This post was originally written for TLC! Check it out here: http://www.tlc.com/tlcme/five-yoga-poses-you-can-do-anywhere/
I normally practice yoga at home in Brooklyn or at a nearby local studio. But I did all these poses while traveling in California! These specific poses were chosen and done after a 3-hour car ride from Lake Tahoe back to Sacramento...and before getting on a plane for 5 more hours! Uffda!
1. Side Bend / Standing Crescent Pose
We don't often pay attention to the side seams of our bodies, but even a minute's worth of stretching here can feel so good and leave you feeling taller, lighter, and literally breathing easier. This standing crescent pose encourages the intercostal muscles located in between the ribs (aka our breathing muscles) to gently open to facilitate calm and easy breathing.
How to do it:
Raise both arms up and overhead.
Circle your right wrist with your left thumb and index finger.
Reach up even higher through your right fingertips while keeping both feet firmly grounded on the floor.
Hold this pose while taking three deep inhales and exhales.
Gently bring your arms back down and then repeat to the second side.
2. Standing Forward Bend / Uttanasana
Somedays it might feel like you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders--and you probably are! This pose can help you find a few moments of relief. In this forward bend you will stretch the backs of your legs and release tension in your back, shoulders, and neck. This pose also promotes a calming of the nervous system and can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Go slowly as you explore this one. Being in this pose might not be comfortable for everyone, so be mindful of how you feel along the way.
How to do it:
Stand with your feet about hips width distance apart.
Bend your knees and hinge forward bending at the hips.
Fully release the muscles of your neck and tops of the shoulders.
Keep your knees bent as much as you need to so that your hamstring muscles don't feel strained. You can gradually begin to straighten the legs, but only if that feels good.
Somedays I like to place my hands on the floor (or let them hover), but grabbing opposite elbows with my palms helps me to further release effort in my shoulders.
Try gently nodding your head yes, no, maybe.
Take a deep inhale through your nose, and release the breath through an open mouth sigh on the exhale. Stay for five deep breaths.
Gently roll up yourself up to standing upright. Take a moment in stillness before moving on to the next pose or to whatever demands the world has next for you!
3. Seated Twist
Twists can actually help you find your center. Physically, twists help you maintain a healthy range of motion in your spine and promote healthy digestion. Gentle twists can also help to bring balance to the nervous system.
This twist can be done in many locations, including from your desk, at a table, or even standing up. Just don't try this too soon after eating!
How to do it:
Start facing forward and place your heels under your knees and sit upright. Keep your sit bones even on the chair and hips and shoulders level.
Begin to twist from your low abdomen and then rotate your ribs and chest.
One hand can come to the outside of the thigh and the other to the back of the chair for support.
Feel yourself getting taller on each inhale, and gently twisting into the pose on each exhale.
Stay for a few breaths on each side.
4. Figure 4 Stretch / Pigeon Pose
We rely on the muscles of the outer hips for mobility and stability, but this area of the body can also feel overused after sitting for a long period of time. Low back tension is also often related to tight outer hip muscles, so taking a few minutes to stretch them can bring relief to many areas in the body. This pose can be done standing or seated. Try them both to see which you prefer.
Lift one leg high enough to place the ankle on top of the opposite thigh.
Keep the top foot flexed to help protect the knee joint.
Start with your spine upright. Slowly bending forward will deepen the stretch.
Don't forget to breathe!
Stay for up to a minute before switching legs.
5. Legs Up the Wall or Chair / Viparita Karani
Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani) is often called The Great Rejuvenator for its ability to reset and subtly energize our systems without effort or stimulation. Perfect for after a long day on your feet!
Sit with one side of your body up close to the wall or chair.
Come on to your back as you take your legs up.
Adjust the distance between your hips and the wall or chair so that the backs of your legs can do no effort to support you.
Take the arms wide to create space across your chest and shoulders.
Stay for 2-5 minutes to start, and longer if it feels good.