When you're next on 'the mat' cast all worries and troubles aside for a moment and imagine you are on a quiet beach where you can see the calm blue sea, hear the waves gently lapping over the shore and feel the warmth of the golden orange sunshine, penetrating every part of your body.
Imagining this beautiful place, brings you into your own safe refuge where you can reconnect with yourself, simply enjoy the luxury of being in the moment, feel the sensations in the body as the breath takes you deeper into the stretch and slowly respond and surrender yourself as the body gradually begins to unwind.
Give yourself an opportunity to feel happy and alive as you gently move through four yoga poses to refresh, restore and deeply connect your body inside and out.
Restoring from Within
In plough pose - Halasana, the mind, emotions and internal organs are all stimulated.
When we are using our breath to sustain the posture it can help to purify and clarify thoughts, ideas, notions and feelings that perhaps we hadn't tuned into before. Going upside down helps to give us a sense of reality about what's going on in our life and perhaps in that moment to see things from a different perspective.
As we hinge backwards from the waist, bringing the hips above the shoulders the heart has a rest and the brain gets a boost. Take a moment to raise your heart above your head, breathe and relax into the posture. Allow yourself to be absorbed into the flow of your breath for a few minutes.
Unwinding All The Parts
In seated forward bend - Paschimottanasana the body hinges from the waist into a seated forward bend.
This is a strong pose as it stretches the spine and massages the internal organs, especially the digestive system.
The body folds almost in half in this posture so its important not to force the upper body forward, instead keep the back straight and bring the chest down towards the knees while the head is in line with the spine and the gaze is towards the feet. It's not how far you can go in this pose, rather how far you can withdraw into your senses.
As you settle with the breath the muscles begin to release as the fascia - connective tissue unwinds. After three or four breaths the physical element of the pose begins to desolve and the body moves into a level of lightness as the mind settles with the stillness.
Holding the posture for eight to ten breaths and using the exhalation to go deeper will enhance the benefits of this posture. A truly relaxing and great feel good factor posture.
Invigorate to Refresh
For wide leg forward bend -Prasarita Padottanasana the body folds forward from a wide leg standing point with a firm foundation through the feet.
This is an invigorating posture, bringing vitality to the spine by releasing tension, refreshing the body, mind and spirit. When we allow our head to hang loose and the neck to release we can really give in to the pose and feel the tension tumbling out from the crown of the head.
It strengthens and stretches the back, inner thighs and hamstrings. There are several arm variations and modifications, such as interlaced hands with arms behind the back, hands holding the ankles and classically forearms on the floor either side of the head.
Its so important to use the breath to take the upper body towards the floor, taking inspiration on the in-breath, engaging the abdominal muscles by sucking the belly towards the spine and up into the diaphragm. Then on the out breath travelling forward towards the floor. The pose can be used to prepare the body for other inversions and meditation.
Whole Body Rejuvenation
Downward facing dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana is known as a transition pose that provides the ultimate in an all-over rejuvenating stretch.
Down Dog is one of the key poses used in traditional sun salutations and throughoout vinyasa practice but is also an excellent asana all on it's own. Often used as a recovery pose during vinyasa flow it allows the body a moment to rest with the breath while transitioning between other poses.
As one of the most commonly practiced of all yoga poses it is blessed with many benefits - opens the backs of the legs, elongates the spine, brings awareness to the breath facilitating relase and relaxation, reinvigorates and opens the chest and strengthens the arms.
Making the connection with ourselves through the breath in these four poses gives us an introduction to a more mindful approach to yoga. We can appreciate that these asanas can be vital wellbeing tools when regularly practiced every day.
However the one most single posture that has so many health benefits, and deserves to be so much more than a