over your right leg. Bend your front knee as needed to place your hands on the ground besides your ankle or on your shin. Relax your forehead towards your front shin. Hold for 5-7 breaths and repeat on the other side.
- Wide-Legged Forward Bend with a shoulder stretch
Step your feet wide apart with your toes pointing straight ahead. Lengthen your torso up, roll the tops of your arms back, and interlace your fingers behind your back. Engage the shoulder blades onto the back of your ribcage. Inhale to lift and open your chest. Broaden your collarbones. Exhale fold forward. Stretch your arms overhead, and move the wrists toward the floor. Take a few breaths.
Release the clasp of your hands and place your fingertips on the floor. Walk your feet slightly together, take your hands to your hips, lift your shoulders away from the floor, lengthen your spine forward and lift your chest to come up to standing. Step your feet together. Take a few breaths and check in with your body and your intention of self-honoring.
Barrie Risman is an internationally-recognized yoga educator based in Sutton. She’s the author of Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for Enlightened Practice and the proud creator of The Skillful Yogi, an online, global community of inspired teachers and continuing students dedicated to deepening their practice at barrierisman.com. Catch her book signing and free yoga class at Sutton’s Roundtop Bagel shop on Sunday, July 14 from 9-11a.m.