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Relieve Stress with Yoga
Cross-Legged Lower Back Stretch
1. Sit a few inches from the wall with your legs crossed.
2. "Walk" your fingers up the wall, stretching from the lower back.
3. Broaden your shoulders by separating and lifting your shoulder blades. Keep your throat and neck soft. Don't tense your shoulders, just lift them.
4. When you think you have gone as high as you can, rest for a moment while your body adjusts to the pose, then walk your fingers a little higher.
5. Rest and repeat several times.
6. If this is too difficult, try the next pose.
Upward Arm Stretch
1. Sit in a chair facing the wall. Place your hands as high on the wall as possible and walk your fingers higher up the wall,stretching from your lower back.
2. Broaden your shoulders by separating and lifting your shoudler blades. Keep your throat and neck soft. Don't tense your shoulders, just lift them.
3. Once you think your fingers are as high as they can be, rest for a moment in that position so your body can adjust, and then walk your fingers higher.
4. Rest and repeat several times.
Chair Lower Back Stretch
1. Sit in your chair and widen your legs so they are wider than hip distance apart.
2. From the hip crease, bend forward and allow your entire body to relax. Drop your head and completely relax your neck.
3. If you are not completely comfortable, try putting a rolledblanket or towel at the hip crease and lean over again.
4. Hold this pose as long as you like. With each exhalation, allow your body and mind to relax a little bit more. Sit up on an inhalation, pause for a few moments, and try again.
Right Angle Pose
1. Standing very close to the wall, place your hands on the wall at waist height, shoulder distance apart.
2. Walk back until your torso is perpendicular to the wall and your legs are directly under your hips.
3. Extend your arms by firmly pressing your hands into the wall, as though you want to topple it. Go ahead, try to push it over!
4. Extend your spine to its maximum length, and work onstraightening your knees and elbows.
5. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. To release the stretch, step toward the wall.
Downward Facing Dog
1. Place the back of a chair against the wall.
2. Kneel 2 to 2 1/2 feet in front of the chair seat, and place your hands on the edge.
3. Come up onto your toes, straighten your legs, lift your buttocks, and angle your torso downward.
4. Work on straightening your arms and legs, and lengthening your back as much as possible.
5. Think about moving the front of your thighs toward the back of your thighs. Having a friend pull the top of your thighs back can help you get the full benefit of this pose, by taking the weight off your arms.
6. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
7. If this is too easy, place your hands on some thick books or directly on the floor instead of on a chair.
Knees to Chest
1. Lie on your back, bring your knees into your chest, and hug them.
2. If you like, you can gently rock from side to side.
3. Breathe deeply into your lower back and with each exhalation, allow your entire back to relax just a little bit more.
4. If this position hurts your knees, roll up two washcloths and place one behind each knee.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Staff Pose
1. Lie down with your buttocks at the wall (or at least as close as possible).
2. Extend your legs up the wall. Flex your toes toward you and work on getting your knees straight by extending the hamstrings.
3. Stay in this position for a minute or two, then go on to the next pose.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Wide-Angle Pose
1. Start in the previous pose, then widen your legs. Go slowly — you don't want to overstretch your inner thigh muscles.
2. You can place rolled-up blankets under your upper thighs to help support your legs. You will be able to stay in the pose longer this way.
3. Keep flexing your feet toward you and trying to straighten your knees. Use your hands, if necessary, to keep your thighs pressed against the wall.
Supported Chest Opener
1. Roll up a blanket or thick towel. Lie down with the roll placed under your upper middle back.
2. If you would like, use a pillow or a folded blanket under your head.
3. Close your eyes and relax. Stay in this position as long as you like.
Chair Corpse Pose
1. Lie on the floor with your calves on a chair seat.
2. Place a blanket under your head if you like.
3. Cover your eyes with a small towel or other soft piece of fabric, and insert earplugs if you wish.
4. With each exhalation, relax a little bit more. Stay in this position as long as you like; you may even fall asleep.
This material is used with permission from Sterling Publishing, Co., Inc., NY, NY, from the book, Yoga for Wimps, by Miriam Austin, copyright 2000 by Miriam Austin. Photos by Barry Kaplan