Simple Yoga Moves for Morning and Evening

Nothing beats the energy of a group class coupled with the instruction of a knowledgeable teacher–but attending a daily yoga class is out of the question for most. However, just by investing a short block of time in the morning or evening, you’ll find that fitting in a short practice that will provide you with many of yoga’s benefits is easier than you think.

[If you are new to yoga, click on the highlighted links for a quick video/photo reference]

Morning Yoga. Focus on invigorating postures that increase circulation and support healthy posture and movement. Sun salutations are a classic series of flowing movements that will nourish your mind while building core strength and healthy positioning of the knees and feet. Including two rounds of both the classic A-series and B-series will strengthen your core and upper body, as well as the supporting muscles of your knees and feet. Follow this with a balancing posture (such as Tree Pose or Dancers Pose) to improve concentration and foot health. Finish with a chest/heart opening asana (such as Camel Pose or Bridge) to reinforce healthy posture and energy. This practice can also be a wonderful way to warm up for your favorite cardiovascular or strength training activity.

Evening Yoga. Taking a little time for yourself before bedcan reduce the stress from your day, improve connection with your friends and family, and prepare you for sleep. It can also make you more mindful about the evening habits that we often fall into at the end of a long day. It’s also a perfect way to finish your evening workout. You can start this practice with slower paced sun salutations or begin a more restorative practice by coming into Child’s Pose or Cat and Cow postures, which are especially helpful if you experience soreness in your low back. Hip openers, (such as Pigeon Pose) will counter the constriction of remaining seated at work during your day, as will a gentle counter pose/back bend like Upward Plank Pose. Finish your quick evening practice with a generous dose of forward folding  to support quieting of the mind and a more restful sleep. Seated Forward Bend is a great option.

Just 5-10 minutes in the morning or evening can support strength, body awareness, flexibility, and the balanced mindset that are some of the benefits of a yoga practice. If you find yourself with a little extra time, you can combine or build on the postures above using Yoga Journal’s practice builder or the resources at MyYogaonline. The most important step is giving yourself the time to notice what your body and mind need most and providing that with a few directed postures.

Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. To find out more, visit the Meet Our Writers page.

Rest Stop Fitness: Easy Workouts While Traveling

Rest Stop FitnessTravel is a mainstay in my personal and professional life so if I want to practice what I preach, I have to find creative ways to get in exercise when I’m on the road. I’ll admit, at first, it seemed overwhelming because I wasn’t able to duplicate my home routine. The secret to my on the road exercise success is in thinking outside the box. Coincidentally, that was also when my traveling workouts got really fun!

Although it may seem like a challenge to find ways to stay fit on the road, the truth is, there are opportunities everywhere you look. The key is to plan ahead, be mindful, and get creative. Here are three fun 10-minute workouts to stay active while traveling on the road.

Lace up your shoes!  Wear your exercise shoes when driving and you’re one step closer to getting in a great workout on the move. Stop at a rest stop area and perform 30-second intervals to boost your circulation, heart rate and burn calories (it’s also a great way to stay energized and awake at the wheel).

Start out by walking easy for one minute to loosen up. A great place to do this is on the grass or sidewalk to avoid traffic in the parking lot. After one minute, pick up the pace to a power walk for 30-seconds, and follow with walking easy for 30 seconds. Repeat this nine times for a total of nine minutes of heart pumping activity. If you want a more challenging option, pick up the pace to a run for 30 seconds and walk it out to recover. Finish with the following three stretches and you’re off.

  • Chest Stretch: Interlock your fingers behind your lower back. Relaxing your shoulders, keep your arms straight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your hands up toward the ceiling until you feel a stretch in your chest. Perform this stretch on each side once for 30 seconds.
  • Hip Stretch: Using a mat, towel or the grass, kneel on your left knee with your right foot forward. Your right knee should be aligned over the ankle. Relax your back leg and focus on pushing your right hip forward and up towards the ceiling. Reach to the sky with both arms and clasp your hands together for a full body stretch and hold for 30 seconds. Perform this stretch on each side once.
  • Calf Stretch: Stand with your feet hip width apart and your hands on your car just above your shoulders. Move your right foot back about 2-3 feet and bend your left knee.  Keep your right foot on the ground and hold for 30 seconds. You’ll feel this stretch in your back calf.

Jump to it! Remember how much fun jumping rope was? There’s a reason professional fighters use it as a training mode – it’s quick and easy way to get in a high intensity cardio workout that will boost your metabolism for hours. Toss a jump rope in the car for your next trip or, compromise with jumping jacks instead. Try this jumping workout to get your heart pumping and burn a ton of calories.

Walk around at an easy pace for one minute to loosen up. Then repeat the following intervals for five times for a total of ten minutes. You’ll feel like a million bucks after this hard core cardio workout.

Rest Stop Circuit. This workout will help loosen your tight muscles, keep them active and strong and burn calories. Walk around for two minutes to loosen up and perform the following four exercises for one minute each. Repeat a second time and follow with the three stretches mentioned above.

  • Caterpillars: Start in push up position on a mat. Perform three push-ups and then push your hips up towards the ceiling into a downward dog position (in the shape of a V, with your hips elevated to the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly walk your feet one at a time to your hands keeping your legs straight (bend your knees if this is challenging). Hold for 5 seconds with your hands on your feet (or shins) and feel the stretch in your hips and hamstrings. Slowly walk your hands forward and into push up position and repeat again for a total of one minute.
  • Walking Lunges: Stand with your feet hip width apart on stable ground (sidewalk).  Take a long step forward with your right foot and kneel down towards the ground by bending your knees until your forward leg is parallel to the ground. Press up and through your heel and take another step forward and kneel toward the ground. Make sure to line up your knee over your ankle as you move forward.  Repeat for one minute.
  • Squat: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Sit back as if you are going to sit in a chair until your legs are at a 90-degree angle with your thighs parallel to the ground, making sure your knees are over your ankles (not toes). Reach your arms straight out in front of you to shoulder height for stability. Pause and hold for two seconds and then press your heels into the ground, extend through your legs.  Repeat slowly for one minute.
  • Calf Raises: Stand with your feet hip width apart and the balls of your feet at the edge of the curb so your heels are off the ground. Bring your arms out to the side for stability. Raise up on your toes and hold for two seconds and then release down until and through the full range of motion with your heel lower than the curb and hold for two seconds. Repeat this for one minute.

Staying fit on the road is easier than it sounds, and once you get started, the options are endless along the way.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: Best Morning and Evening Exercises

HorizonMorningExerciseAre there any good exercises to do right before bed to wind down the day or right when I get out of bed in the morning to get my day started? –Samantha

When thinking about exercise before bedtime and as you start your day, it’s wise to focus on the purpose and how it will affect your life performance. For instance, as you head towards bedtime your cortisol levels are dropping in preparation for sleep. If you perform an activity that boosts heart rate and breathing, it works against the natural rhythm of your daily cycle and can effectively keep you awake when you want to sleep.

One way to promote more restful sleep is to perform a nighttime routine that includes light stretching and meditation. Here’s a five minute evening exercise routine that’s easy to remember:

  • Lie on your back in a quiet, peaceful place.
  • Pull your knees into your chest and hold for 30 seconds.
  • With your knees into your chest, bring both knees over to your right side and relax them on the floor.  Stretch your arms straight out from your shoulders and look to the opposite side (left side). Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this on the other side by bringing your knees over to the left side, stretch your arms out and look right. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Relax with your legs and arms on the floor.
  • Close your eyes and focus on breathing in and out through your nose.
  • Visualize a beach and hear the sound of the waves hitting the beach.
  • Breath in to the rhythm of the ocean wave flowing up the beach.
  • Breath out as the wave draws back in toward the ocean.
  • Start with 1-2 minutes of this meditation exercise and build up to five minutes.

Now that you know how to bring things down at nighttime, let’s focus on how to pick things up to start your day. Sleep, although restorative, can also leave us feeling tight and stiff in the morning. Here’s a five-minute morning routine you can do anywhere:

  • Stand with your hands at your sides and take a deep breath in reaching your arms up along your sides toward the ceiling.
  • Exhale, bend at your waist and relax the arms down toward your feet, keeping your knees slightly bent. Repeat this sequence five times to wake the body and warm it up.
  • Next, from a standing position, bend at your hips and knees and squat until your legs are parallel to the floor while reaching your arms out in front and hold for 5 seconds. Press through your heels, pull your arms back toward you as if you were pulling something towards you until you’re in standing position again. Repeat 5 times slowly to wake the legs.
  • Lie down in push up position with your hands just beside your chest. Push yourself up into push up position and hold keeping your hips in line with your body. Suck your navel into your spine and draw your right knee into your chest and hold for 2 seconds. Then repeat with the left knee. Alternate bringing the right and left knee slowly into the chest while keeping your body in alignment for 60 seconds. Match your breathing to the rhythm of your movement, exhaling as you draw your knee into the chest and inhaling as you return to starting position.

It’s amazing how impactful a five-minute routine can have on your overall health. It all begins with matching the purpose of the activity with the flow of your life routine.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.