By Chris Freytag
See our previous article in this series, Morning Exercises to Energize Your Day.
At the end of the day, it can be difficult to transition out of work mode. These five yoga-based exercises (plus a relaxation pose) will help reduce tension and improve flexibility. Try it first thing after work or right before you go to bed, whichever works best for you. The workout begins with a few strengthening poses and ends with several stretches and a relaxation pose for stress relief. Focus on your breath and create a relaxed and serene environment—light some candles and turn on some soothing music. This workout is guaranteed to make you will feel stronger, more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
(opens the hip flexors, stretches the lats, and strengthens the quads, glutes and torso)
Step your feet wide apart and lunge forward with your front leg. Point your front toes straight ahead, turn your back toes in slightly. Keep the knee over the toes and your back leg straight; your back foot should stay flat on the ground. Extend your arms high overhead, lifting through the chest and heart. Try to stay as low as possible in your lunge and take four to six deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
(strengthens and stretches the obliques and shoulders)
Sit on the floor with your legs to the right side. Place your left hand on the floor, directly below the shoulder. Stack the feet or keep the bottom knee on the floor as you lift your body off the floor. Engage the abdominals and keep the core tight as you extend the right arm up toward the ceiling. Keep the body in one plane and hold for several seconds and lower back down. Repeat eight to 10 times on each side.
Forward Bend with Chest Expansion
(stretches the hamstrings, deltoids and pectorals)
Interlace your hands behind your back (use a towel if hands don’t reach) and bend at the hips into a forward bend. Drop your forehead to your knees. Keep a slight bend in the knees if your hamstrings are tight. Stretch the arms up toward the ceiling, feeling a stretch throughout the chest, and hold for about 20 seconds.
(strengthens and stretches the abdominals and spine)
Begin on all fours, with your knees under the hips and wrists under the shoulders. First, round your back up toward the ceiling; drop your head and look for your belly button (cat). Next, look up and arch your back as you extend through the whole spine, including your neck (dog). Repeat eight to 10 times, inhaling as you move into dog stretch and exhaling as you move into cat stretch.
Pigeon Pose to Sleeping Pigeon
(stretches the hip abductors, hip flexors and glutes, relieves stress)
Begin with your hand on the floor on either side of your right knee and your left leg extended back on the floor behind you. Drop the right knee toward the right hand and turn the foot so that the top of the foot is toward the floor, close to the left hand. If this is uncomfortable, the foot can move back toward the groin. Sink into the hips while keeping them square to the floor. Walk your hands out in front of you (sleeping pigeon) to stretch the back and relax into the pose. Hold for at least 20 seconds.
Legs Up-The-Wall Pose
(relieves tired legs and feet, calms the mind and body)
This is your final relaxation pose. Lie on your back with your feet up the wall or the side of your bed at a 90º angle. Extend both legs in the air and straighten the knees as much as you can. Relax your arms at your sides, close your eyes and breathe deeply.