Traveling much this summer? "Stretch out the muscles that cramp up from sitting for too long and relieve the upper back from poor posture,” says yogi Lisa Sanfilippo. Try these moves:
Standing Big Toe Extension
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Stand up tall, arms by your sides. Bend your right knee and clasp your big toe with your right thumb, index and middle fingers. Place your left hand on your hip for support. Relax your shoulders and begin to extend your right leg straight out in front of you. Extend your leg as far as you can without losing your grip or straining your shoulders. Keep your hips level and lift your chest tall while gazing slightly past your lifted big toe. Keep the leg you’re standing on straight. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Lisa Sanfilippo says: “You’re getting the muscles to hug towards the bone, which brings more blood flow into the musculature.”
Begin by kneeling with your knees and feet hip-width apart and the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Keep your pelvis over your knees, your tailbone down and your lower belly lifted. Bring your hands to your heart in the prayer position, roll your shoulders back and hug your elbows in. Curl your chest open by kneeling back, but keep your hips over your knees. When you can’t curl your chest back any further, release your arms and grab your heels. You can also touch them with your fingertips. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
Sanfilippo says: “You’re working against gravity, opening up your shoulders and the upper part of the spine. Your chest is lifted, which feels very expansive in the lungs.”
Begin on all fours. Place your forearms on the mat, shoulder-width apart. Curl your toes under and lift your hips up. Straighten your legs and walk as far as you can toward your hands, keeping your shoulders directly over your elbows. Relax your neck and gaze just slightly forward.
Sanfilippo says: “Downward Dog is a beginner’s variation.”
Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Lift the right leg up into the air and rotate your hip open as you bend your knee. Pivot toward the outside edge of your left foot as you spiral your chest and pelvis to face the ceiling. Drop your right foot onto the floor behind you, landing on your foot or just the ball of your foot. Arch your chest and lift your right arm up. Extend it behind your head, with its inner side turning toward the floor. Lift your hips and let your head hang. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Return to Downward Facing Dog and repeat on the opposite side.
Sanfilippo says: “You’re balancing on your hands, and doing a backbend, which is both energizing and stabilizing.”
Legs up the wall
Begin seated, perpendicular to a wall. Bend your knees and lie back on the floor. Pivot your torso and extend your legs up the wall so your hips and the entire length of the back of your legs rest against the wall. You can use a strap to tie your feet together so your legs can relax even further. Let your arms rest next to you, palms up, or bend your elbows at right angles. You can stay in this pose anywhere from five to 15 minutes.
Sanfilippo says: “This is suitable for all levels. Just getting your legs up the wall brings good oxygen flow into the lungs, into the throat. where the thyroid and the parathyroid are — both instrumental in the hormonal regulation of sleep.”
Many of the poses in this sequence are intermediate to advanced. Please adapt when necessary and seek guidance from a qualified teacher.
For more yoga sequences, check out The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga.