The UK’s leading yoga expert, Michele Pernetta, shows you how to energise and balance your body in 6 easy yoga poses. Performed regularly, and preferably as part of a regular yoga practice, the six poses demonstrated will effectively tone the core muscles, flatten the stomach and align the spine, hips and pelvis, while releasing tightness and nurturing the body.
1. Half Moon.
This works wonders for the waistline and core strength while loosening tight muscles around the pelvis and spine.
Traditionally performed with the feet together this can be modified to the feet hip width apart for more stability of the pelvis.
Arms over the head interlock your fingers and release your index fingers. Stretch up. Lock your elbows. Arms behind your ears. Chin up. Pull your stomach in. Pelvis neutral which usually means tuck your tailbone under. Pelvic floor muscles pulled in. Stretch up as tall as you can. Push your hips to the left and slowly bend your body to the right being sure to keep your hips and shoulders facing forward and not twisting. Imagine you are doing this against a wall with fingers, shoulders hips and heels touching the wall. Stretch don’t drop. Keep your abdominals engaged. Buttocks and legs tight. Open your chest. Work your arms back towards your ears to open your chest and shoulders. The weight of your upper body is strengthening your core. Day by day you will be able to go down lower until your body looks like a crescent moon. Hold gradually up to 30 secs. Inhale come up. Stretch up again. Be careful not to arch your lower back. Inhale and repeat other side.
This pose releases tension in shoulders and upper back and brings fresh oxygenated blood to the reproductive organs, strengthens lower back, legs, feet and ankles opens all the major joints of the body and is good against varicose veins by strengthening the valves in the veins and also cellulite of the thighs by giving massage and squeezing to the thighs.
Inhale arms over the head and exhale swing your right arm under the left arm and wrap your arms twice once at elbows and once at the wrists so your hands are in prayer position with your thumbs facing your face. Pull your elbows down to stretch your shoulders. Sit down as if sitting on a chair and push your hips way back. Bring your right leg over your left leg and try to wrap your foot around the back of your ankle. If your knees go off centre, don’t wrap the foot yet. Keep your knees directly under your elbows. Sit down, hips back more and chest up more. Create an arch in your lower back and a deep compression in your groin. Breathe deeply. Hold 20 secs. Change. Repeat with left leg over the top and left arm under the right arm.
3. Half Tortoise.
This is a rejuvenating and relaxing pose, good for lack of sleep and mental burnout. It is nurturing and calming.
This pose oxygenates the blood, rests the mind by bringing circulation to the head and is good for thyroid, parathyroid and pituitary. It tones hips and thighs and relieves tension in shoulders. In India it is used for irritable bowel syndrome.
Kneel down. Arms over the head palms together and thumbs crossed. (If you have a bad lower back you can omit the entrance and exit and just go in and come out with your hands on the floor.) Slowly come down with control using your core strength and place your head on the floor and finger tips on the floor. If your head won’t touch the floor bend your elbows until it does. Stretch forward. Relax head, neck, jaw and face. Breathe deeply. After 20-30 secs inhale and come out the same way you went in. If you are coming out with your arms over your head use your core strength and try to keep your head and arms together.
This strengthens the lower back while keeping it safe, creates symmetry in the body and opens upper back, chest and ribcage. Tones the arms, waistline, buttocks and legs. circulation to the uterus and ovaries
Lie on your front. Hands on the floor chest level, elbows tucked in towards your waist. Legs together, knees locked, buttocks tight, toes pointed. Inhale and without using your arm strength lift your chest and rib cage off the floor but leave your navel on the floor. You are trying to bend only your upper back. Don’t use your arm strength, only your lower back strength. Squeeze your legs together and elbows to your sides. Look up but don’t strain your neck. Hold it 20 secs. Release. Turn your head to the side and relax.
5. Spine Twist
This slims the waist by strengthening the transverse abdominal muscles which create a girdle-like effect on the abdomen. It releases tension from the back muscles, hips and neck, improves digestion, and releases tight hips, glutes and ilio-tibeal bands.
Sit with your left knee bent cross legged in front of you and your knee directly in front of you. Place your right foot 1″ across the left knee on the left side of it. Put your right hand on the floor behind you at the base of your spine for support. Inhale stretch your left arm up and lever your upper right knee and grab your left knee with your left hand, bring part of the elbow against the knee, inside of the elbow facing out. Put your right hip down on the floor. Pull your stomach in and stretch your spine up and turn and twist to the right from coccyx to neck. Look over your right shoulder. Upper body leans back to open chest more and keep spine in a vertical line. Inhale stretch up, exhale twist. Look round. Twist. Hold a few more seconds. And gently untwist slowly. Repeat other side.
This breathing exercise refreshes and energises, as well as being a good way to bring tone to the abdominal area; it massages the abdominal organs, oxygenates the body, removes carbon dioxide, and is good for the nervous system. It is good for abdominal muscles.
Kneel down, knees and feet together. If you can’t kneel, sit cross legged. Put your hands on your knees, back straight, elbows straight, chest open and neck relaxed. Relax your belly into your lap, big soft belly. The exhaled breath we are going to do is through the mouth, with the lips in a “kissing” shape, and making a “sh” and an “f” sound simultaneously. We are trying to create a resistance in the mouth, so it is a little difficult to blow the air out. Imagine 60 candles coming towards you on a conveyor belt. Blow each candle out by snapping the belly back on the exhale, and relaxing so the inhale takes care of itself. 60 exhales blowing. Stop and wet the lips a little, swallow a couple of times. For the second set it is even more important to stay relaxed and relax the belly after every exhale. Start again double speed.
It takes several weeks or even months to build to this. It is important your shoulders stay still and do not raise when you inhale, so that is why we keep the arms locked and shoulders down. Don’t slump, back straight, chest up, this will ensure maximum benefit to the abdomen. We are learning abdominal breathing, so upper chest and ribcage are still.