Feel your best: Ease aches and pains; build strength and flex­i­bil­ity

Yoga Journal - - Contents - By Papo Ca­ballero

WHEN I FOUND YOGA 11 years ago, I had decades of cy­cling and soc­cer play­ing be­hind me. My body was tense, per­pet­u­ally sore, and in some places, wrecked: A bad cy­cling ac­ci­dent had left me with a bro­ken fe­mur, where it con­nects with the hip socket. The phys­i­cal pain, even in re­cov­ery, was ex­cru­ci­at­ing. And men­tally, I felt way off my game. I turned to yoga to help re­pair and re­bal­ance my body and mind. The prac­tice de­liv­ered: I gained new flex­i­bil­ity that helped cor­rect the asym­me­try caused by my in­jury, and I was able to re­lieve my nag­ging chronic pain.

The fol­low­ing se­quence is de­signed to foster greater re­siliency and con­fi­dence in your abil­ity to walk, run, cy­cle, or en­joy asana for years to come.

PRAC­TICE TIPS

1 Use your breath to build heat and fo­cus. In­hale, vi­su­al­iz­ing your breath fill­ing your pelvis, low back, and ribs; ex­hale, vi­su­al­iz­ing your breath leav­ing your ribs, low back, and pelvis. Breathe through your nose, even­tu­ally adding Uj­jayi Pranayama (Vic­to­ri­ous Breath).

2 Warm up with three rounds of Surya Na­maskar (Sun Sa­lu­ta­tion) A or B—to heat your body and fo­cus your mind. 1 UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA Ex­tended Side An­gle Pose, vari­a­tion From Tadasana (Moun­tain Pose), reach your arms in op­po­site di­rec­tions. Bring your feet be­neath your palms. Turn your left foot and leg out­ward 90 de­grees, lin­ing up your left heel with your right arch. On an ex­ha­la­tion, bend into your left knee, mak­ing sure it doesn’t move past your left an­kle. In­hale to extend your right arm to­ward the sky. Gaze up or straight ahead, and hold here for 3 breaths. 2 VIRABHADRASANA II War­rior Pose II In­hale to come up into War­rior II with your torso stacked over your hips, your arms ex­tend­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions again. Make sure your left knee stays di­rectly above your left an­kle. Con­tinue to slightly draw your left hip up and back to­ward your right hip, stack­ing your torso over the creases of your hips. Stay rooted through your back foot. Gaze over your front hand, and hold here for 3 breaths. In­hale to straighten your front leg and come out of the pose. 3 PRASARITA PADOTTANASANA Wide-Legged For­ward Bend, vari­a­tion Place your hands on your hips and bring your feet back to par­al­lel. In­ter­lace your hands be­hind your back. Ex­hale to fold for­ward, and stay in the fold for 4 breaths. On your next in­hala­tion, come up, stop­ping half­way to re­lease the bind and bring your hands back to your hips. Then come all the way up. 4 PARIVRTTA UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA Re­volved Ex­tended Side An­gle Pose, vari­a­tion Re­turn to War­rior II. Come onto the ball of your right foot, squar­ing your hips for­ward. Ex­hale and twist from your belly to bring your right hand to the in­side of your left foot. Keep your right hip lifted as you in­hale and extend your left arm to­ward the sky. Keep your left knee in line with your left hip. Stay here for 3 breaths.

5 VASISTHASANA Side Plank Pose From here, with your right hand firmly rooted into the floor and your core en­gaged, ex­hale and lift your left foot, stack­ing your left leg on top of your right. Flex both feet, lift your hips, and extend your left arm over­head for a deeper side stretch. Hold for 3 breaths. Re­lease your left hand to the floor and push back to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog Pose). Stay here or in Balasana (Child’s Pose), rest­ing for sev­eral breaths—or take a vinyasa if you want to keep the heat flow­ing! Then re­peat poses 1–5 on the other side. 6 UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA Ex­tended Side An­gle Pose, vari­a­tion From Down Dog, step your left foot for­ward, com­ing into War­rior II. Ex­hale and place your left hand to the in­side of your left an­kle, push­ing your tri­ceps against your in­ner thigh. Bring your right hand be­hind your back. Try to bend your left arm and clasp your hands (not shown). With or with­out the bind, roll your right ribs and shoul­der back­ward. Lengthen from your right hip through your spine. Gaze up and hold for 5 breaths. Ex­hale; re­lease the bind. In­hale back to War­rior II. 7 UTTHITA TRIKONASANA Ex­tended Tri­an­gle Pose From War­rior II, straighten your left leg with­out lock­ing your knee. On an ex­ha­la­tion, lower your left hand to the out­side of your left foot, and ex­ter­nally ro­tate and extend your right arm to­ward the sky. Root your feet firmly into the ground with your left hand (or fin­ger­tips) be­neath your left shoul­der. In­hale into your chest, broad­en­ing through your col­lar­bones and gaz­ing up­ward. Stay here for 5 breaths. 8 ARDHA CHANDRASANA Half Moon Pose From Tri­an­gle Pose, ex­hale to bend your left knee slightly, mov­ing your bot­tom hand about 6 inches in front of your left foot. Align your left shoul­der over your left hand and your hips over your left leg, firm­ing and lift­ing your back leg to hip height. In­hale to twist open, ex­tend­ing your right arm to the sky. Hold for 5 breaths. To exit, in­hale to War­rior II. Lower your hands down to ei­ther side of your front foot, and move to Down­wardFac­ing Dog—with or with­out a vinyasa. 9 UTTHAN PRISTHASANA Lizard Pose, vari­a­tion From Down Dog, in­hale your left leg up, then ex­hale to bring your left foot to the out­side of your left arm. Gen­tly lower your right knee to the floor. Square your hips for­ward. Stay here or lower both fore­arms to the floor. Feel free to let your left knee splay open, or shift more weight to the outer edge of your left foot. If your fore­arms are down, curl your back toes un­der and lift your right knee to stretch the right hip flexor. Hold for 5 breaths. 10 UTTHAN PRISTHASANA Lizard Pose, vari­a­tion From your ver­sion of Lizard Pose: On an ex­ha­la­tion, add a right quad stretch by bend­ing your right leg and kick­ing your heel to­ward your right glutes. Reach back for your right an­kle with your right hand. Stay here for 5 breaths, then re­lease your right foot and re­turn to Lizard Pose.

11 EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA One-Legged King Pi­geon Pose Bring your left knee be­hind your fore­arms or hands, and slide your right leg back­ward. With your hips squared for­ward, in­hale to lengthen your spine, and ex­hale to fold for­ward over your left leg. You can keep your head as a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of your spine, or re­lease it to the floor or a block. Stay here for 5 breaths. Then, in­hale to slowly come up, and push back to Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog. Re­peat poses 6–11 on the other side. 12 BADDHA KONASANA Bound An­gle Pose From Down­ward-Fac­ing Dog, make your way to seated. Reach for your feet and bring your heels to­gether, mov­ing them to­ward your groin. In­hale to lengthen your spine. Stay here, or ex­hale to fold for­ward over your feet with­out round­ing through your back. With each ex­ha­la­tion, let go of ten­sion in your hips. Stay here for 5 breaths. Re­lease your feet, and if you are in a fold, in­hale to come up. 13 PASCHIMOTTANASANA Seated For­ward Bend Extend both legs in front of you. In­hale to lengthen your spine; ex­hale to fold over your legs, reach­ing the crown of your head to­ward your toes with­out round­ing your back. Rest your hands on your shins or on the floor, or reach for your feet. In­hale to lengthen, and ex­hale to fold deeper. Stay in the fold for 5 breaths. Re­lease your feet, and in­hale to come up. 14 SUPINE TWIST Lie on your back with your legs ex­tended on the floor in front of you. Bring your left knee in tightly. On an ex­ha­la­tion, twist your torso and left leg to the right. Rest your right hand on your left knee, and extend your left arm on the floor away from you with your palm up. Gaze to­ward your left hand. Stay here for 5 breaths, twist­ing deeper with each ex­ha­la­tion. In­hale to come back to cen­ter and switch sides. 15 SAVASANA Corpse Pose Extend both legs on the floor and re­lease your hands by your sides, palms up. Take time to get com­fort­able, re­lax­ing your legs, arms, jaw, and face. Close your eyes, and re­turn to a nat­u­ral breath. Lie in still­ness for at least 5 min­utes.

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