Maintaining and holding positions in yoga is great for flexibility as well as focus and concentration, but by also practicing yoga movements within a session, it is possible to gain the maximum health benefits of yoga. Here follows some great yoga movements for flexibility, muscle tone and joint flexibility.
It is very important to perform preparatory movements before beginning a full session of yoga. These movements help to warm up the muscles, reducing the likelihood of a strain. Preparatory movements also help to calm the mind and centre the body, creating the right mental state for yoga. Some simple preparatory movements are:
– Place both arms together, straight out in front of you. Gently bend down, keeping the arms straight. Extend up, reaching the hands above the head and keeping arms straight at all times.
– Reach both arms straight out to the side. Swivelling at the hip, reach down one hand at a time to touch the ground, keeping the arms straight at all times.
These movements encourage flexibility in the back and shoulders, which if not warmed up properly, can be at risk of injury.
Starting in the Mountain Pose (legs straight and together, arms stretching above the head), slowly and carefully bend forward from the waist, keeping the arms and legs straight. It is not essential to reach the floor with the hands, but to increase flexibility, attempt to reach a little further each time.
Place right leg forward at a right angle (keep the knee directly above the line of the ankle) and stretch left leg out behind. In this position, lower to the ground, so the body is lightly supported on the finger-tips. Take a few deep breaths whilst rocking backwards and forwards. This movement increases flexibility in the legs and can help to tone abdominal muscles.
Downward Facing Dog
Starting in the Supine Position (lying on stomach, with arms and legs straight) lift the bottom and slowly move the feet forwards until the body resembles an upside down V in relation to the floor. Hold this position for a few moments and lower in the same manner, slowly and carefully. This movement improves flexibility in the spine as well as helping to tone the upper arms and thighs.
Again from the Supine Position, use the arms and toes to slowly lift the body around 6 inches from the ground. It is important to keep the body level (unlike the diagonal angle of a press-up). Hold this position for a few moments and lower the body down slowly. This exercise is ideal for strengthening the arms and back and for encouraging tone in the abdominal muscles.
Upward Facing Dog
It is easy to move from the Plank into the Upward Facing Dog. Simply stretch the arms straight and arch the back until the face is pointing upwards. Either go straight into this movement from the Plank, or return to a resting position and move into Upward Facing Dog next. This movement stretches the back and stomach, whilst building strength and stamina in the upper arms.