Fusion Workouts: Fitness, Yoga, Pilates, and Barre - Helen Vanderburg (2016)

Part II. Fusion Exercises

Chapter 7. Calming and Restorative Exercises

The exercises in this chapter calm and restore the body after your workout. This is an important part of your total workout and should not be left out. In fact, during cooling and recovery your body restores the physiological systems by bringing your nervous system, heart, lungs, muscles, and hormones back to their natural rhythm. This mirrors the thermostat in your home. The body has an ideal temperature setting that it maintains for normal function. During exercise the temperature in your internal thermostat rises. As you cool down the body comes back to its ideal temperature and setting. During recovery, your body has the time to restore, recharge, and rebuild and realize the physiological gains from the workout.

To begin the calming and restorative exercises, return to the intention you set at the beginning of the workout. Perhaps your intention was to complete one more repetition of each exercise. Another intention might be an increased focus on breath awareness. Return now to the intention and, without judgment, reflect on how your workout went.

To provide a more complete recovery, the exercises in this chapter are grouped according to movement intention. Select exercises from a variety of intention groups in order to achieve complete body recovery.

Stress and Weight Gain

If one of your goals for participating in a fusion workout is weight management, it is important to understand how mental anxiety and physical stress affect weight gain. When the body experiences eustress (positive stress) as in exercise, or distress (negative stress) as in worry, the body releases powerful hormones to combat it. These hormones give you greater energy and strength when you are involved in a physical workout. During the recovery phase of the workout, your body naturally lowers this hormonal level. Without recovery of perceived stress, these hormones remain in the bloodstream and begin to wreak havoc on the body. Two of the negative side effects are an increased release of insulin into the blood stream and increased fat storage (often in the midsection of the body). The body, in its brilliance, will store fat in the place it can most easily access it the next time you need it. This is why you need to spend the time practicing calming exercises in combination with the more physically challenging exercises. Many dietitians and nutritionists promote calming exercises as well as deep breathing for weight management.

FORWARD BENDS

Forward bends are calming in general. The action of the torso moving forward and the closing of the front of the chest decreases the heart rate and slows the breathing rate. Notice this natural response in your body as you move in and out of forward bends.

Seated Forward Bend

Starting Position

Begin in a seated position with the legs together straight out in front of the hips, and place the hands on the floor beside the hips. Sit on the center of the sitting bones and lift up through the spine to the top of the head.

Action

Hinge forward from the hips while maintaining a tall posture, taking the chest forward as the torso extends over the legs. Keep the shoulders relaxed. Lengthen the neck and keep the shoulders slightly back to open the front of the chest. Use the hands to help you to hinge forward by pressing them into the floor beside the hips. When you cannot hinge any farther, allow the spine to flex over the legs and the arms to reach toward the feet (see figure). If you can comfortably reach your feet, place the hands on the outsides of the feet. Relax into this position.

Alignment

Hinge forward from the hip and keep the spine in a long and lengthened position. Avoid excessive rounding of the upper back and lifting of the shoulders.

Breath

Inhale to sit tall. Exhale to move into the forward bend. Breathe naturally to relax. Focus on the exhalation to let go of unwanted tension. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Bend the knees slightly to help relax the hamstrings.

·        Sit on a rolled mat or yoga block to elevate the hips and make it easier to bend forward.

·        Place a yoga belt around the feet to help move deeper into the stretch.

Mindfulness

Bring awareness to the anatomical line along the back of the body. Begin on the bottom of the foot, travel up the back of the leg, and move over the hip and up the spine to your head. In a forward bend, you are lengthening this entire back line of the body.

Wide-Legged Forward Bend

Starting Position

Begin in a seated position with your legs straight out and in a V-shape. Your kneecaps point up, the ankles are flexed, and the toes point to the ceiling. Sit on the center of the sitting bones and lift through the spine through the top of the head. Place your hands on the floor in front of the torso.

Action

Hinge forward while maintaining a tall posture, moving the torso forward and then toward the floor between the legs. Keep the shoulders relaxed and down and away from the ears. Maintain an open chest position. Use your hands to support yourself as you move the torso toward the floor. When you cannot hinge any farther, allow the spine to gently flex (see figure). Relax into this position.

Alignment

As you hinge forward, keep the legs in the start position, with the knees pointed up toward the ceiling. Keep the shoulder relaxed down and the upper back long and extended.

Breath

Inhale to sit tall. Exhale to move forward into the bend. Breathe naturally to relax. Focus on the exhalation to let go of unwanted tension. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Bend the knees slightly to help relax the hamstrings.

·        Sit on a rolled mat or yoga block to elevate the hips to make it easier to bend forward.

·        Place your hands behind your hips and press them into the floor to assist in hinging forward.

Mindfulness

Focus your attention on the movement of the hips. The legs should stay still as you hinge forward, allowing the hips to rotate over the femur bones. Experience the sensation of lifting the sitting bones to move the torso forward.

Cross-Legged Seated Forward Bend

Starting Position

Begin in a seated position with your ankles crossed and hips open. Sit on the center of the sitting bones and lift through the spine to the top of the head.

Action

In the seated position, raise the arms above your head and hinge forward from the torso, bringing your hands to the floor. Gently curve the spine to complete the stretch (see figure). Relax into this position. Repeat with the opposite foot crossed in front.

Alignment

Use your hands to support your body as you hinge forward without putting tension on the neck and upper back.

Breath

Inhale to sit tall. Exhale to move into the forward bend. Inhale to expand the back of the rib cage, and exhale to relax. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Sit on a rolled mat or yoga block to elevate the hips to make it easier to open the hips and bend forward.

·        In the forward bend position, with the hands on the floor reach one arm across to the opposite side to create a greater release of tension through the side and back of the torso. Repeat to the other side.

Mindfulness

You will feel the sensations of this stretch in many areas of your body. Observe where you hold tension and direct your breath into these places.

Puppy Pose

Starting Position

Assume a kneeling position with your knees under the hips and the thighs in a vertical line (see figure a).

Action

With the arms straight and shoulder-width apart, reach forward and lower the chest toward the floor while keeping the hips lifted (see figure b). The thighs are in a vertical line as the arms move forward and the chest lowers to the floor. Relax into this position.

Alignment

Keep the deep abdominal muscles engaged to support the back and to prevent hyperextension of the spine.

Breath

Inhale to initiate the movement. Exhale to lower the chest toward the floor. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Place a rolled mat under the knees for comfort.

·        Bend the elbows and bring the forearms to the floor to decrease tension in the shoulders and back.

Mindfulness

Focus on a deep and slow breathing rhythm to lower your heart rate and calm the body.

TWISTS

Twists penetrate deep into the core, offering benefits to the muscles of the torso and organs and creating suppleness and freedom in your spine. Practicing twists encourages deep and full breaths while detoxifying the body by removing the by products produced during exercise.

Seated Twist

Starting Position

Assume a seated position with your knees bent and feet on the floor (see figure a). Sit on the center of the sitting bones and lift through the spine to the top of the head.

Action

Bring one arm overhead to create length on this side of the torso as the other hand presses into the floor to lift the spine. Keep the length of the spine as you rotate to the opposite side, maintaining a tall seated position and the rib cage close to the thigh. Bring the forearm across to the outer thigh and look over the back shoulder (see figure b). To assist with the twist, press gently into the thigh with the arm that reaches across the leg. Unwind slowly and repeat on the other side.

Alignment

Keep the spine long in a tall posture as you twist to the side. Keep the thighs on the centerline as you press the arm against the leg.

Breath

Inhale to sit tall. Exhale to rotate to one side. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Sit on a rolled mat or yoga block to elevate the hips for comfort.

·        Lean the legs to one side to vary the seated twist.

Mindfulness

Breathe naturally. If your breath becomes labored, you have twisted too far.

Cross-Legged Seated Twist

Starting Position

Begin in a cross-legged seated position. The knees are bent and one leg is folded under the opposite leg (see figure a). Sit on the center of the sitting bones and lift through the spine to the top of the head.

Action

Bring one arm overhead to create length on this side of the torso as the other hand presses into the floor to lift the spine. Keep the length in the spine as you rotate to the opposite side, maintaining a tall seated position and the rib cage close to the thigh. Bring your forearm across the outer thigh and look to the side (see figure b). Press gently into the thigh with the arm that reaches across the leg to assist with the twist. Unwind slowly and repeat on the other side.

Alignment

Keep the spine long in a tall posture as you twist to the side. Avoid letting the thigh fall inward as you press the arm into the thigh.

Breath

Inhale to sit tall. Exhale to rotate to one side. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Sit on a rolled mat or yoga block to elevate the hips for comfort.

·        Straighten one leg in front and cross the other over in a bent-knee position if you feel discomfort in the knees.

Mindfulness

The twist should come from the ribs, upper back and neck while keeping equal weight on the sitting bones.

Kneeling Twist

Starting Position

Kneel with your hands under the shoulders and the knees wider than the hips (see figure a).

Action

Place one hand on the floor in the midline of the body. Keeping the supporting arm straight, reach the opposite arm upward as the torso rotates to one side (see figure b). The eyes can look to the side or look up to the top hand.

Alignment

Keep the thighs in a vertical position and the supporting arm straight as you open the chest to one side in the rotation.

Breath

Inhale to set the position. Exhale to reach and rotate to one side. Breathe naturally. Hold for three to five breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Kneel on a folded towel or rolled mat for comfort.

·        To decrease the intensity, wrap the arm around the back with the palm of the hand facing up rather than reaching the arm upward.

Mindfulness

This twist opens the front of the chest. Take time to notice how breath moves into the body more easily.

Revolving Low Lunge

Starting Position

Assume a lunge position. The front leg creates a vertical line from the knee to the ankle and the back leg is extended straight back (see figure a).

Action

Place the opposite hand next to the front foot directly under the shoulder. Begin the rotation from the back hip and gently rotate through the spine to the top of the head. The rotation comes from the hips and moves into the upper body. At the same time, reach the free arm upward (see figure b). The head can turn to the side or look up to the top hand.

Alignment

Keep the knee of the forward leg aligned over the center of the foot and maintain length through the spine as you rotate.

Breath

Inhale to create length in the spine. Exhale to rotate to one side. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease the intensity to the stretch, lower the back knee to the floor.

·        Place a rolled mat under the knee for comfort.

·        For variety, wrap the lifted arm around the back with the palm facing up.

Mindfulness

Open the chest and sense the length through the spine.

Thread the Needle

Starting Position

Assume a kneeling position. Your hands are under the shoulders and the knees are wider than the hips (see figure a).

Action

Reach one arm under the torso across to the opposite side with the palm of the hand turned up. Bring the outside of the shoulder to the floor and rest the side of the head on the floor (see figure b). The weight of the upper body is on the outer shoulder. The eyes can look to the side or look up to the top hand.

Alignment

Keep the thighs in a vertical position and the hips lifted. The rotation comes from the ribs and midback.

Breath

Inhale to lift the arm. Exhale to reach under and rotate to the side. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Kneel on a rolled mat for comfort.

·        To create more rotation, keep the hand on the floor and press the fingers down rather than reaching the arm upward.

Once the shoulder is on the floor, reach the opposite arm up.

Mindfulness

Focus on an even rhythm between the inhalation and exhalation.

Reclining Twist

Starting Position

Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Open the arms out to the sides at shoulder height with the palms facing up (see figure a).

Action

With the legs together, rotate both legs to one side while keeping the shoulders on the floor (see figure b). Bring the legs back to center, and repeat in the opposite direction.

Alignment

Keep the shoulder blades on the floor as you rotate the legs to the side.

Breath

Inhale to prepare. Exhale to rotate to one side. Inhale to come back up. Exhale to the opposite side. Breathe naturally. Hold for three to five breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To increase the stretch, rotate to the side and straighten the top leg to reach the foot in front of the hip while in rotation.

·        Lift both feet off the floor to rotate to one side. Keep them off the floor as you lift to go to the opposite side. This involves more core conditioning.

Mindfulness

This rotational stretch is about feeling good, so enjoy it.

HIP RELEASES

Tight hips affect almost all movements by limiting the range of motion and comfort during lower-body movements. Tight hips increase the strain on the low back, causing discomfort. Opening the hips and releasing tension brings energy to this area and can release stored-up negative feelings and emotions.

Low Lunge

Starting Position

Kneel with your hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips (see figure a).

Action

Step one foot forward to a lunge, placing the foot under the knee to create a vertical line along the shin. The knee of the front leg aligns directly over the ankle. The back leg can be straight or the knee can remain on the floor (see figure b).

Alignment

Keep the spine long and the head in line with the spine. When the back knee is lifted off the floor, contract the muscles on the front of the thigh to support the knee joint.

Breath

Inhale to set the position. Exhale to lower into the low lunge. Breathe naturally. Hold for three to five breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Kneel with the back knee on a rolled mat for comfort.

·        Bring the hands on the inside of the front foot for a deeper stretch.

·        Lower the back knee to the floor to decrease the effort and stretch.

·        Step the front foot to the outside of the shoulder to open the inner thigh as well as stretch the hip flexors.

·        Bring the arms overhead to create a stretch through the entire front of the body.

Mindfulness

This is a deep stretch for the front of the hip and leg. Move slowly and gradually into this stretch to allow more time to relax.

Dynamic Lunge Hip Rock

Starting Position

Assume a lunge position with the knee of the front leg aligned directly over the ankle and the back knee on the floor (see figure a). The hands are on either side of the front foot.

Action

Slowly move the hips back to straighten the front knee as you hinge the torso over the leg into a hamstring stretch (see figure b). Hold for a breath then move forward to the lunge. Hold the lunge for a breath and repeat, moving back to the hamstring stretch.

Alignment

Keep the spine long as you rock the hips back into the hamstring stretch. The hips stay lifted, with the thigh in a vertical line for the hamstring stretch.

Breath

Inhale into the lunge. Exhale to rock back into the hamstring stretch. Rock forward and back three to five times per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Place a rolled mat under the back knee for comfort.

·        Bring the arms up overhead in the lunge to create a stretch through the entire front of the body.

·        Step the front foot to the outside of the shoulder to open the inner thigh and to stretch the hip flexors.

Mindfulness

Create a rhythm between the breath and movement, using the full inhalation and exhalation to help move you from one position to the next.

Pigeon

Starting Position

Kneel with your hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips (see figure a).

Action

Bring one knee forward toward the chest, place the foot in front of the opposite hip crease, and rotate the hip out so that the leg is on the floor with the hip in this open position. Straighten the other leg back and lower the hips toward the floor. Support yourself with your hands on either side of your front knee (see figure b).

Alignment

The back of the pelvis stays level. Avoid rolling to the bent-knee side; this puts undue strain on the knee.

Breath

Inhale to bring the knee forward. Exhale to lower into pigeon pose. Breathe naturally. Hold for three to five breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        For support in the pigeon pose, bring the forearms to the floor.

·        If the hips are tilting to the side, place a block under the hip on the side of the bent knee.

·        If it causes discomfort or pain in the knee, avoid doing this exercise.

Mindfulness

Feel the stretch deep in the hips. Practice self-awareness and be honest with yourself. If this exercise causes more discomfort than potential gain, don’t do the exercise. Most importantly, be okay with your decision. This is being mindful.

Seated Butterfly

Starting Position

Begin in a seated position with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Sit on the center of the sitting bones and lift through the spine to the top of the head (see figure a).

Action

Remaining in a tall seated position, open the hips outward, move the knees to an open position, and place the hands on the ankles. Place the soles of the feet together (see figure b).

Alignment

The soles of both feet line up with each other. Stay centered on the sitting bones as the legs open out.

Breath

Inhale to sit tall. Exhale to open the legs. Breathe naturally. Hold for three to five breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Lean forward and press gently into the thighs with the arms to create a deeper stretch.

·        Sit on a rolled mat or yoga block to elevate the hips for comfort.

Mindfulness

You may feel this exercise in the hips or back. Observe where you hold the most tension. Consciously relax into the stretch.

Reclining Hamstring Stretch

Starting Position

Lie on your back with one knee hugged into the chest and the other leg extended straight out on the floor. The ankle is flexed and the toes point up (see figure a).

Action

Hold onto the back of the bent leg and extend the leg upward to the extent of your flexibility without bending the opposite leg (see figure b). The heel of the lifted leg presses up.

Alignment

Ideally, both legs straighten; however, if your hamstrings are tight, bend the knee of the leg on the floor. The shoulders and shoulder blades stay on the floor. Avoid putting tension on the neck and shoulders.

Breath

Inhale to hug the knee to your chest. Exhale to extend the leg into the stretch. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Use a yoga belt around the foot of the extended leg to make the stretch more comfortable.

·        For variety, bend and straighten the leg in a dynamic controlled rhythm.

Mindfulness

It is common to tense the neck and shoulders during this stretch. Be aware of relaxing this area. Place a soft smile on your face.

Reclining Adductor Stretch

Starting Position

Lie on your back with one leg straight up and the other extended straight out on the floor. The ankle is flexed and the toes point up (see figure a).

Action

Hold onto the inside of the lifted leg; keep the leg straight and bring it out to the side (see figure b).

Alignment

Ideally, both legs are straight; however, if your hamstrings are tight, bend the knee of the leg you are stretching while keeping the other leg straight on the floor. The shoulders and the back of the hips stay on the floor. Avoid tension in the neck and shoulders.

Breath

Inhale to set the starting body position. Exhale to move the leg to the side. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Use a yoga belt around the foot of the extended leg to make the stretch more comfortable.

·        For variety, move the leg out and in at a controlled rhythm.

Mindfulness

Bring your attention to the parts of the body that are in contact with the floor on the side of the body that is not being stretch. Keep the heel, calf, hip, shoulder blade, and head in contact with the floor.

Reclining Abductor Stretch

Starting Position

Lie on your back with one leg straight up and the other extended straight out on the floor (see figure a). The ankles are flexed.

Action

Keep the leg straight, and bring the leg across the body without lifting the hip off the floor. The leg crosses the midline of the body (see figure b).

Alignment

Ideally, both legs are straight; however, if your hamstrings are tight, bend the knee of the leg you are stretching while keeping the other leg straight on the floor. The shoulders and shoulder blades stay on the floor. Avoid tension in the neck and shoulders.

Breath

Inhale to set the starting body position. Exhale to bring the leg to the side. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease the intensity of the stretch, bend the knee to cross the leg over to the side.

·        For a deeper hip release, move the leg back and forth across the body in a controlled rhythm.

Mindfulness

This stretch gets deep inside of the hip joint; take your time to sense where you feel the tension and breathe into the tightness.

Reclining Figure-4

Starting Position

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.

Action

Place one foot across the thigh of the other leg. Flex the foot at the ankle and turn the hip out. Lift the opposite leg toward the chest (see figure).

Alignment

Keep the hips on the floor and avoid tension in the neck and shoulders.

Breath

Inhale to set the starting body position. Exhale to move into the stretch. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease the intensity of the stretch, keep one foot on the floor.

·        To focus on hip mobility, move the hips in a small circle in both directions.

Mindfulness

Take time to feel the hips and low back relax. Breathe.

CHEST RELEASES

Most people are tight in the front of the shoulders and chest because of long hours of sitting while working on computers and driving and because of poor posture. You can do the chest releasing exercises in this section anytime and anywhere. They are especially effective when you take a break from working or sitting for extended periods.

Supported Back Extension

Starting Position

Lie facedown with the forearms on the floor beside the shoulders and the palms of the hands facing down. The legs are extended straight back, hip-distance apart, with the tops of the feet on the floor.

Action

Lift the abdominal wall toward the spine and contract the quadriceps to lift the kneecaps off the floor. Roll the shoulders back, and move the shoulder blades down the back as you lift the chest off the floor (see figure). Gently press upward with the arms. Lift the chest only as high as is comfortable for the low back. If you sense compression in the low back, lower the upper-body position.

Alignment

Keep the head in line with the natural curve of the spine. Avoid letting the head fall forward or hyperextend back.

Breath

Exhale to contract the quadriceps to lift the kneecaps and to set the core. Inhale to lift the chest. Breathe naturally. Hold for three to five deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Lift into the extension on an inhale and lower on the exhale in a slow controlled rhythm.

·        For greater strengthening of the upper back as well as stretch for the chest, reach the fingers toward the feet as you lift into the back extension.

Mindfulness

Focus on opening the chest rather than extending the back. Imagine moving the sternum forward and lifting the chest creating a sense of space in the front of the body.

Seated Cow Face Pose

Starting Position

Assume a seated crossed-legged position centered on the sitting bones. Lift through the spine to the top of the head.

Action

Remaining in a tall seated position, reach one arm overhead. Bend the elbow and place the palm between the shoulder blades. Reach the opposite arm behind the back and bend the elbow to reach the hand up the back toward the other hand (see figure). Clasp the hands behind your back.

Alignment

Maintain a tall seated position as the arms move into the stretch. Tuck the chin slightly and press the head back into the arms to maintain good alignment of the head.

Breath

Inhale to bring the arms into place. Exhale to open the chest and move more deeply into the stretch. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease the intensity of the stretch, reach one arm behind the head and use the opposite arm to hold onto the elbow to bring the arm into the stretch.

·        Standing to do the exercise can make it easier to achieve the range of motion.

·        For comfort, sit on a yoga block to give the hips more mobility to sit cross-legged.

Mindfulness

Relax through the neck and shoulder.

Dynamic Four-Point Stretch

Starting Position

Stand tall. Reach the arms in front of the chest and, at the same time, round the upper back (see figure a).

Action

Move the arms straight out from the shoulders and slightly extend the upper back (see figure b). Bring the hands behind the head, lifting the elbows up and back (see figure c). Sweep the arms down and behind the hips to touch the fingers together (see figure d).

Alignment

Maintain a tall posture through the legs and hips. Allow the upper body to move freely with the movement of the arms.

Breath

Exhale to bring the arms forward. Inhale to reach the arms out. Exhale to bring the hands behind the head. Inhale to reach the arms behind the back. Repeat the sequence three to five times.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Move the arms through a pain-free range of motion.

·        To add a sense of calm, hold each arm position for a few breaths before moving to the next position.

Mindfulness

Move with grace and freedom.

SIDE BENDS

Side bending releases tension through the lateral line of the body. This often forgotten movement is important for overall spinal health. These exercises aid in releasing tension in the back and keep the spine mobile.

Seated Side Bend

Starting Position

Assume a seated crossed-legged position centered on the sitting bones and lifted through the spine to the top of the head.

Action

Stay in a tall seated position and reach one arm overhead. Continue to reach the arm over into a side bend through the torso (see figure). Repeat on the other side as you reach the opposite arm over in a dynamic sweeping motion.

Alignment

Keep the hips equally weighted down. Avoid rounding forward.

Breath

Inhale to bring the arm overhead. Exhale to bend to the side. Inhale to return to the center. Exhale to bend to the other side. Repeat three to five times.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Change the leg position if sitting crossed legged is uncomfortable.

·        Sit on a yoga block for comfort.

·        If seated causes tension in the low back, stand to perform the exercise.

Mindfulness

Imagine your upper body is moving between two panes of glass.

Kneeling Side Bend

Starting Position

Begin by kneeling on both knees. Extend one leg out to the side. The knee and toe are pointed up. Bring the upper body into an upright position (see figure a).

Action

Maintaining a tall position, reach the opposite arm overhead and bend to the side toward the straight leg (see figure b). Reach the opposite arm over in a sweeping motion to reach in the opposite direction. Move from side to side in a dynamic and controlled manner. After completing repetitions on one side; repeat on the other side.

Alignment

Keep the hips level. Avoid rounding forward. The knee of the extended leg is pointed up throughout the movement.

Breath

Inhale to bring the arm overhead. Exhale to bend to the side. Inhale to return to the center. Exhale to bend to the other side. Repeat three to five times.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Kneel on a rolled yoga mat for comfort on the knee.

·        Keep both knees bent in the kneeling position if the stretch is uncomfortable in the hip.

Mindfulness

Link your breath and movement to create a gentle flow.

SOOTHING EXERCISES

Soothing exercises calm the body by lowering the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and by slowing your breathing. Practice these exercises any time you feel the need to restore your energy and calm your mind.

Child’s Pose

Starting Position

Kneel with the knees about shoulder-width apart and the inside edges of the feet together.

Action

Reach the arms forward, shoulder-width apart. Sit the hips back to the heels, bringing your ribs to the inside of the thigh. Keep the arms straight and lower the chest toward the floor (see figure).

Alignment

The arms are extended with the elbows lifted off the floor and without tension in the shoulders. The spine is in a gentle and relaxed curve from the hips to the head.

Breath

Inhale to initiate the movement. Exhale to lower into the stretch. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Place a rolled mat under the knees for comfort.

·        Bring the arms to the side of the body with the palms of the hands facing up for a more relaxed position.

·        Place a yoga block under the forehead to decrease tension in the back of the neck.

Mindfulness

Focus on a deep, slow breathing rhythm to lower your heart rate and calm the body. Sense the movement of the rib cage gently expanding and contracting with each breath.

Calm Lake

Starting Position

Lie on your back with both legs extended straight up. The arms are beside the body in a comfortable position and the palms turned up.

Action

Flex the ankles and gently pull the toes down toward the shins (see figure). Ideally, both legs are straight; however, if the hamstrings and low back are tight, bend the knees to release the tension.

Alignment

The shoulders and shoulder blades stay on the floor. The head and neck are in a neutral alignment and the tip of the nose points up.

Breath

Inhale to extend the legs up. Exhale to settle into the stretch. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Place the legs up a wall for greater relaxation.

·        Wrap a yoga belt around the leg at midthigh and gently pull to decrease the work of the leg muscles and increase relaxation.

·        Bend the knees toward the chest to decrease the effort.

Mindfulness

Close your eyes and take your focus into your inner world, to the sensations of your body and the thoughts in your mind. Imagine a calm lake and let the mind and body come to this place.

Reclining Knee-Hug Stretch

Starting Position

Lie on your back and pull both knees toward the chest. The arms are beside the body in a comfortable position with the palms turned up.

Action

Wrap the arms around the shins and gently pull the knees into the chest (see figure).

Alignment

The shoulders and shoulder blades are on the floor and the neck is relaxed.

Breath

Inhale to hug the knees into your chest. Exhale to relax. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Rock the knees in and out to massage the low back.

·        Roll the hips side to side to release tension in the back.

Mindfulness

Focus on the low back and let go of tension with each exhalation.

Reclining Single-Leg Hug Stretch

Starting Position

Lie on your back with one knee hugged into the chest and the other leg extended straight out on the floor.

Action

Wrap the arms around the back of the thigh and gently pull the knee in closer to the chest (see figure).

Alignment

Keep the back of the body from the head to the heel of the straight leg on the floor in a straight line.

Breath

Inhale to hug the knee into your chest. Exhale to relax. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths per side.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To increase hip mobility, place the hand on the knee and circle the bent knee in one direction and then the other direction.

·        Bend the straight leg and place the foot on the floor if you feel discomfort in your low back.

Mindfulness

Focus on the rhythm of your breath. Take in a slow relaxed inhalation and a long exhalation.

Reclining Butterfly

Starting Position

Lie on the back with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Reach the arms along the sides of the body with the palms facing up in a comfortable position.

Action

Open the hips by moving the knees out and placing the bottoms of the feet together (see figure).

Alignment

The back of the hips, shoulders, and shoulder blades are on the floor as the legs open out. The neck is relaxed.

Breath

Inhale to bend the knees. Exhale to open the knees and relax into the stretch. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Place a yoga block under both knees to support the legs and relax more deeply into this stretch.

·        Pull the heels in closer to the hips for a greater hip stretch.

Mindfulness

Breathe slowly and deeply, allowing your energy to settle into a state of peacefulness.

Happy Baby

Starting Position

Lie on your back, bend the knees toward the chest, and hold the insides of the feet with the hands.

Action

Open the hips and bring the knees down toward the sides and shoulders (see figure).

Alignment

The shoulders and shoulder blades are on the floor as the legs open out. The neck is relaxed.

Breath

Inhale to bend the knees. Exhale to pull the legs into the stretch. Breathe naturally. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Progressions and Modifications

·        Rock side to side to release and relax the low back.

·        For a deeper stretch on one side of the body, open one hip at a time by bringing one leg up while the other foot stays on the floor. Repeat on the other side.

Mindfulness

Remember when you were a child without a care in the world; bring that memory to this release.

Resting Pose

Starting Position

Lie on your back with the legs straight and the arms at the side of the body and the palms facing up.

Action

Let the muscles of the hips and low back relax, allowing the legs to naturally roll out (see figure). The back of the hips, shoulders, and shoulder blades are on the floor with the neck relaxed.

Alignment

The spine is in a neutral alignment from the head to the toes.

Breath

Inhale to open the chest. Exhale to relax. Breathe naturally. Hold for 10 to 20 deep breaths, or set a timer and stay in resting pose for 5 to 10 minutes.

Progressions and Modifications

·        To decrease tension in the low back, bend the knees and lean the inner thighs against each other.

·        Lie on your side with the knees comfortably bent if lying on your back causes discomfort.

·        Place a rolled towel under the knees to decrease tension in the back.

Mindfulness

Let your mind and body completely relax. Allow yourself to surrender to gravity, letting go of all muscular effort. Allow the mind to rest as much as the body. As thoughts come to mind, allow them to float away without attachment. Clear the mind and find peace. Your list of things to do can wait until after this important resting pose.

To begin the calming and restorative exercises, return to the intention you set at the beginning of the workout. Perhaps your intention was to complete one more repetition of each exercise. Another intention might be an increased focus on breath awareness. Return now to the intention and, without judgment, reflect on how your workout went.

To provide a more complete recovery, the exercises in this chapter are grouped according to movement intention. Select exercises from a variety of intention groups in order to achieve complete body recovery.