Over the past three years, I’ve taught yoga in Florida, Texas, and Arizona. One of the questions I receive most is “Which poses should I do at home?” Typically, the question comes post-class from someone who is newer to the practice of yoga or from someone who thinks they’ve “fallen off the wagon” with regards to stretching.
I do my best to honor the enthusiasm of the post-yoga-class-high while tempering it a little. Usually, my advice is to pick a pose–one pose–and do it every day for a week. Then either change it or add another pose next week. People usually don’t really like that answer.
At that point, they seem to be searching for a 50-minute sequence that will recreate the feeling they just found. The mentality after a rewarding movement session can be, “If I did this every day, I’d feel so much better!” And while that sentiment is right on and understandable, that’s not really how life works in my experience.
Real life calls for space–space to work hard, to rest, to be flexible, to have discipline. Sure, an hour-long every-day practice sounds amazing. People do it and swear by it! If that’s your jam, go for it! I’m not here to discourage you, but I do know that what can happen is that we become so married to the idea of hiking the full mountain, and only the full mountain, EVERY DANG DAY that unless we find time to hike the whole thing we’re not going.
The reality of doing anything every single day is even tougher during COVID times when big things change consistently and with no warning. I’ll have “me” time for one hour every morning is quickly chased away by the child who’s now at home, the work schedule that flipped, or any number of situations that may pop up. So small commitments that you can actually keep are better than big ones that you’ll probably have to break.
And by the way, there’s no reason to pile any more giant “shoulds” on yourself right now, sister. You’re carrying enough. Instead, I wanna give you a few movement options that you can sneak in throughout your day to support YOU.
Whether work is amping up, the kids are at home, or your body is feeling different lately (hellooooo, pregnancy!) these are little movements that you can commit to. Choose to do them all together, alongside your regular movement practice, or separately throughout the day. Maybe even try focusing on one or two per week and notice how your body feels. Either way, the movement is yours. Let it support you!
Disclaimer: You are responsible for your own health and safety at all times. As such, by visiting and using this website you are acknowledging and agreeing that you have been assessed by a qualified medical professional who has given you consent to take part in physical activity.
1. Ujjayi Breathing
The Ujjayi breath is designed to bring warmth to your system. Use this in moments when you feel like you need a little wake-up. It’s first on the list because it’s a great breath to support the other movements I’m listing!
How to: To start, breathe in through your nose. Lightly constrict the back of your throat like you’re going to fog a mirror. Keeping that, exhale through your nose. On your next inhale, keep that constriction going. If you’re more visual, check out this video.
2. Cleansing Breath
Now, this guy has a different intention. It’ll cool your system down and help you release tension or negative energy. I use this one a lot to ground myself before going into something I’m nervous about. Add it to any movement to give your movement a more settled quality.
How to: Breathe in deeply through your nose (maybe to the count of three), imagining your whole body filling up with air, and exhale through your mouth like you’re sighing it out (again, maybe count to three). Repeat.
3. Head Rolls
Great for first thing in the morning or sitting at a stoplight.
How to: Inhale. On your exhale, keeping your spine upright, and tilt your chin to your chest. On your next inhale, send your right ear to your right shoulder. Exhale chin to chest and then inhale other side. Just go back and forth with your breath in a half-circle pattern.
4. Modern Cat-Cows
Okay, I don’t mean “modern” in the sense that I think Cat-Cow needs an update. What I mean is that this version is influenced by modern dance. It’ll have your upper body feeling open in no time!
How to: Decide to either sit or stand. Make sure there’s plenty of space beside you. Start with a simple Cat-Cow, arching your chin up and heart open on the inhale and curling your chin down and belly in on the exhale. Then expand on that idea by adding in the side body and the arms in the same half-circle motion as the Head Rolls. It might be better if I just showed you.
5. Shoulder Openings
We’re working our way down the body now. This one is super important especially if you drive, text, or type a lot. There are lot’s of modifications, so choose one that works for you!
How to: Choose your method (see images below), making sure that if you are using a prop to support your back it’s positioned below your shoulder blades. If you’re going for the clasp your hands option, bending your arms or holding a towel between your hands can be super helpful.
6. Finger Splits
This one was taught to me by a ballet instructor in Atlanta who was trying to get me to activate my por de bras through my fingers. If you don’t know what a por de bras is, it’s fancy ballet-speak for arm movements. Anyway, it’s been super helpful in regular life too!
How to: This is exactly what it sounds like. Find a comfy seat and a table or use the floor to make your fingers to the splits. Don’t put too much pressure into your surface! Be gentle but firm.
7. Wrist Rolls
Still with those handsies. Getting your extremities stretched out is a great way to get your energy flowing, not to mention that this particular exercise can even help prevent carpal tunnel!
How to: Hold your hands in front of you and, without moving your forearms, act like you’re grabbing the air to the outside of your hands. Make the circle and reverse when you’re ready. Another option is to clasp your hands, keeping your elbows to your sides, and draw a horizontal figure-8. Reverse that figure-8 and then re-clasp your hands to repeat it all.
8. Quad Stretch
There are MANY ways to do this one, but I’ve chosen the most discreet one so that you can sneak this in beside the car, while waiting for the bathroom, or anywhere you’d like!
How to: Find the closest wall and place one hand on it so that you’re standing perpendicular to it. Bend the outside knee and hold onto the foot with your free hand. Work on leveling out the hips so that one isn’t higher or more forward than the other. Breathe. Turn to do the other side.
9. Calf Stretch
Again, I’m choosing some discreet versions of this. There are many ways to stretch, but these are two that you can do out and about.
How to: Maybe using the same wall as the quad stretch, face it and place both hands at shoulder height. Step one leg back directly behind its hip, ensuring that your hips are equidistant from the wall. Bend your front knee slightly while working your back heel towards (heel may not touch) the ground. Hold and breathe. Optionally, bend your back knee slightly for a different stretch.
Option B: Find a stairway or a curb with a rail nearby and place your metatarsal (toes and pad of foot) onto the stair with your heel hanging off. Ensure that the heel is directly behind your toes and that you’re not pulling a duck-walk or pigeon-toed stance. Switch feet.
10. Metatarsal Stretch
Wooh! Last one. This is one that you’ll probably love if you used to dance more than you do now. People so often neglect their feet in their workouts, so enjoy this juiciness!
How to: Keep the idea we had with the calf stretch with the wall and one leg behind the other. This time, lift the back heel and either straighten or bend the front leg depending on the sensation.
And that’s it! You’re now set up for success and for a more mobilized day. Remember that these movements can be done all at once or periodically throughout the day. Comment below or find me on Instagram to let me know how it went for you!