Yoga is a multi-dimensional regimen that helps the practitioner physically, mentally, and spiritually. The diverse set of yoga asanas put the body in various planes of motion, resulting in healthier joints, and better posture.
According to Sage Rountree, endurance sports coach, and author of Everyday Yoga based in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, "Yoga can obviously help with flexibility and range of motion. But it can also help build strength, and foster recovery. Put together, the strength and flexibility will help to ward off injuries."
"Yoga helps to stretch and relax muscles to lower the risk of injuries and prevent unhealthy movement patterns that cause wear and tear in our joints," says, Namita Piparaiya, yoga and ayurveda lifestyle specialist, and founder, Yoganama. She lists 4 yoga asanas that help stretch muscles that may give you a sensation of being stiff or tight.
1. Side Bends
Gate Pose and Triangle Pose are very good postures in this category. Triangle Pose helps activate the hamstrings, glutes, TFL, obliques, piriformis, QL, and spinal muscles. It helps better adaptation of the muscles for functional movement
How to do the Triangle Pose
* Stand straight with your legs apart. The distance between your legs should be a little more than the span of your shoulders.
* Inhale. Raise your right hand straight above your head. The right arm should be parallel to the right ear.
* Exhale. Bend your torso at the waist, to your left side.
* Simultaneously, slide your left arm down along your left leg till your fingers are at your ankle.
* At this point, your right arm must be horizontal as your head is tilted left.
* Hold the pose with your knees and elbows straight. Hold the position for 30 seconds.
* Inhale. Straighten yourself and stand erect. Repeat the posture on the other side.
2. Single Leg Balances
It's important to work on the balance to keep cognitive skills sharp and prevent injuries from falls. Warrior III and Half Moon Pose are two poses that help. Warrior III engages the Gluteus Maximus and the Half Moon Pose engages Gluteus Medius. This makes them
especially relevant for those who spend a lot of time sitting down.
How to do:
* Stand in mountain pose (tadasana) with your feet hip-distance apart, hands by your sides, palms facing forward
* Shift your weight onto your right foot and lift your left heel toward your butt, bending your left knee
* Reach your left hand behind you to grab the outside of your left foot or ankle. Be sure to keep your hips square and your chest lifted
* Lift your left foot up and back so that your left thigh and left arm are parallel to the floor
* Raise your right arm at your side with your fingers pointing to the ceiling
* Hold for two to three breaths before bringing your left foot back down to the ground. Repeat the same movement on the other side.
There are many backbends in yoga – and you can choose any of those as per your comfort and capacity. Some foundational backbends are Cobra, Locust, Camel and Bow Pose. Backbends are by nature invigorating and compensate for the modern-day tendency to slouch. The Wheel Pose also strengthens the posterior deltoids which tend to become underactive and result in rounded shoulders.
How to do the Camel Pose
* Stand on your knees, hip-width apart, and tuck in your toes
* Engage your inner thighs, draw your lower belly in and up, and roll your shoulders back
* On an inhalation, lift the chest up
* With the lower body stable, on an exhale start to come into your backbend keeping the chest lifted and without crunching the neck or lower back
* As you lean back, find your blocks or heels with your hands – or you can do this one side at a time by circling one arm up and behind you
* Keep your inner thighs engaged, firm the shoulder blades into the back and stay for a couple of breaths
* Use your inhalation to help you come back up, then sit on your heels with a neutral spine for a moment.
4. Bridge Pose
This is another asana important for posture as it engages the back (posterior chain). It can be easily modified for specific gains. For example, a single leg bridge helps you strengthen the glute medius. By walking your feet slightly ahead and performing it on your heels you make
the hamstrings more dominant. By keeping the feet flat and closer to the body and moderately squeezing the glutes as you lift up, you awaken these large muscles that tend to become dormant. Another excellent modification is to hold a block or a ball between the knees, which engages the VMO – a critical muscle for stabilizing the knee and preventing injuries.
How to do the Bridge Pose
* Lying on your back, bend both knees and place the feet flat on the floor hip width apart. Slide the arms alongside the body with the palms facing down. The fingertips should be lightly touching the heels
* Press the feet into the floor, inhale and lift the hips up, rolling the spine off the floor. Lightly squeeze the knees together to keep the knees hip width apart
* Press down into the arms and shoulders to lift the chest up. Engage the legs, buttocks and mula bandha to lift the hips higher
* Breathe and hold for 4-8 breaths
* To release: exhale and slowly roll the spine back to the floor.