After teaching high school and preschool for many years, I’ve come to appreciate the variety of professions that require spending eight hours a day on your feet. Although it is great for keeping you fit as you age, walking, running, and standing strains your body in challenging ways. Along with the occasional foot rub, you can support your active body with a variety of powerful yoga poses. Let’s look at two high impact areas and seek to support, stretch, and strengthen the body.
If you have lower back pain or pain in your general hip area, you are not alone. When doing a repetitive activity like walking or jogging, you are tightening up your hip area and inviting discomfort into your routine. Let’s start with hip opening yoga poses to target and strengthen the hips.
Every body is different, so it is important to practice hip stretches often and find what works for you. Women carry weight in their hips — their pelvic area is wide and flexible. For men, the hips are more narrow and rigid.
- Start in a down-dog posture with your hands flat on the ground and your hips high, standing on the balls of your feet. Your body should look like an upside down V shape. Add a bend to your knees to take the pressure off your hamstrings and calves.
- Gently bring one of your feet up between your hands, bending at the knee. Both of your hips should point forward. This is a low lunge. Settle into this pose by raising your chest up from your knee and enjoy the stretch in the hip of the leg still behind you. You can add a prop underneath your hands for more support (like a block), or make a fist to give your wrists a break.
- For an added challenge, tighten your core and shift your upper body up and straight to a high lunge. Bring your hands high above your head (or to your heart center), keeping your feet planted in the same place. Breathe deeply here.
- After several rounds of breath, return your hands to the mat, framing the front foot and slowly replace your bent leg to find your down-dog position again. Rest for a moment and switch to the other side for a lunge with the opposite leg.
Standing postures can improve your balance. Developing the muscles that help you balance will increase your mobility throughout the day and bring greater stability through the center of your body. Before a long day begins, it can help to start with a grounding and centering posture. Focus on feeling your strength as you practice tree pose with deep affirming breaths.
- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. As you inhale, begin to stand straight up, noticing if your hips are tipping forward or backward. Adjust your hips into a neutral supportive position.
- Come to the ball of your left foot and shift your weight into your right foot, feeling all the different points of contact on the floor. Your arch and the top of your foot will begin to flex to compensate. Find a point of focus on the ground a couple feet in front of you to help your balance.
- Raise your left foot up and plant the sole of your foot on the inside of your calf or your thigh. It should not land next to your knee. Your left knee should point to the left and create a triangle against your right leg. Breathe and bring your hands to your heart center.
- If this is too much for you, keep your left foot on the ground and focus on strengthening your right leg to hold the weight of your body for next time.
- Balancing postures are difficult for everyone and call for a deeper patience with yourself. If you want to challenge yourself, “grow” your limbs by extending your arms high above your head or sway them gently around you. You can also close your eyes. Feel the strength of your body as you stand. It’s okay to step out of this posture and reset — that’s why it’s called yoga practice. After several long breaths, reset to standing and switch to the other side.
Yoga is one of many ways you can support your body and inspire yourself to stay healthy and happy. I encourage you to intentionally take in deep yoga breaths throughout the day. Taking time to support our weak areas makes us grow stronger and more flexible.