Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stiff Body, Stiff Mind

For those of us in the Delaware area, we have woken up once again to a blanket of snow.   In the beginning of winter, snow may be welcoming as it forces us to slow down and stay warm inside with love ones.  If you are anything like me, the first snow also means the start of winter sports.  The idea of blazing down the mountain on my board or speed skating on ice brings adrenalin to my veins.  The change of weather is exciting!

Yet at this time of year, I find that I have forgotten the initial exhilaration of snow.  That feeling is replaced by an involuntary “ughhhhhhhhhh” as I look out my window at 7am to see my car hidden under a white, heavy load.  The reason for the change of heart?  Life continues on after the first big snow storm.  All snow after that is socially treated as a burden.  We are still expected at work, we don’t have the money or time to go to the mountain, and we are over this whole winter nonsense.

My unfortunate distaste for the recent winter weather correlates directly to my body.  I am not sure which comes first, mind or body, but I know they are intimately connected.  When I woke up this morning I was stiff and sore.  Knowing that when my body is stiff, my mind is stiff, I quickly set out to do some mild morning yoga.  I refuse to let a little snow and a problematic back turn my mind into a ball of frustration for the rest of the day.  So here is my cure:
1.   Half Moon:
-          Stand in mountain pose with feet together, heals and toes touch.
-          Bring your arms straight overhead, palms kiss, fingers interlaced, releasing your index fingers to point to the sky.
-          Relax your shoulders away from your ears.  Take a few deep breaths here, just slowly waking up your body.
-          As you inhale reach up and on your exhale extend over to your right side, lengthening through the fingertips. Inhale back to center and then exhale to the left side. 
-          Be playful here, holding for shorter periods of time in the beginning and then gradually holding for longer.  Remember to take deep breaths!
-          Its more about the length than the bending to one side.
2.   Baby Backbend:
-          Once you’re done with half moon, come back to center with arms extended overhead.
-          Slightly tuck your chin and then gaze up at your fingertips.
-          Slowly begin to walk your fingertips along the ceiling as come into a baby backbend. 
-          Don’t push it!  In the morning I may only be able to bend an inch or two.
-          Hold for 3-5 breaths and then come back up to center.
3.   Utkatasana (Fierce pose)
-          Release your finger tips, keeping your palms parallel as you continue to reach both arms up
-          Exhale as you hinge from your hips and pretend like you are about to take a seat.
-          Hold in this fierce squat for no more than 3 breaths.  Engage your core muscles.
-          Let the heat in your quads and bum warm you up!

1.    Forward fold
-          Simply exhale and release your fingers to the ground, folding forward.
-          Bend the knees as much as you need to, releasing tension in the lower back.
-          Hug your elbows and gently sway from side to side. 
-          Slowly settle, calmly nod yes, shake no
-          Finally rest in calmness, no movement and breathe slowly for 3 breaths before coming onto your bum.
2.    Knee to Chest
-          Lay flat on your back, feet together, arms at your sides.
-          Bring the right knee into your chest, finger interlaced on your shin.
-          Pull your knee into your chest (not your armpit!), keeping your legs, neck, and head relaxed.
-          When you’re done, mindfully lower the right leg to meet the left.  Same on other side.
3.    Spinal Twist (laying down)
-          Bring your right knee into your chest and then slightly shift your weight to your left hip.
-          Using your left hand placed on the outside of your right knee, pull your knee towards the left.
-          Keep both shoulders kissing the ground.  Gaze to your right and just breathe.  Do other side.
-          When you’re done bring both legs solidly on the ground, feet together, arms at sides.
1.    Both Knees to Chest
-          Bring both knees to your chest, wrapping your arms around your knees.  Grab opposite elbows if you can.
-          Relax your shoulders and tailbone onto the mat.
-          Feel your spine lengthening.
2.    Rock and Roll
-          From Knees to Chest, release your elbows and place your palms in your knee pit.
-          Gently rock and roll from tailbone to shoulder blades, feeling the momentum massage your spine and back muscles.  Go gently!
-          After 5 rolls, pause balancing on your tailbone.
-          Slowly place your palms on the mat and extend your legs flat on the mat.
3.    Extended Staff Stretch
-          Bring your feet and legs together.  Squeeze them together to awake all those muscle fibers.
-          Work on reaching the crown of your head up towards the sky, keeping your back nice and straight.
-          Extend your arms overhead and then slowly roll back down to your mat.
4.    Savasana (Corpse pose)
-          Rest with your arms and legs relaxed at your sides. 
-          Since it’s the morning, don’t stay here long!  We don’t want you falling back to sleep.
-          To get out, mindfully roll over to your right side, come into fetal position, and then push your set up to seated position.
Once I’m done with that (about 10-15 minutes) I roll out on an exercise ball or a foam roll.  Rolling from the base of my spine, up to my shoulder blades helps to release tension in my muscles.  Even though I was sleeping, not all sleep is happy sleep so tension can still build while we “relax”.
Some of you may want to take a couple of minutes of meditation.  Either way, make sure you get your mind and body right.  Remember, stiff body equals a stiff mind.

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