By Stepfanie Romine, Certified Yoga Instructor, for SparkPeople
This series of yoga poses will help you open your hips, stretch your hamstrings and energize your body. Designed for someone with a basic knowledge of yoga, use these poses to strengthen and lengthen.
You'll need a yoga mat for this practice, along with a block, if you use one. The photos here show the sequence on the left side of the body. Hold each pose for at least five breaths, and repeat on the other side.
Be sure to warm up, either with some cardio or a few sun salutations.
Before you begin, remember these precautions:
- Do not start a yoga routine or any other workout without clearance from your doctor.
- These poses are not suitable for pregnant women.
- Each pose should be done in a slow and controlled manner, without bouncing or forcing, which can cause your muscles to tighten, increasing your risk of injury. Stretch in a slow, steady motion to the point of "mild discomfort." If you are stretching to the point of pain, you have stretched too far. Learn to "respect your edge"--never go beyond it.
- A breath is one full inhalation and one full exhalation through the nose. Hold each pose for five breaths, or longer if you'd like.
Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1--photo is above)
Inhale, step your left foot back about four feet, pivoting it to about 45 degrees. Lunge your right leg, keeping the knee directly over the ankle. Bring arms overhead, press palms together, and gaze at your thumbs. Hips stay level and face forward. Press into both feet, and keep the shoulders relaxed away from the ears (don't scrunch them).
Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)
Exhale, bring your arms out into a T, opening your hips to the left. Sink deeper into your lunge, and shift your gaze to your front middle finger. Let the shoulders relax; keep the arms active. Press into both feet, paying special attention to the outer edge of the back foot.
Inhale, drop the left hand to the left thigh or calf, and extend the right arm overhead, leaning into a slight backbend. Flip the right palm and gaze up to look at it. Keep the abs strong and pull the bellybutton toward the backbone.
Extended side angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Inhale, press into both feet and bring arms back to a T, then drop the right forearm to the right thigh, extending the left arm overhead. Create one long line from the left ankle to the left fingertips. Gaze under the left shoulder to the left palm.
Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)
Inhale, press into both feet to stand tall and straighten both legs, bringing the arms back to a T. Step the back (left) foot forward about a foot, exhale lean out and over the front leg, and reach for the right big toe with the first two fingers and thumb. (Or rest the hand on the shin, ankle, or a block.) Let the left arm extend straight up, and shift the gaze to the left fingertips. Press into the front foot, and keep the body lifted and active (don't collapse into that bottom hip and hand--lift toward the sky and keep abs strong).
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SparkRecipes.com editor Stepfanie Romine is a certified yoga teacher and co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." A vegetarian and runner, she has lived and cooked on three continents.