In the pause between crawling out of bed and charging through the day the body needs to shift gears. A few simple yoga stretches can do a lot to gently wake up sleepy muscles and oil those creaky joints.
Camarillo Yoga Center teacher Audrey Walzer led two of her students through a refreshing morning stretch in the lovely gardens at Hartley Botanica in Somis. Camarillo residents Susan Weaver and John Light have been studying yoga for about 10 years but still begin their day with gentle range-of-motion practices like these, which everyone can do.
Written by Audrey Walzer Photography by Richard Gillard
Spread the ribs and stretch the sleep out of your side.
With one arm straight up over your head, palm facing the midline, press your hips to the side and turn your head to look down, releasing your neck. Breathe into the side ribs and waist, lengthening back muscles and waking up the lungs. Repeat on the other side.
1. Begin with arms relaxed at your side. Inhale and take your hands forward in front of your torso and up the midline of the body.
2. Reach up as high as you can with palms facing each other.
3. Exhale, soften the elbows, let the shoulders release and the arms float open, palms up.
Repeat four times as you breathe in the morning air.
Prevent carpal tunnel syndrome with daily stretching.
1. Kneeling on all fours, turn your fingers back toward your knees, palms down. Place fingertips down and gently exhale as you stretch the heels of the hands away from your shoulders. Make sure you don’t put your weight into the wrists. Instead reach away slowly and feel the stretch through the forearms and hands. Three slow breaths will help the wrist release.
Extending and flexing the spine creates fluidity in the torso. Animals do it naturally — so should we.
1. On all fours: with hands under shoulders and knees hip-distance apart, inhale, drawing the chest forward to lengthen your back. With shoulders back, keep your head in line with your spine. Don’t look up to the sky.
Standing: with feet hip-distance apart, knees bent slightly, place hands on thighs, thumbs inward. Inhale and feel the spine lengthen from tailbone through your arms.
3. (not pictured) On all fours: finally, glide your hips back to your heels, extending arms forward into child’s pose. Gently move back and forth between extending and rounding the spine four times and feel your inner kitty (or lion) come alive.
Wake up the spine with gentle rotation.
Bending the knees slightly, lift one heel and allow your legs and pelvis to rotate your spine like an easy golf swing. Don’t swing the arms vigorously and torque the back. Instead,
allow the arms to stay relaxed and enjoy
oiling up your spine in a smooth, gentle
swivel. Come back to center then repeat in opposite direction.
Audrey Walzer was voted Ventura County’s Best Yoga Teacher for the last three years. Far from teaching people how to twist into human pretzels, Audrey specializes in yoga for “regular people.”
Her advice: “When contemplating any stretching or athletic practice, ask yourself, ‘will this help me with good health and longevity or is the potential for injury something that might impinge on a long and healthy life?’” Visit her website at www.camarilloyoga.com.