For those prone to lower back tension and those who just simply want to lie down and take a break, this is for you.
A 20-minute total body yoga sequence lying down on your back. Achieve the same hip and shoulder openings, hamstring and glute stretches and lower back and abdominal strengthening goals you would if standing or sitting.
Start... lying down on you back (duh!) Soles of your feet together, knees out wide in Bound Angle Pose. Make a diamond shape with your arms overhead, finger tips touching. Breathe through the nose.
Bring your arms back down by your sides and gentle hug your knees into the chest, gently rocking from side to side. Take your arms out wide, in line with you shoulders. Inhale, and then as you exhale, take your knees over to the right, and gaze to the left if this feels comfortable for your neck. Stay for five breaths. Inhale the head back to centre first, followed by your knees. Repeat this favourite yoga twist on the other side.
Move into Happy Baby Pose, reaching your arms in between your legs and taking hold of the outsides of your feet, drawing your knees down towards your armpits, and opening the hips. Flex the ankles as if you are walking on the sky, and relax your shoulders down into the earth.
From here, bring your right foot back to the mat. Take your right hand around the sole of your left foot to grip the outside of the foot. Your left arm wraps around the left knee. Bring your left shin parallel with your chest as you guide your left big toe over to your right ear to feel a stretch in you left glute. Hold for five breathes and then gently bring your left ankle down onto your right knee. Release the left leg and foot and hug the right knee into the chest in Reclined Pigeon Pose to deepen the stretch in your glute muscles, piriformis and hamstring. Take five deep breaths.
Now hug your left knee into the chest, and bring a yoga strap or towel around the ball of your left foot. Bring one end of the strap into each hand, walk your arms up the strap so they are active, and melt your shoulders back down into the mat. Begin to straighten you leg up to the ceiling, again, as if you are walking on the sky. Keep a slight bend in your knee to avoid any sensation behind your knee joint. Continue to kick your heel up to the sky as you draw your toes up and overhead on every exhalation. Feel a deep stretch in your hamstring and calf muscle.
Bring the ends of the strap into your right hand and take your left arm out wide in line with your shoulder. Inhale to prepare, and then exhale to take your left leg over to the right, as you gaze to the left in a gentle supine twist, release for your lower back and deep stretch for the piriformis and IT band. Stay for five breaths. On your next inhale, bring your head back to centre, followed by the leg. Hug both knees back into the chest, as you put the strap to one side. Remember this sequence, as we'll come back to it on the other side in a moment.
Now take hold of a yoga block or book in between your hands, pressing your palms actively into the outside edges of the block, as you take your arms up and overhead. You'll begin to feel the shoulders warming up and strengthening. Take both legs into the air. Inhale to prepare, and exhale lift the arms up towards the ceiling and tuck the chin in to raise the chest to place the block in between your ankles. Keep your arms reaching straight up to the sky, and exhale to lower your legs to hover just off the mat. Bend your knees if you feel any tension in your lower back, as your lower abdominals kick in and say "hello". Inhale to bring your legs with control back up into the air, take hold of the block in your hands, and reach the arms once more up and overhead. Repeat this abdominal strengthening sequence four more times.
Find Happy Baby Pose and this time bring your left foot onto the mat. Repeat the above sequence on the other side.
Now step you feet back onto the mat, knees bent, arms alongside you, perhaps brushing your heels with your fingertips. Bridge Pose. Inhale to lift your hips into the air, keeping you knees hip-width apart, pushing through the heels, and engaging the glutes to lift your hips, as you roll up onto your shoulders, pressing the back of your head gently into the mat. Hold for five breaths. On your next exhalation, roll your spine back down to the mat, vertebrae by vertebrae. Step your feet out to the edges of your mat and bring the knees to touch, to give your lower back a chance to release.
Gently hug your knees into the chest. Extend your right leg out straight on the mat. Keep your right hand on your left knee, and take your left arm out wide to the side in line with your shoulder. Inhale to prepare, and exhale to take your left knee over to the right, as you gaze to the left for a supine twist. Inhale to bring your head back to centre and repeat on the other side for five breaths.
Bring your feet to the mat and lift your hips to bring the yoga block underneath your tailbone. Rest back down on the block and lift your legs into the air. Adjust the block underneath you as required to feel comfortable. You may like to put a slight bend in your knees here for extra comfort. Stay here, with your legs in the air, for as long as you like. This yoga position is excellent for your circulation, and an exercise I do every night when I get home after a day of teaching my Activ Life clients. To come out, draw the knees into your chess and bring the feet to the mat. Lift up your hips to take the block out, and then roll your spine back onto the mat.
Time for Savasana!
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness yoga company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Why Savasana matters and Yoga props and why they matter.