This short sequence is designed by Dylan Ayaloo (https://dylanayaloo.com/) to work on the areas of the body that suffer most in our modern, desk-bound stressful lives—the shoulders, hips and lower back. The sequence balances strength with flexibility and is suitable for beginners, for both men and women, and for those who do other sports but are new to yoga.
Each pose shown on one side of the body should be done on both sides. Focus on your breath while doing each pose and shift the focus of your mind to the sensations in your body. The sequence shown can be done in 10–15 minutes. For more energy, repeat poses two to four times on either side; for a more grounding practice, hold the poses for longer and focus on your breathing.
1. Warm up: This is a great opening stretch for the hamstrings, back and shoulders. Remain in this position until you feel the muscles start to release. Stand with your legs apart. Bend your knees if your hamstrings or lower back feel tight. Interlace your fingers behind your back and stretch into your shoulders, lengthening the hands away from the shoulders and squeezing the shoulder blades together. You can use a towel or strap in between your hands if you can’t interlace your fingers together.
2. ‘Downward Facing Dog’ deepens the stretch to the hamstrings, spine and shoulders. Spread your fingers and press your knuckles into the floor to relieve pressure in the wrists. Lift your shoulder blades away from your ears and lengthen your neck. With your feet hip-width distance apart, ground down through the balls of your feet, bend your knees if you need to and lift your sit bones up to the sky, lengthening your back and hamstrings.
3. Continue to work the spine and open the chest with ‘Upward Facing Dog’. Press all ten toes into the mat and squeeze your inner thighs towards each other and up to the sky. Keep the legs straight and active, with your knees lifted off the floor. Draw the lower belly in, pull the shoulders back and down, keep the arms close to the body, and lift the heart forward and up. For a variation on the pose, bring your knees or hips down to the floor and bend your elbows, while drawing the shoulders back and the heart forward and up.
4. ‘Warrior 1’ is a great pose for integrating the upper and lower halves of the body. Plant your heels into the mat, drawing them away from each other to engage into your legs. Square your hips forward and draw the lower belly in, dropping the tailbone in order to open the front of the hips. Spark your spine awake as you lift your heart up, energizing through your fingertips as you lift your arms up.
5. With just a couple of adjustments we move into ‘Twisting Crescent Lunge’, which detoxifies by squeezing and massaging the organs of the digestive system. Lower the back knee (or to intensify, raise the back knee off the floor), and curl your toes in. Place your hands in prayer and use the elbow and front knee as a lever to twist. Keep the belly drawn in, spine long and shoulders pulled back and down. As you exhale, twist. Variations are to spread your arms open, with the bottom hand on the floor or a block and the top arm raised to the sky or placed on the hip.
6. Use the foundation of the previous pose to now work on opening the hips and pelvis. This pose stretches the back/left hip flexor and opens the right hip muscles, a great pose for runners and cyclists, or even people who sit at their desks for long periods. Place your hands in front of you on the mat and drop the front knee to the side, lifting the arch of the foot off the floor and onto the side of the foot between the little toe and the heel. Breathe deeply and hold this pose for two–three minutes on each side as you allow your hips to open.
7. The backbend, or ‘Bridge’, strengthens the back muscles and opens the chest or heart region, awakens the spine, and invigorates the nervous system as a whole. Lie on your back with your feet and knees apart. Vertebrae by vertebrae, lift your back off the floor. Tilt your tail bone up and draw your lower belly in. Slide your shoulder blades towards each other, and lift your heart centre towards your chin.
Over time your confidence will grow, and you will no doubt want to try different poses. You can find other poses on www.yogabasics.com. Some others that I like are the ‘Belly Twist’, the ‘Locust’, ‘High Lunge’, ‘Warrior 2 and 3’, ‘The Dancer’ and ‘The Pigeon’.
This whole routine will take you around ten minutes and will invigorate you as you start your day. You can do more or build it up gradually over time, but this sequence is a good starting point. Visit Dylan and his colleagues at www.hotpoweryoga.co.uk or in Clapham; you will love it.
TIP With all yogic positions, listen to your body. If it hurts, don’t push yourself; some positions may take some time to master. Yoga will help to build your flexibility and strength, so be patient. Time and practice will help you to improve. If you are unsure about any of the positions, I would recommend seeking the advice of a professional yoga teacher.