A friend of mine asked me if I would do yoga with him recently, so I created a 1 hour routine (approximately) for him! I even let him name it.
What he wanted: A core work out. He told me he was hoping to strengthen his abs a bit, and being a yoga instructor, I’m a firm believer in focusing on the entire core, not just abs. Lo and behold, he later told me he found his back is too weak! So this was the perfect routine to spice up his core workout a little.
Limitations: None. Though he has had a knee injury, it healed. Overall stiffness in random areas was our biggest obstacle, but man you should see this guy rock a Downward Facing Dog.
Day of issues: He had done some serious calf presses a few days earlier and was super sore. Luckily he could finally walk again. It turned out not to be much of an issue though.
I recommend taking breaks as need be, and lots of child’s poses in between to help your body rest. There’s no reason to strain yourself!
Here I present to you:
Seated side stretch: I find it is easiest to do this pose sitting in a cross-legged position. If that’s totally not for you, you can also kneel. You may need to place your hand on a block if you kneel. Start by firmly planting your right hand off your right hip (this is the hand you would place on a block if you are kneeling). Your fingers should point out to the right. Bring your left hand, palm up, up and over head so you create a night long straight line from your left hip all the way up to your left finger tips. Lean to the right, and maybe even slide your right hand out! If you can, rest on your right elbow. Remember to switch sides!
Seated twist: With your legs bent in front of you, take your right foot, and bring the heel to the outside of your left hip. Your leg will be bent and completely on the ground, sort of like you’re sitting cross legged. Keeping the left knee bent, bring the left foot to the outside of the right thigh. Hook your right arm around your left knee, or bring the top of your right arm to the top of your left thigh. Use this arm to help twist your body to the left. Lead with the torso, then turn your head to look over your left shoulder last. To come out, start at the top of your spine and turn your head to neutral then your torso. Don’t forget to switch!
Cat Pose: This pose is done from all fours, let the tops of your feet rest on the ground, and your palms should be firmly planted shoulder width apart on your mat. Inhale as you engage your abs, tuck your pelvis, round your back, and look down, like a cat arching it’s back. As you exhale, release your pelvis and let it tilt the opposite way, arch your back, and look straight-ish forward. Alternate these a few times. If you’d like, return to neutral flat back, then “wag your tail” back and forth. Pretty much, lean your butt from one side to the other. This can feel really nice! If your wrists don’t like being bent in this pose, you can also do this on your fists!
Forward fold: We did two seated forward folds. The first, sit on your mat with your legs straight in front of you. If you struggle to keep up right, you can sit on the edge of a blanket. First bend forward maintaining a flat back, then relax forward. Notice you only relax forward, avoid pushing and straining your back into a highly arched position.
The second version we did was almost exactly the same, except with our knees bent. This pose is great for those of us who can’t rest our torso on our thighs in a forward fold.
Wide legged forward fold: Sit with your legs in a V. This is very similar to a seated forward fold. Begin with a straight back and lean forward. Once you’ve reached your limit stay there a moment, then relax into the pose. If you’re flexible enough, you can rest your head on a block or book! Roll up slowly.
Face your right leg and do the same thing. Straight back, lean forward, then relax. When I come up from this pose, I like to stay facing my right leg, and do a quick side stretch by reaching my right up up and over head and leaning sideways over my left leg. Switch sides!
Lunge/calf stretch: This one has a lot of ways to get into it, so experiment and find what works for you! I like to raise my right leg super high (three legged dog), then swing it down and forward to my right hand, and place my foot on the ground there. For some people it’s easier to drop your knees and scoot your foot forward. Drop your left knee on the ground, and release your left toes and rest on the top of that foot. Your right knee should not be in front of your right ankle. Your ankle should be at about a 90 degree angle, maybe a wider angle if you have ankle issues or discomfort. You should be getting a nice stretch in the front of your left hip. Walk your hands back, straighten that right leg, and rock onto your right heel to get a nice hamstring stretch. I recommend placing your hands on blocks or something to help be a bit more comfortable if you have tight hamstrings like I do. Switch sides! You can do this by going back to a lunge, lifting your back knee and sending your right foot back and repeating the entrance from downward facing dog, or if that is not available to you, you can scoot that right foot back and come into a table top position and then scoot that left foot forward.
Leg/Arm balance (Leg/Arm lifts): From a flat back table top position like we used in Cat, engage your abs and lift your right leg and left arm. Switch and lift your left leg and right arm. You can also do this one leg and one arm at a time, or, if you’d really like a challenge, lift the leg and arm of the same side, so right arm and right leg.
Plank/Chatturanga (opt. Side plank): For the basic plank position, you have 3 options with your arms and 2 with your legs here: You can keep your knees bend and on the mat, I recommend then keeping your feet off the mat if you can, or you can stay on your toes with your knees straight. Each of these arm positions also has slightly different benefits too, so maybe you want to try our each one!
Option 1: Straight arms. Your arms would be extended straight in front of you, like you are in a table to position.
Option 2: Rest on your elbows, with your forearms flat on the mat going straight out in front of you!
Option 3: Chatturanga arms! Start like in the first option, but you will lower yourself down so that your elbows are bending back. You want your elbows at about a 90 degree angle. This can be a very hard pose though, so don’t be afraid to back out, or do it on your knees. This one you can’t really do on your fists though. I suppose you could, so if you really like doing it like that go for it, but if you can, try doing it with your palms open and flat on the ground.
The side plank can be done from the first two options. You can always push up from Chatturanga into option 1 though, so don’t think you’ve committed to not trying out side planks. You really just move all your weight and roll over to your side and support your body using your right hand and foot. Don’t for get to do it on both sides!
Leg lifts/Circles: You get to lie flat on your back. I would keep your hands in toward your body, some even say put your hands palms down under your bottom. Squeeze your legs together and lift them straight up, so that they come up about 90 degrees from your body (if you don’t have that range of motion, this can be SUPER hard, but still worth it so long as you don’t feel pain.) While your legs are at that 90 degree angle, keep your feet flexed, once you start moving them around, you can point your toes, but always keep your feet active. No floppy feet. Lower your legs half way and hold it. If you can, draw large and small circles both directions with your toes. Drop your legs all the way down with 1 or 2 inches between your legs and the ground. More circles! Bring them up most of the way, but not completely. Circles!! And back to 90 degrees with your feet flexed, bend your knees and bring them into your chest. Give your legs a big hug. You can repeat this sequence as you see fit.
Reclined twist: Lie on your back with your knees bend and feet flat on the ground about hip width apart. Relax here a moment. When you’re ready, let your knees relax over to your right side. You can place a blanket, block, books, etc. under your knees for support if they don’t come all the way to the ground. I like to place my right hand on top of my legs to help coax them down. Send your left arm straight out to the side, as if you were making a T with your arms (you can make a T with your arms too if you want.) When you bring your knees back up, your core should be doing a little work. Switch to the left side!
Boat: Sit up with your knees bent and your feet in front of you. Focus on trying to keep your back straight, before you start this pose, you may want to place your hands on your shins and pull yourself forward a bit to really help encourage that straight back. Not arching, just straight. Release your hands. bring your arms up straight forward out of your shoulders, with your hands shoulder width apart. Rock back slightly so that your feet come off the ground. Then lift up your shins and feel so they’re parallel with the floor. Keep those toes pointed.
From here you have a few options. You can bring your fingertips together and rotate your upper body to the left and right so that your elbows alternately rock toward the floor, or you can straighten your legs, and try to create a 90 degree angle between your torso and legs. If you have tight hamstrings, like me, you’ll find that even if you have the ab strength, this full extension can be hard, but you can still try it out! To come out, bend your knees generously, and rock forward so that your toes, then entire foot, rests on the ground.
Bicycle: From a boat pose, you can alternately extend and bend your legs. It may help to place your hands behind your head, but keep your neck long, and avoid letting your chin touch your chest. The lower you get your extended leg, the better the work out. I’ve found with hip injuries, it’s hard to do that though, you still get a pretty good work out if your extended leg creates a V with your upper body.
Downward Facing Dog: From a table top position, tuck your toes, push into your hands, and lift your knees, then send your sit bones on up! (For those who may not know, your sit bones are those two pointy bones in your bottom. There’s one in each cheek!)
Forward fold (Uttanasana): From Downward facing dog, step/hop/scoot your back feet up to your hands so that you’re in a nice forward fold. You can even keep your knees bent if you’d like to just dangle relaxed. Straighten up your legs and raise into a flat back bend. I find it helps to come up farther than you think you need too, then lower back down trying to keep your back flat. Relax forward into the forward fold again, then inhale as you slowly roll up. You can take your time here.
Warrior III: This one is a little hard to explain. So here’s a picture to help. I’ll still explain it though.
You’ll want to get into a lunge of sorts with your right foot facing the short edge of your mat. This is often done starting from Warrior I, so getting into that pose should help. Keep that right knee bent and lean your body forward. Pick up your left foot and keep it straight and long. Notice in the image, they have their foot and entire leg facing the ground. Avoid letting your toes turn in or out. you can either point or flex your toes in this pose. Getting out is the same as getting into the pose. With all poses, especially balance poses, always enter and leave poses slowly and as controlled as possible. This lessens your risk of injury.
This is also a good moment to point out that the arch of the person picture’s foot is lifted. They aren’t letting that part of their foot touch the ground, or collapsing. (Obviously if you have very flat feet there is little you can do, but keep that thought in mind.)
Cow face: Bring your right arm straight out to the side, palm facing forward. Raise your arm straight up then bend your elbow, you’ll end up patting yourself on the back. Now straighten your left arm out to the side, but with your palm facing back. Lower your arm down and bend your elbow so the back of your hand can rest against your back. If it’s available to you, try to hook your fingers together, if not, hold a strap in your right hand has you get into this pose, then grab it with your left when it comes up your back. Being able to clasp your hands behind your back is not for everyone, and some people may never be able to do it simply because of our bodies! So never fear, straps are here! Also, straining is counter productive and more likely to cause injury. It’s better to back out of a pose and get a mild stretch than put yourself at risk for injuries!
Shoulder Stretch: Bring your right arm up straight in front of you about shoulder height. Keep your palm facing in, toward the left. Bring your left arm under your right and hook it around your right arm. Your right arm should sit in your left elbow. Use your left arm and pull your right arm like a lever to the left. your arm will start to lay against your body. Sit up nice and tall, and try to avoid letting your shoulder’s hunch. I find moving back and forth in this pose to feel sort of nice. Switch sides!
Forward fold/Shoulder stretch: I like to do this with a wide legged stance. I always feel like I’m going to fall over if I have my feet together, though that is an option too. Clasp your hands together behind your back. Bend forward and raise your arms up. This pose feels great, but it’s best to make sure you’ve stretched your shoulders a little first if you have tight shoulders! To come up, bend your knees and lower your arms. Raise your torso up slowly. If you’re in this pose for an extended period of time you may feel dizzy if you stand too fast. If you do feel dizzy, remain still for a moment before moving on.
Downward facing dog: Come through a forward fold, and walk either your hands or feet out to come into Downward Facing Dog.
Cobra: You get to lie on your belly now! Nothing fancy, just lie down on your belly first. Don’t tuck your toes. Now place your hands on either side of your chest palms down. Your elbows will stick up in the air. I like to start with “baby” cobras. It’s a muscular version, as opposed to pushing into your hands to lift your chest. Really press the top of your feet into the ground, engage your quads, glutes, and core. Lift your head and chest up from the ground. To check if you’re doing your baby cobra right, try lifting your hands off the ground! Relax back down. You can do another of those, or, with the same muscles in mind, lift up nice and high by pushing into your hands into the ground.
Child’s Pose: Set your bottom down on your heals, lean your body forward and relax your head on the ground. If you can’t reach the ground, you can place pillow or block under your forehead. Send your hands out straight forward with your hands planted on the mat. You can keep your hands straight, or relax them on either side of your body.
Savasana: Send your feet out, lay flat on your back, let your feet flop to the side, your hands relax and fingers naturally curl. Let your body feel heavy. You earned this!