by: Melinda Parrish
Taking time to stretch and center yourself as a mother is important to try to fit into your hectic schedule. Yoga has been proven to improve both physical and mental health, which, as we all know are so important in this stressful time of life! Are you struggling to try to find time to fit your practice into your routine? Here’s a few poses that can be done in hardly any time, anywhere and they offer some amazing benefits:
1. FORWARD FOLD
Inversions, such as forward folds, are thought to provide the following benefits:
Forward folds also strengthen and stretch the muscles in the legs, hips, and spine. To protect the lower back, keep your knees slightly bent when doing the pose. It can feel nice to fold halfway over while holding onto a countertop, the back of the couch, or your stroller or grocery cart handles. Focus on keeping the spine straight, rather than rolling your shoulders forward into a “hunch” while bending. To do this, think about pushing your chest towards your thighs, if folding fully, or towards the floor, if folding halfway.
Balancing postures, such as tree pose, are great for increasing focus and helping us connect to our breath. If you are feeling off kilter, use tree pose to center yourself and drop back into your body.
Yogi Elizabeth Wellington recommends the following approach to tree pose:
“Start with your feet hips-width apart. Take a few deep breaths, and lift your left foot. Rest the bottom of your left foot along your shin, and if you’re comfortable, bring it up to rest on your thigh. Breathe with your eyes fixed on a focal point ahead of you. Switch sides to reap the benefits of this balancing pose.”
3. CAT COW
Cat Cow can be performed on the floor, on all fours, or seated in a chair or on a stability ball. It is a simple sequence where you round your back and press the space between your shoulder blades up if you’re on all fours, or into the back of the chair if you’re seated. Exhale as you round, like a cat. Then, inhaling through the nose, raise your forehead and arch your back, like a cow. Keep your core engaged by tucking your tailbone forward a tiny bit. Flowing with your breath, repeat the sequence several times.
This is a great pose to relieve feelings of anxiety or fear. It is easily performed in a variety of settings, from your desk chair, to the bathroom stall, on your bed, or the floor of your living room. If you are practicing yoga in the midst of children, this is a really fun way to engage your kids in the practice. Invite them to moo like a cow and meow like a cat as you move through the sequence!
4. STANDING FIGURE FOUR
This is an easy stretch to perform just about anywhere. I’ve been known to drop into a standing figure four stretch while waiting in checkout lines, while standing and talking to a friend at the park, while cooking, and just about everywhere else.
To get into this pose, sit back as though you’re dropping into a chair, with knees bent and core strong. Shift your weight into the heels. Then, lift up one foot and cross it over the opposite leg, so your ankle is sitting on your thigh. You may have to come up out of your “chair” slightly, or depending on your flexibility, you might be able to sit deeper into your chair once you’re balanced in your figure four stance.
This posture stretches the legs, hips, calves, and piriformis muscles. Keep your core strong and engaged to avoid angering your lower back muscles. Avoid placing the ankle directly on the knee. If you’ve got a history of knee problems, it might feel better to practice this pose lying down on your back.
5. TOE SQUAT
This simple pose comes from the Yin Yoga practice and helps to open the body’s lower meridians. The six meridians that begin and end in the lower body are the Liver, Gall Bladder, Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Spleen, and Stomach. By simply kneeling, tucking your toes under, and sitting back towards your heels, you can gently release these lower meridians through a toe squat.
Those new to the toe squat may find that sitting all the way back is too uncomfortable at first. Only go back as far as you can without experiencing discomfort, and lean forward resting your hands on a block if need be. It is handy to have something to distract you while in toe squat, because focusing intently on the sensation can intensify discomfort. It’s a great time to get down to your child’s level and engage with them!
Place a blanket under your feet, or perform this pose on a rug or soft surface to minimize pain. You can hold this pose up to two-three minutes, but feel free to take a break, roll your ankles, and drop back in. Enjoy the release of your feet and toes!