A day of working in the garden can leave you feeling stiff or even sore. Before you find a spot on the couch to relax achy muscles, try these six yoga poses that will refresh and even rejuvenate you.
1. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
Seated forward fold lengthens the hamstrings and low back, which may feel a little shortened after a day of squatting and kneeling.
The pose: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Place your hands just below the knees, and inhale to lengthen the spine, exhale to fold forward, using your hands on your shins to help pull the spine long. Make sure the pelvis tips forward with the spine; if your low back is rounded behind your sacrum, sit on a blanket or two to allow your spine to lengthen safely. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths.
If you are able to reach the feet easily with your elbows bent and your shoulders down away from your ears, feel free to grab your feet instead of your shins.
You can also loop a strap around the balls of your feet and pull yourself gently forward.
This posture releases your lower back and gives the circulatory system a break from working against gravity all day.
2. Rotated Head to Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)
Rotated Head to Knee Pose is great for lengthening each side of the low back and side body individually. The combination twist and side bend feels great after a long day of bending forward.
The pose: Sit on the floor with your left leg in front of you and bring your right foot to the inside of your left thigh, then walk your right knee open to get a 90 degree angle between the thighs; your right foot will come away from your left thigh at this point. On an inhale, lengthen your spine, and on an exhale twist to your right and bring your right hand behind you and left hand to your right thigh to support the twist. On your next inhale, lift your right arm high and lengthen your right side body while staying in the twist, and exhale to fold your left shoulder toward the inside of your left thigh. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
If when you fold sideways you are able to touch your left foot with your right hand while keeping the right arm above your head, feel free to grab the foot and use it to gently lengthen the spine more.
If you would like to get the same lengthening and you are not able to reach the foot, loop a strap around your foot and grab it in the right hand.
If you feel a “kink” in your bottom side body when folding or it is difficult to sit upright, sit on a blanket or two to elevate the hips.
3. Half Frog Pose (Ardha Bhekasana)
This part backbend and part quadriceps stretch is refreshing for your back, shoulders and legs.
The pose: Lie on your belly with your legs hip-bone-width apart. Prop yourself up on your elbows, then bend your right knee toward beside your hip. Reach back and grab the inside arch of your foot with your right hand, thumb facing up and the upper arm bone outwardly rotated. Pull the foot toward beside the hip while keeping the right knee in line with the right hip; do not let it splay out away from the hip. Keep your chest squared toward the front of your mat, and do not collapse into the left shoulder. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
If you want to go deeper into the posture and can do so with no discomfort in the knee, when you have a hold on your foot you can rotate the palm so the fingertips face the same direction as the toes, bring your elbow on top of your wrist and press the foot toward the floor.
If you are not able to reach your foot or grabbing your foot causes discomfort in the shoulder, loop a strap around your foot and draw the foot toward your hip with the strap.
4. Supported Fish (Matsyasana variation)
If I had to choose one yoga posture to do every day, it would be Fish pose! It releases tight necks, shoulders and upper spines, relieving neck and shoulder pain, and tension headaches. It stretches the intercostals between the ribs, which allows your lungs to function more efficiently. It generally improves your posture, which allows your whole body to function more efficiently. And it is the antidote to all the bending over you do while working in the garden.
The pose: Choose an appropriate prop to put under your upper spine. This could be a rolled up towel or blanket for gentle opening, or a block on the medium or low height for more opening. Place your upper spine on the prop so that the bottom tips of your shoulder blades barely spill over the edge of the prop. Lie back and allow your head to come to the floor. Extend your arms straight out from the shoulders and let the hands rest on the floor, or for more opening in the shoulders, fold the arms and bring the arms up overhead; make sure to switch the fold of the arms half way through the posture. Stay for up to 5 minutes.
If your head does not comfortably and easily reach the floor, either place a second prop under your head for support, or put a lower prop under your upper spine. Your head and neck should be perfectly comfortable.
If you feel discomfort in your low back, try bringing the prop a bit closer to your head.
There should be no “electric” sensations in the hands or the shoulders, such as tingling, fingers falling asleep, etc. Those sensations could indicate you are compressing a nerve; you may need to adjust your arm position or the prop under your upper spine, or leave the posture entirely.
5. Spine Twist with Eagle Legs (Jathara Parivartanasana variation)
Spine twist with eagle legs is a relaxing twist that helps neutralize the spine. This particular variation targets the upper spine, neck and shoulders.
The pose: Lie on your back. Cross your right thigh over your left, then double wrap the legs by tucking your right foot behind the left calf. Bring your right thigh perpendicular to your torso, then drop your legs to the left side of the mat, and use your left hand to draw the knees to the floor. Make sure your right hip is directly on top of your left hip. Twist your upper spine to the right and reach your right arm out at a 45 degree angle up from the shoulder, palm facing up. Turn your gaze over your right shoulder. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then repeat the twist with the left leg on top, knees go to your right, upper spine twists to the left.
If you want a gentler twist, place your top knee on a block, blanket or bolster for support.
In this twist variation, keep your knees grounded on a prop or the floor; it is okay if the extended arm floats off the floor. If the arm floating creates discomfort in your shoulder, place a bolster or block under the upper arm bone.
6. Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)
Legs up the wall feels great after a day on your feet. This deeply restorative posture soothes tired legs and feet, releases the low back and gives the circulatory system a break from working against gravity all day.
The pose: Sit beside a wall with one shoulder against the wall. Drop back onto your elbows, then spin around so your bottom faces the wall and your legs extend up the wall. Lie on your back, place your arms at your sides with palms facing up and rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
If you are unable to relax your legs without the knees bending sliding down toward your chest, scoot farther away from the wall. Your bottom does not have to touch the wall.
You can place a bolster under your lumbar spine for support. If you do, set up the posture by sitting on one end of the bolster and then moving into position.
A sandbag on the feet helps to further release the low back. It feels the best if you have someone place it for you, but you can also bend your knees and slide your feet down the wall with the feet remaining parallel to the ceiling, place the sandbag on your feet, then slide your legs back up the wall.