Guest Blog by yoga expert Lydia Sasse (more info below).
Here's a tip- print this out and keep it beside your bed for easy access with no screens/internet necessary!
At the moment, whilst many of us around the world find ourselves in varying degrees of social isolation or lockdown, it has become ever more important to implement wellness routines into our everyday schedules in order to take care of our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Starting the day with a simple movement practice and some gentle breathing is a perfect way to help yourself enter the day in a positive frame of mind.
So often when we sleep, we turn into funny positions and end up with bodies that feel a little stiffer than we would like!
I have designed this yoga sequence that can be done on your bed, in your pjs before the rest of the day has even begun. This is important because I hear so often from my clients that one of the major hurdles to starting a personal yoga practice is the fact that all the other household duties tend to take precedence; you wake up with good intentions, walk downstairs to find your mat and then realize there is a mountain of washing up to be done, or laundry to wash or some excited little ones who want to clamber all over you while you try to practice your down dog!
This sequence neatly sidesteps all that because all you need to do it wake up, sit up and start stretching.
Enjoy, Lydia x
Sometimes called "Simple Cross-Legged Pose with a Twist," Parivrtta Sukhasana stretches the back, knees, and ankles. Twisting poses are also brilliant for bringin fresh blood flow to the digestive organs which is helpful before we eat our first meal of the day so that we optimize digestion. They are also great for stimulating the lymphatic system after a night of lying on our backs helping to drain any puffiness or swelling and give the immune system a kick start before you go out into the world.
What to do:
- Sit on your bed and cross your legs in front of you at the shins. If your hips are very tight, you can sit on a pillow.
- Place your right hand on the bed behind you up on your fingertips to keep the spine long.. Bring your left hand to the outside of your right knee, inhale and gently start twisting to the right. Exhale and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
- Inhale to lengthen your spine, and exhale to twist a little deeper. Gaze gently over your right shoulder without straining your neck.
- Hold for ten breaths.
- Come back to center. Change the cross of your legs and twist to the opposite side and repeat.
2. Cow Faced Pose
Cow Face Pose is a seated yoga posture that deeply stretches the hips and shoulders. It calms the mind and brings balance to the whole body. After a night of sleeping many of us wake with stiffness or aching in our joints; a lifetime of sitting/standing with less than perfect posture can lead to imbalances and this pose stretches the left and right sides of the body, top and bottom, at the same time, which can help to bring the body back towards balance. It also is a great chest and armpit opener and as Yogi Bajahan famously said ‘ when our armpits are open we can not be depressed”! What I think he meant by that was that if we meet the day with shoulders down and heart open we are more likely to receive people and events with an open mind and a positive outlook, but if we walk into the day hunched over and protective we look as if we are assuming the worst will happen this has a trickle down effect on our mood and the mood of those around us.
What to do:
- Begin seated with your legs straight out in front of you and your arms resting at your sides.
- Bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet flat on the bed. Then, bring your left foot underneath your right knee and slide it to the outside of your right hip. Aim to stack your right knee directly on top of the left, and then slide your right foot to the outside of your left hip. Shift your weight slightly from side to side until you are sitting as evenly as you can on your pelvis.
- For some people, it may only be possible to place your right foot to the outside of your left knee with the right knee facing the sky. Or you may even find your hips are too tight to do the bottom part of this pose at first in which case try just the arms part whilst in a kneeling position.
- Extend your left arm up toward the ceiling with your palm facing forward. Then, bend your left elbow and bring your left hand to your spine.
- Reach up with your right hand and cup the left elbow, draw it up towards the sky and then gently back towards the wall behind you. Roll your shoulders back and down.
- Draw your front low ribs in — do not let them puff forward. Broaden across your collar bones. Gaze gently downwards. Keep your gaze soft and your breath full in the belly.
- Hold the pose for up to one minute. Then, gently release your arms and uncross your legs. Come back sitting with your legs straight in front and repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.
3. Side Bending
The side planes of our bodies are so often neglected and these are the places that not only get compressed when we sit for long periods of time but also the areas that house our lungs. When we side stretch we open the intercostal muscles between the ribs allowing us to breathe deeper and fuller.
What to do :
- Sit tall in a comfortable seated position.
- Place your right hand on the bed beside you and take a big breath in and stretch the left arm up towards the ceiling. As you exhale fold your body to the right and reach your right-hand overhead towards the right-hand side of the room. Breathe into the ribcage on your right-hand side and try to soften the shoulders down your back.
- When you're ready to come out: inhale and bring both hands up overhead. As you exhale place the opposite hand on the bed and then inhale and repeat on this side.
- You can also flow through the left and right sides making it a graceful moving meditation.
4. Kneeling Cat/Cow
This is one of the most well-known yoga poses of all time. Usually, it is done on all fours but it can be done simply from kneeling and sitting too.
In this version, I have included a simple shoulder release too because often out upper back gets tight during the night.
What to do:
- Start kneeling on your bed.
- Inhale and begin to arch your spine, drawing the shoulders back towards the spine, broaden the collarbones and lookup.
- Exhale and begin to round the back, tucking the chin towards the chest and then interlink your fingers and push your hands away in front of your chest to broaden the space between the shoulder blades.
- Repeat as many times as you like.
5. Janu Sirsasana
This is a simple forward bend that helps to open the hamstrings, lower back and the hips.
Done on the bed it is even more gentle because of the softness of the mattress underneath, which takes the pressure off the heel and the bottom of the pelvis.
What to do:
- Start sitting with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Fold the left leg in so that your left foot is resting against your right inner thigh. If your left knee is floating in the air, tuck a pillow underneath it.
- Inhale and grow tall in the spine, as you exhale begin to gently twist to your right so that your navel roughly points towards your right knee.
- If you want to work the hamstrings deeper, pull your right toes towards your face, if not leave them soft.
- As you next inhale, keeping your back nice and long, walk your hands along the bed towards your right foot, one hand either side of your right leg. Go only as far forward as your back stays nice and straight.
- Once here breathe in and lengthen the spine, having the sense that you are reaching for your toes with your chest; don’t worry its not meant to actually get there!
- As you exhale simply try to soft your shoulders down your back, your left knee towards the bed or cushion and the back of your right leg towards the bed.
- Stay here for at least 5 breaths and then switch to the other side and repeat.
6. Child's Pose With Prayer Hands
Child's pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. It is calming for the brain and the nervous system and helps relieve stress and fatigue. This is one of the most restorative poses for back and neck pain. Child's pose is also known for helping us get to sleep easier and stay asleep for longer.
What to do:
- Kneel on your bed. Bring your big toes together and your knees slightly wider than your hips and then sit back towards your heels,
- Inhale and bring length into your spine, Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Have your arms extended out in front of you and bring your hands together in a prayer position, draw your shoulders down the bed.
- Lengthen your tailbone towards the wall behind you and soften your torso down into the bed. Make sure that your forehead is in contact with either a pillow or the bed.
- Rest here breathing into the belly and the back for up to 5 minutes.
- To come out of the pose, first come up onto your finger tips and lengthen the torso forwards, then roll your spine up like a rag doll until you come back to kneeling.
When you have come out of the pose, take the time to sit quietly for a few minutes and feel the effects of your practice.Hopefully, you are feeling lovely and limber and ready to get up and enjoy your day.
If you have any questions for Lydia, or want to follow her on social media or attend her workshops or classes (which are currently online) please find her on @yogawithlydia.
Lydia also runs a health and wellness podcast with her friend Finn Murray owner of The Hopsack health food store in Rathmines; you can find it on the usual podcast channels and Youtube @wanderingintowellness.
The beautiful photographs in this article are taken by the brilliant Irish photographer Hannah Jayne Rowe. Hannah specialises in weddings, maternity and mum and baby shoots. You can find her @hannahjaynephoto.