Monday, September 15, 2008

antidote to exhaustion

I have been SO tired recently. I don't know what it is. Low iron? Caffeine withdrawal? Slowing-down metabolism? Quarter-life crisis (or more like "approaching-thirty-crisis")? A friend of mine says that as you approach thirty, the warranty's over. I'm trying not to believe it yet. But still.... here I am, tired, tired, tired.

Not enough sleep? Not enough fresh air? Not enough exercise?

For some reason, the "not enough's" seem so hard to fix.

Except for "not enough yoga".

Several years ago when I first started practicing yoga, I had an all-or-nothing approach. But if you find yourself juggling work, school, kids, chores, etc (all that plus triathlon training like this gal), and feel that you can only stretch for 10 minutes, that's perfectly fine. A little is better than nothing.

Here are my favorite stretches, especially when all the energy I have left at the end of the day is only enough for a few stretches before bed.

Child's Pose
Get into hands and knees position, or "tabletop". Shift your hips back and rest them on your heels, bringing your head towards the floor (or bed, if that's where you are!).

Try these variations: knees together with your torso resting over your thighs; or your knees separated, with your belly resting between your thighs. Relax your head, the back of your neck, and your shoulders.

Then slide your hands forward to Puppy Pose:

I love this pose. It's a more relaxed version of Downward Facing Dog. It's great for stretching the shoulders and lengthening the spine. It's also a good variation to down dog if your wrists are tired.


Come up to hands and knees in tabletop. Your wrists are directly beneath your shoulders and your knees are about hips-width apart.
Inhale, lift your right arm up to the side, parallel to the ground.
Exhale, thread your right arm in between your left hand and your left knee, then rest your right shoulder all the way down to the floor. Your right arm is extended across the midline of your body, resting on the floor.
Feel the stretch in between your shoulder blades, and breathe. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

Come back to tabletop, then switch sides:
Inhale, lift your left arm up to the side until it's parallel to the ground.
Exhale, thread your left arm in between your right hand and your right knee, then rest your left shoulder all the way down. This time your left arm is extends past the midline of your body and rests on the floor. Breathe, exhaling to release tension in the upper back and shoulders.

Come back to tabletop, then shift your weight forward and lower your body all the way down to the floor. Position your hands in front of the shoulders, then inhale to lift the chest and shoulders up into a gentle back bend, or Sphinx Pose:Relax your shoulders away from your ears... hold for a few breaths. It's like a more relaxed version of Cobra Pose. then exhale to slowly lower chest and shoulders down. Rest here and then move back into Child's Pose to counter-stretch the back bend with a gentle forward bend.

Then move to a comfortable seated position and do your choice of a passive, restorative forward bend. Legs can be extended in front of you...but don't worry about making them perfectly straight. You can bend them as little or as much as you want to. You can even put a pillow underneath your knees if that's more comfortable, or if there's tension in your hamstrings.
If you prefer, you can bring the soles of your feet together so that your legs are in a diamond shape. Or you can bring your feet closer to your pelvis in a "butterfly" shape.

Or you can bring your legs out wide:
Lots of options for a forward bend. It's your yoga practice, so you choose! Whatever forward bend you choose, relax into it as much as possible.

As you inhale and exhale, visualize letting go of your day. Inhale: "Let..." Exhale: "Go..."

Once you feel you've had enough of a stretch in a forward bend, GENTLY come out of may feel a bit of an ache in your lower back after the passive stretch, so be patient with yourself. Isn't that a nice thought? How often are we patient with ourselves?

Then lower all the way to the floor.

Happy Baby (who can resist a stretch with a name like that?). This is great for opening the hips:

Legs-up-the-wall Pose
So simple, but blissful! I've fallen asleep like this, seriously.

Reclined Twist (do both sides)
Possible props: try a pillow underneath your stacked knees, or in between your knees. It will be more relaxing if both shoulders are resting on the ground, and if your knees have to be propped up to do so, then prop them up!

Think positive thoughts, like "I did my best today. Tomorrow is another day."

Drift off into sleep.

(photos from Yoga Journal and Yin Yoga websites)

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