I know, I know. You’re probably wondering why I’ve posted a yoga routine for this week’s workout. In all honesty, it’s because yoga is considered by many to be one of the toughest forms of exercise in existence today. It involves physical strength and flexibility and is a great workout for many, if not all of the muscles in your body. Stamina always plays a key role in any yoga routine.
Many people don’t realize that yoga is two-fold. While it works your muscles and helps improve your flexibility, it’s also giving your mind a workout. Some of the essential elements of a yoga practice include preparing your mind for meditation, harnessing the ability to focus on something (and sometimes nothing) indefinitely, and the total realization of the essential nature of the self.
A Brief History of Yoga
The practice of yoga dates back over 5,000 years and has origins in India. It is thought that yoga made its way to the United States sometime in the late 1800s, but didn’t really explode in popularity until the 1960s when Eastern cultures became a huge interest among many people.
As yoga increased in popularity, it was accepted and respected as a valuable method for the improvement of health and overall wellness, as well as stress management and mental health. It has been suggested for people suffering from depression, back pain, arthritis, and other chronic conditions.
This Week’s Workout
Just one of my favorite things about posting a yoga routine this week is that it’s open to everyone. That’s one of the most wonderful things about yoga–people of any age and physical condition may benefit from yoga. Yoga has been rapidly growing in popularity among children over the past few years, and even they can complete this routine.
As with any workout, always check with your health care provider before beginning any yoga routines. There are poses that may aggravate old injuries or cause new ones, depending on your overall health.
While working through these poses, try to make each pose flow into the next. Hold each pose for three breaths (unless otherwise stated).
- Warm-Up: Sit cross-legged on your yoga mat. Keep your back straight and your hands relaxed in your lap. Breathe deeply, inhaling and exhaling through your nose, for a few minutes. Bend from side to side , exhaling as you do so. Do this for 15 breaths.
- Cow Pose: Start this pose on your hands and knees. Arch your back while keeping your shoulders down and pushed back. Push them away from your ears and open up your chest.
- Cat Pose: Star on your hands and knees and round your back into an arch and lower your head while lifting your belly. Try to ensure a good amount of space between your shoulder blades.
- Downward Dog: While in cat pose, push your butt high into the air, turning your body into an upside-down V. Keep your legs straight and stretch your abs while you push your shoulder blades together.
- Extended Side Angle: Start this pose with your right leg forward as if doing a lunge. Point your left foot out about 45 degrees and lower your right forearm onto your right knee. Reach over your head with your left hand and form a completely straight line from your foot to your fingertips.
- Locust Pose: Lie face down on your mat with your feet pointed and your arms by your sides. Ensure your feet and arms are off the mat. Take two breaths, then lower your arms and legs to the mat. Lower your forehead, then lift your upper and lower body at the same time and take two breaths before lowering them again.
It’s no secret that using your muscles encourages their growth and development, but don’t forget about your mind. While you work through these poses, remember to clear your mind as much as possible. Focus on your inner energy. Acknowledge your thoughts, but let them flow by as you complete each pose. Doing so leaves your mind refreshes and re-energized.
Cool Down & Recovery
Staying with the yoga theme, this week’s cool-down will be corpse pose, or the “final relaxation.” This pose is the last pose in numerous yoga routines, and allows time for relaxation while still staying present and aware.
Simply lie on your back and let your feet fall out to your sides. Let your arms do the same, but make sure your palms are facing upwards. Close your eyes. Relax your entire body. Let it feel heavy while you breathe normally for a short time.
Deepen your breathing and begin to move your fingers and toes to wake your body. Pull your knees up to your chest and roll to the side before slowly working yourself back into a sitting position.
Recovery is important after yoga, too. It may not seem like an intense workout, but it still stretches and works many of your muscles, and as a result, you still need protein and water.
Some of my favorite protein and recovery products are listed below:
- Chocolate Raw Protein Beyond Organic Protein Formula by Garden of Life
- Pure Pea Protein by Dr. Mercola
- Fair Trade Organic Dark Chocolate Whey Protein by Tera’s Whey
Yoga is a great way to strengthen your body and your mind. Are you a regular yoga practitioner? Are you just starting out? Let us know your thoughts on the practice, as well as on this week’s workout. Please leave a comment below!
Featured Image Credit: Lyn Tally via Flickr.