Thread the Needle can provide a satisfying stretch through the chest and shoulders. Also, the gentle twisting motion can help stretch the muscles in the lower back and release tension in the upper back as well as easing tension in the shoulders and in-between the shoulder blades.
1. Start on all-fours. Place knees a bit wider than the hips and hands closer together.
2. As you inhale reach your right fingertips toward the ceiling. As you exhale, thread your right arm between your left arm and thigh with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat. Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat too. Soften your gaze to your left. Keep your tailbone in the air (N.B. Do not press your weight onto your head – adjust your position as necessary to not strain your neck or shoulder.)
3. Allow your upper back to broaden and relax your lower back.
4. With each exhale visualise any tension in the shoulders, neck, back and arms dissolving. Stay here for 3-5 breaths or up to a minute.
5. To move out of the pose, press your left hand down and unwind your twist, sliding your right arm back.
Repeat on the left side.
NB – Please make any modifications as needed to feel comfortable in this pose. Here are a few suggestions:
– If your knees hurt, fold your mat or place a folded blanket under your knees for padding.
– If your wrists hurt in the starting position, rest your forearms on the floor.
– Rest your forearms on a bolster or stack of folded blankets to lift your torso up higher. (This variation is can useful for women who are pregnant.) Rest your ear on the bolster and let your ‘threaded’ arm move toward the floor.
Avoid this pose if you have a recent or chronic injury to your knees, shoulders, or neck.
If you have back pain, back injuries, degenerative disk disease or any other diagnosed back condition you should approach this pose with caution.
NB – Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, speak to your doctor before practising yoga.
You can currently join me for Hatha Yoga here at Create Pilates on Wednesdays 11.45am-1pm and Fridays 10.15-11.30am. View my weekly yoga class schedule here.
Do you suffer with a tight or sore neck? We can often hold tension in the neck (as well as the shoulders and upper back) due to stress and the dreaded ‘computer/mobile phone posture’, among other activities.
In this short video, filmed at reCentre Health in Balham, I show you how to do a simple neck release to help ease tightness in some of the muscles in this area. This simple lateral neck stretch (which can also be practised easily at your work desk) is one of my favourites for targeting the sternocleidomastoid. Some of the other muscles targeted in this stretch are the trapezius and the scalenes.
Take slow deep breaths while your ear is moving towards your shoulder and aim to be here for 5-8 breaths on each side.
TIP – Tucking the chin slightly in towards the chest (as I show in the video) may intensify the stretch.
This neck release is one of the poses we regularly practise during in SLOW FLOW YOGA class, Mondays 6.30-7.30pm at reCentre Health. Join us for a mix of flowing postures and restorative yoga to release tension and unwind from your day.
In this short video filmed at Embody Wellness in Vauxhall, I show you how to do one of the poses I found helpful during my training for the Brighton Half Marathon a couple of years ago.
(TIP – Do you have a tendency to hyperextend your knees? I do. To avoid this, you will see here that I am [deliberately] keeping a bend to my knee as I extend my foot upwards. I am actually able to access a deeper stretch into my hamstrings and calf muscles as a result too.) Sliding the belt towards the ball of the foot and gently pointing the heel of the same foot up to the ceiling will target the calf muscles more.
Keeping the sole of my other foot flat to the floor provides more stability for my lower back than extending the leg straight along the ground.
Aim to do each leg for 1-3 minutes if you are a beginner, working up to 3-5 minutes if you are more experienced.
You can find full instructions on this and some of my other favourite yin yoga poses for runners over at the Embody Wellness blog which features the whole sequence I practised after the half marathon with NO soreness the next day: http://embodywellness.co.uk/yin-yoga-…
If you are in London you can join me at Embody every Sunday 6-7.15pm for Flow & Restore – a 75-minute combination of a steadily paced yoga flow followed by floor-based yin yoga postures to leave you feeling rested, uplifted and ready for your week ahead.
In this short video filmed at Evolve Wellness Centre in South Kensington I show you how to do Wall Eye of the Needle. If you are in London I teach a weekly Yin Yoga class here on Wednesdays 6-7.15pm
This version of Eye of the Needle is great if you have trouble keeping your head and shoulders on the ground in the usual version, if you have any concerns with your knees or find Swan, Shoelace or Square Pose difficult to get in to. Or, simply if you are feeling a lower in energy.
Sit with one hip alongside the wall then swing your legs up the wall.
From here, place your right ankle to the top of your left thigh then slide your left foot down the wall with the lower back and sacrum remaining on the ground (you can slide hips a bit further away from the wall to facilitate this if necessary). This pose can feel quite intense around the hips and glutes in particular. You might also feel a stretch into the lower back or on the inside of the right thigh. Sliding your left foot further up the wall will lessen the intensity, while sliding the left foot further down can increase the intensity, so do adjust the position of your left foot on the wall accordingly.
You also have the option to gently press your right thigh towards the wall with your right hand.
The external rotation of the right hip can help stimulate the gallbladder meridian which runs down the side of the body along the outer hip. The liver meridian which runs along the inside of the leg, through the groin and up into the torso can also be stimulated here.
Aim to stay here for 1-3 mins if you are a beginner or 3-5 mins if you are more experienced. Repeat on the left left side.
You can watch a video where I show you other variations of Eye of the Needle here.
As well as Monday 9.30am Yoga Flow, I am now teaching a Wednesday evening Yin class at Evolve in South Kensington.
In class we’ve been practising yin poses to stimulate the liver and gallbladder meridians. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) these meridians are connected to the Spring season, a time of renewal and letting go of the old.
Our Western lifestyle (with our lack of downtime and overstimulation) can negatively affect the energy of the liver. When liver Qi is imbalanced one might feel stressed, irritable, angry, frustrated… (Physical manifestations can be headaches or migraines, PMS, feelings of being stuck/stagnant, for instance.) Balancing the liver Qi can help cultivate calm, patience, a greater ability to deal with day-to-day stresses which may arise and to express oneself more freely.
Join us on Wednesdays for some stillness and calm in your busy week.
Eye of the Needle and Swan are two examples of yin poses you can practice to stimulate the gallbladder and liver meridians.
You can watch a short video where I demonstrate how to do Eye of the Needlehere and a video where I demonstrate how to do Swan Posehere.
Meaning ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ in Sanskrit, Hatha yoga is the general term used for the physical practice of yoga in the West. In this class, attention is given to postural alignment, encouraging students to experience and explore movement and postures through the release of tension and the use of conscious breathing.
If you like small yoga classes with the space for more individual attention then you will enjoy practising yoga at Create – a lovely boutique studio that also offers Pilates (both reformer and mat), massage and rehab.