Body & Fitness

Strike a pose

TV host and busy mum Carly Flynn has found the secret to stealing some quiet time and refilling her tank: yoga. Here she’s put together an easy sequence of 12 poses so you can give it a go too.

Want to try yoga but don’t know where to start?

Carly Flynn, along with her teacher Jennifer Allen, has designed a simple series of yoga moves to release tension, build strength and get you into your yoga breathing.

There are a huge amount of yoga asanas (poses) available but this flow of moves will give you a brief introduction to some of the more well-known pos-tures that have great benefits for women – gently stretching your hips, your spine and your ham-strings, all of which helps with posture and can fight the effects of sitting all day!

Read through the moves a couple of times – some poses require more instructions than others, but the most important aspect of yoga is breathing.

Yoga instructor Allen describes the practice as “a moving meditation: a connection of movement and breath”. So make sure you’re not holding your breath for any of the poses; if you’re in a position that feels uncomfortable, try to breathe through it. If a pose is too complicated or painful for you to breathe steadily, then you need to make it easier on yourself.

Getting started

Before you begin, you will need the following equipment:

  • Yoga block (you can use a big hardback book instead)

  • Yoga strap (you can use a scarf or a belt instead)

  • Yoga mat

Neck release on a block with bent knees (above)

Place a yoga block on its second highest height under the base of your head; the ridge of your skull should line up on the front edge of the block. Close your eyes and very slowly roll your head from one side to another, breathing deeply for the length of each movement. Breathe steadily for 10 rounds of breath (an inhale and exhale counts as one round).

Benefits: Relieves tension in the jaw and neck, and releases the facial tension which causes headaches. Releasing the back of the neck directly sends the body into parasympathetic nervous system function, promoting calm and wellbeing.

Knee to chest pose (Apanasana).

Knee to chest pose (Apanasana)

Remove the block from under your head and lay on your back flat. Bring your knees into your chest, keeping your toes flexed. Have your lower back flat on the mat but not pressed too firmly down. With your hands on your knees, fingers pointed down towards your toes, gently bring your knees into your chest, exhaling gently. Inhale moving the knees away until the elbows extend, exhale gently bringing the knees back into the chest. Repeat for 10 rounds of breath.

Benefits: Relieves lower back tension, massages reproductive system and digestion, and is calming for menstruation.

Assisted bridge (Setu bandha sarvangasana).

Assisted bridge (Setu bandha sarvangasana)

Lie on your back, feet on the floor, knees hip width apart and toes slightly turned in. Inhale, lift your hips and place the yoga block on its second height under the base of your tailbone. Keep your hands by your side, palms down, and breathe steadily. Extend one leg along the mat, holding for 10 breaths each side.

Benefits: This refuels the body with fresh blood, particularly good if you’re seated for most of your day. Gently stretches the hip flexors, which releases the lower back.

Extended leg stretch (Supta padangusthasana).

Extended leg stretch (Supta padangusthasana)

Remove the block. Lie flat on the ground, legs outstretched. Lift right leg and wrap yoga strap around the ball of your right foot. Keep your arms loosely holding the strap as you stretch your right leg up. Don’t cross your leg over the body. Flex your right foot, keeping a soft bend in the knee. You should feel a gentle stretch in your hamstring; if the stretch is too intense, bend your left knee and put that foot on the floor. Stay in the pose for 10 rounds of breath, taking care not to lock your knee or your elbows. Repeat other side.

Benefits: Hamstrings open up the whole spine, so gently stretching them can release back pain. This is also a good stretch for sciatica.

Cat/cow (Bidalasana).

Cat/cow (Bidalasana)

Roll over onto all fours, knees stacked under hips and your hands under your shoulders. Inhale as you bring your heart forward, looking up slightly and lifting your tailbone up, making sure you don’t lock your elbows. Then exhale and curl your tailbone (arching your spine like a scared cat!) the other way, looking down between your knees. Hold, then inhale forward into cow pose again. Repeat for five cycles of breath, moving slowly.

Benefits: This is great for increasing mobility and warming up the spine. It’s a connection of movement and breath – a moving meditation.

Downward dog (Adho mukha svanasana).

Downward dog (Adho mukha svanasana)

Tuck your toes under and float your hips back, knees bent slightly, until your body forms an ‘A’ shape. Bend your knees more to tilt your tailbone up, then straighten your knees somewhat – making sure you don’t lock them back. Keep your elbows soft, and keep your shoulders rolled down from your ears. Press the ground away with your whole palm to reduce pressure on the wrists. Hold for 5-10 rounds of breath.

Benefits: This energising pose gets the heart pumping and builds upper body strength. It opens up the spine and backs of the legs and helps with full-body breathing. Excellent for relieving fatigue, anxiety and mild depression.

Standing forward bend (Uttanasana).

Standing forward bend (Uttanasana)

Bend your knees and step one foot forward at a time to meet your hands. Knees still bent, tip forward from your tailbone and fold over your legs, keeping your hands on the ground. If you can’t reach the ground, put your hands on your shins/a block. Knees bent, take hold of opposite elbows, and swing gently from side to side. Breathe deeply, imagining the breath travelling up and down your spine. Roll your shoulders away from your ears and hold for five rounds of breath.

Benefits: Helps with fatigue, anxiety, depression and insomnia. It gently stretches the hamstrings, and relieves tension in the neck.

Mountain (Tadasana).

Mountain (Tadasana)

Inhale, and lift up halfway, looking forward. Exhale and fold back down over your legs, then inhale and slowly roll up until you’re standing straight, toes hip distance apart, pointing in slightly. Bring your hands in front of your chest in prayer position and close your eyes. Roll your shoulders away from your ears and breathe steadily, feeling the ground beneath your feet, for 10 rounds of breath.

Benefits: After the two previous upside-down poses, this one helps you adjust to being upright again. It’s also a relaxing pose, where you focus on your breathing.

Tree pose (Vrksasana).

Tree pose (Vrksasana)

Shift your weight onto your left foot and slowly slide your right foot up onto your ankle. If you can go further, bring your right foot into your inner shin or inner thigh – but make sure you stay well clear of the inner knee. Keep your hip bones pointed straight ahead and your knee turned out slightly. Bring your hands into prayer pose and hold for five rounds of breath.

Benefits: Balancing poses require mindfulness because if you’re not concentrating, it’s easy to fall out of it. Tree pose is great for working on your balance – but be kind to yourself if you start wobbling; even experienced yogis can find this one tricky!

Half squat (Utkata konasana).

Half squat (Utkata konasana)

Shift your feet into a wide-legged stance, with your toes pointing out. Don’t let your knees come over your toes as you slowly lower down into a squat position. Hold for five rounds of breath. Another option here is to sit on your block in full squat position if you would like to take the pose further.

Benefits: This is a great hip and inner thigh opener and a good pose for reproductive health – it oxygenates blood flow to the uterus.

Seated twist (Parivrtta sukhasana).

Seated twist (Parivrtta sukhasana)

Sit cross-legged, with your right leg in front. If you feel tight in the hips, fold your yoga mat or a blanket and sit on that for height. Keep your spine long as you slowly twist towards your right knee with your left hand, right hand to floor behind, feeling a gentle stretch in your torso. Breathe into the twist for five rounds of breath. Repeat on the other side.

Benefits: Twists are detoxing for the body, and this gentle version releases toxins from the abdominal organs and the spine. It also aids digestion by massaging the internal organs and sends blood flow to the spine.

Legs up the wall (Viparita karani).

Legs up the wall (Viparita karani)

Move your yoga mat to a wall and lie down in front of the wall. Swing your legs up the wall, shifting in if you need to – your tailbone should be as close to the wall as possible. Keep your toes gently flexed and your legs loose; you should feel a gentle stretch along the back of your legs. Put your hands on your stomach and hold the pose for at least 10 rounds of breath.

Benefits: This pose is nicknamed ‘the fountain of youth’ and is said to reverse the ageing process! It’s also a cure for restless leg syndrome, relieves swelling and pain in the legs and feet and brings fresh blood into the bottom half of the body. It’s a great pose for relieving perimenopause or menopause symptoms and wonderful if you have been walking a lot that day. It’s also very calming for the body, and re-oxygenates blood flow to legs if desk-bound all day!

Words by Carly Flynn

Photos by Tony Nyberg

Hair and makeup by Lisa Matson

Location: Golden Yogi Studios

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