Yoga Goals: Feel-Good Stretches

Photo: Sarah Kunst

There are few things that do a body good as much as stretching. Most of us don’t pay much attention to our bodies unless something is wrong. We get sick, injured or we don’t like the way our jeans are fitting.

The thing is, our bodies tell us what our minds often ignore. Why do we get sick or injured? Why do we get chronic headaches or back spasms? Why do we feel bloated or sluggish? We push ourselves relentlessly to work harder, stay up later, get more done. We pile on the pressure without giving ourselves a break. We don’t take care of this amazing vessel called our body, the home that houses all our hopes, dreams and the machine that makes it all happen and within our grasp.

WHY STRETCH?

The release.

“Stretching feels so good becuase it makes your body feel ALIVE,” says my go-to yoga guru, Caley Joyner. (You remember Caley from Lead With Your Heart? AloYoga ambassador and all-around amazing human?). “It increases blood flow and releases stress. Our bodies hold a lot of emotions in them. If you don’t have a way of releasing the build-up, it can and will cause your muscles to knot or spasm.”

The mental shift.

When I slow down, I come into my body. I feel stronger. I even feel sexier. Small acts can have big impact. Instead of pushing your body like a workhorse, what if you treated it as something worthy of attention and care. It takes care of you, shouldn’t you take care of it?

TWIST

 

Twists are easy and feel amazing. Keep a tiny bend in the standing knee. Gently press against your raised leg. Rotate from the mid-thoracic spine (the middle of your back), not from your hips. Stretch the entire spine and outer hip of raised leg.

 

REVERSE HAND CAT-COW

 

 

Reach hard-to-get-to-spots. We all know the cat-cow stretch feels great in the back and chest, but when you flip the hand position it stretches your wrists an d forearms–places that hardly ever get released. We spend so much time texting and typing at keyboard, our wrists and forearms hold so much tension. Try it, you’ll be shocked how much tension resides in those places.

Lubricate joints. “Your joints are connections between two bones,” says Caley. “Where synovial fluid lives to create a cushioning effect.” In other words, that brittle feeling you get when you’re stiff? The more you stretch, the more you lubricate your joints, the smoother your movements, the less snap, crackle, pop.

 

PARTNER STRETCH

 

 

Laugh. Working with a partner, a friend or instructor, can help you relax and release even more deeply. Another part of release? To be able to laugh together when you feel silly getting on someone else’s back and adapting your body to another person’s!

Adapt. When there are two of you, your bodies have to support and accommodate each other. It adds another layer of strength, support and flexibility.

Let go. I was nervous to hop onto Caley’s back. Tormented by the age-old female worry, what if I’m too heavy?

“Do you trust me?” Caley asked.

I hopped on. It was initially awkward and I had my share of nervous laughter. But then I relaxed into the stretch, opened my eyes and looked up at the sky. I felt more open than ever.

Open and support. This partner stretch is a great front-body opener. Place your hands on your low back, let your partner gently press against your shoulders and open your chest. Hook arms and ease yourself onto their back.

 

 

SCANDASANA

To get the most out of this side to side hip and growing stretch, keep your heel down on the ground. If your heel comes off the ground, lift your hip a bit higher. It just means you’re a little tighter in the hips. Not wrong or bad. This is exactly why you’re stretching! Channel your inner Bruce Lee and be the centered bad ass that you are. Move side to side as long it feels good!

If you want to understand the magic of Caley, check out her Youtube channel so you can hear her wisdom and move with her. Follow her @caleyalyssa.