You like the exercise, but hate the spiritual part of yoga? You're not alone. Here are some positions and stretches you'll love even if you hate yoga.
Let me just start by saying I hate yoga with all my heart. I’d love to say there’s a rational explanation for my hatred, but I would be lying. These feelings come by proxy. Allow me to explain. Remember when yoga was becoming trendy everywhere? Well, my aunt was one of those people who started doing it because it was trendy, and she got so into it that she started trying to convince me that it would solve all my problems. So, one day, I decided to give it a try, just so she'd stop bugging me about it. I have to say, I didn’t hate it, but I stopped doing it pretty soon because I wasn’t as passionate as everybody else, and I kind of felt they were excluding me. What is true is that I did learn some stretches and positions that have been quite helpful for me and my poor lower back.
Photo: Anastasiya Lobanovskaya
We generally don’t notice it, but our hands are the parts of our body that we use the most, so they get the most tension in our everyday lives. If you are on the computer for long hours at work, writing at school, drawing, or basically any activity, there comes a moment in the day when our muscles need some stretching to relieve that tension. One great exercise that will do the job without requiring a lot of effort is extending your arms to the sides and drawing five circles with your wrist in one direction and five in the other.
The next step is stretching as your fingers as far as they go, and then closing them in a tight fist (repeat again about 10 times). Finally, extend one arm in front of you and raise your fingers with your palm facing out. With your other hand, try bringing your fingers closer to you without flexing your elbow. But don’t push yourself too hard since you could hurt yourself. Now, do it again but with your fingers pointing down, and then both with the other hand. Do this every two hours, and you’ll notice that your arms and hands will feel really light.
If you’re lazy like me, you’ll love this exercise, since you can even do it in bed. Lie down, and cross your left knee by twisting your hips to the right. Stretch your right leg and put your arms in a T position. Turn your head left (opposite to your bent knee), and wait a few seconds. Repeat on the other side and you’ll notice how your back releases all the tension accumulated throughout the day. This one helps you stretch your spine releasing all the tension.
This one has a similar effect than the previous one, but this one you can actually do at the office or basically wherever you are as long as you have a chair or something to sit on. Sit with your back really straight and your feet grounded on the floor. Cross one of your legs over the other by placing your ankle on the opposite knee (only holding it, don’t make the knee carry with all the weight of the leg). Twist your body slightly in the direction of the bended knee and hold for a few seconds. Repeat with the other leg. This won’t only allow you to stretch your spine, but will also exercise the muscles in the inner thigh, which feels great.
Photo: Christopher Campbell
The hand stretch is amazing, but it’s focused on releasing the stress mainly on that region of the arm, and there are times when we really need to go deeper and exercise our shoulders and the entire arm. This one is really easy to do and extremely satisfying. Find a bare wall and stand straight with your back and feet touching the wall. Extend one arm in a straight line from the shoulder with your palms facing out. Slowly, without moving your arm, start rolling your body in the direction of the arm. You’ll start noticing how the muscles of the arm, from shoulder to fingers, will start stretching. Stop whenever you feel it starts hurting and hold it there for some seconds. Repeat with the other hand. Once you’ve finished making some circles with your shoulders in the two different directions, relax them.
Finally, I left the best for last. I do this one every day when I get home, and it helps me relax my entire body like nothing else. Find a body towel or any blanket (there are some special yoga blankets, but you can do it with any fabric), and roll it till it reaches a width of about two or two and a half inches. Place the roll on the floor, next to a bare wall. Stand on your fabric roll on your tiptoes facing the wall. You can put your hands on it for balance, but make sure that your back and feet are straight. Slowly start pushing your heels to the floor without moving your tiptoes from the roll. You’ll immediately feel how the muscles from the legs and the back start stretching. Hold the position for a second when your heels touch the floor. Then go up again on your tiptoes and get down the roll. This one works great for everyone but you’ll find it amazing if you wear high heels.
As I said, I respect the principles of yoga. I’m not really into the meditation part, but the movements and positions it has are really useful to release tension in our body and have better a better posture. Like me, you don’t have to become a yogi if you don’t feel like it, but you can definitely embrace the parts that are useful for you.
Do you have some time? Take a look at these: