Ready to stretch beyond your flexibility in the new year? Not only can taking time to stretch and practice yoga enhance your physical appearance and strength, it can also work wonders for your mental state of mind. We spoke with Jen Lobo Plamondon, co-owner of Bikram Yoga NYC, and Bikram Yoga NYC instructor Omri Kleinberger to find out their top advice for boosting your flexibility. (Curious about Bikram? It’s a sequence of 26 postures in a heated room for 90 minutes, with abridged 60- and 75-minute classes also available. Whether your goal is to touch your toes or master a headstand, these simple but powerful moves can help you get there.
1. Stretch right when you get out of bed in the morning
“I like to do a forward bend first and hang for about 20 seconds then do two lateral (side) bends [Clasp your hands in a prayer shape over your head and bend to the left and hold; repeat on the right side] . The forward bend gets blood to my brain and loosens up my lower back. Lateral stretching wakes up the whole spine and sides of the body,” says Lobo Plamondon. Throw in a few gentle neck rolls counterclockwise and clockwise to really get things going.
2. Suck your stomach in
So easy, we really have no excuse not to try this one out at least half a dozen times throughout the day: “One simple thing anyone can do at any time while they are sitting is to suck the stomach in for a few seconds at a time, every few minutes,” suggests Kleinberger. “The idea is not to get hung up on sucking the stomach in, but rather when you remember, squeeze your abdominals in for a few seconds, and let go. Repeat a few times, every time you remember.”
3. Take a yoga class at least three days per week
“Practicing yoga is important for everybody, but if you are somebody who does a lot of heavy exercise, sports, pounding, etc, you have to do yoga to keep your body flexible and prevent injuries,” shares Lobo Plamodon. “Yoga needs to be a part of your life so that you can keep doing all the things in your life that you love, whether it’s tennis, surfing, golf, running, etc. Practicing yoga in a hot room is especially good for inflexible people as it helps warm up the body and allows practicioners to work safely into the ligaments and joints.”
4. Backbend on an office chair
“Find a prop that can push you slightly forward when in the middle of your back, on your office chair. Drop your head back and let your back arch from your head to your sacrum,” Kleinberger describes. “Lift your chest, if you can prop your head against the chairs back, and remember to keep your throat and chest long and relaxed. If your chair’s back isn’t tall enough to rest on comfortably, interlace your fingers behind your head and try to rest your head on your hands with your chest muscles stretched out.” Ah, breathe in tranquility and exhale office frustrations.
5. Sit smarter
Chronic chair slumpers, no more! “Remember when someone asked you to sit up straight? Rather than holding an upright position without purpose, realize that slouching tends to weaken your stomach back muscles, tense your shoulders when they round forward and over-stretch your upper back,” Kleinberger comments. “Instead, think of sitting up tall, effortlessly. Don’t prop yourself up, just feel that as you’re sitting upright there’s no unnecessary tension where you usually hold it.”
6. Step away from your desk
How’s that vow to make 2016 the year you don’t eat lunch at your desk? We know, we know. Slinking away for 20 minutes or more can be a struggle, but taking a minute or so away from the computer screen? A cinch and total must-do. “If you work at a desk all day, make sure you are getting up every hour, at least, to walk around and stretch out your legs,” explains Lobo Plamondon. “When you are sitting at your desk, you can practice the leg portion of an eagle pose by crossing your one leg over the other and tucking your foot behind your calf muscle. Try it on both sides and hold it for a minute or so to allow your joints to open up. Pretty soon you will be doing it without even realizing it!”
Follow Perri on Twitter @66PerriStreet.