HEALTH + WELLNESS

Fyona Flinn Bow Pose
HEALTH + WELLNESS
THE 5 BEST YOGA POSES TO DETOX, RELIEVE STRESS AND OPEN YOUR HEART CHAKRA 

By: Yoga Instructor and Psychologist Dr Fyona Flinn 

Nurturing our health and fitness is more important now than ever before as the build up of stress and overwhelm in our daily lives takes its toll on our bodies and mind which can lead to higher rates of toxicity, inflammation, illusive sleep patterns, exhaustion, chronic symptoms and more. We spoke with Yoga Instructor and Psychologist Dr Fyona Flinn on finding a new approach to manage our wellness by incorporating stress relieving activities and mindfulness to help bring us back into balance and Yoga is one of the best ways to do this. The practice of Yoga allows us an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, detoxify our bodies, strengthen our spine, ultimately enriching the relationship we have with ourselves
and leave us feeling restored and recharged.
This series of Yoga postures can easily be done in the comfort of your own home, just grab your mat or a towel and create a zen like space either in your garden or one of the rooms in your house and follow her guidance below.

 

Yoga Instructor Fyona Flinn: 


Backward bends can initially be very overwhelming, most of us are not used to moving our spines in this way, indeed most of us spend a lot of time with our spines rounded forward. Think of all the time you spend sitting at a desk, typing on a computer, driving a car, even texting on a phone. Compressing the spine in a backward bend is one of the best ways to counteract this and build a healthy, strong spine. Healthy spine, healthy life you might say. 

While these postures strengthen the back of the body, they also open up the front, especially the heart chakra.  Our heart chakra is associated with our sense of well-being and ability to connect with others on a heart level. These postures affect our emotions and are often quite releasing postures, helping us to let go of any blockages we may be dealing with. Letting the head drop back overcomes fear and stretching the neck opens up into the throat chakra, encouraging you to speak your truth.

Backward bends are also very cardiovascular postures, heart and lungs are working hard together.  By opening up our chest we create more space for our lungs, sending more oxygen through our blood while also releasing stale air and toxins from the lungs.

 

 



What are the most important tips for backward bending?
Don’t “crunch” into your lower spine, most of us have a natural curve in our lower spine so the tendency is to load into the lower spine. Be mindful to feel your whole spine backward bending - lower, middle and upper. On your inhale think lift your chest up toward the sky, exhale move deeper into the backward bend.  Never go to a point of pain, discomfort yes but not pain.  Don’t hold tension in the neck, let the head go completely. Engage your legs for a strong foundation and always push hips forward as the counter action to your upper body bending backwards.
Use your eye gaze to go deeper.

Where are women most likely to store stress or tension in the body?
Often women store stress or tension in the hips, which then tend to be very tight and can cause lower back pain. Again by regularly practicing backward bends you start to stretch into tight hip flexors and strengthen into the lower spine.

Why do I find backward bends so difficult / overwhelming?
There are many different reactions to backward bends, physical and emotional. It’s very normal to feel nauseous, lightheaded or emotional after a backward bend. Part of it is because, as mentioned, we are not used to bending our spine in this way and it can feel unnatural and scary initially. Start by dropping the head back completely and build from there.

Because it is a cardiovascular posture, breathing can feel difficult and that can lead to dizziness or feeling lightheaded. If you’re struggling to breathe, begin with a deep inhale and then focus on taking small sips of air in and out, never hold the breath in the posture. Also as mentioned above, backward bending is a very releasing set of postures as we open up the whole front side of the body, this can make us feel vulnerable and overwhelmed and by working into the heart and throat chakras it can make us feel emotional. All reactions to a backward bend are normal!
Once we reflect on what we experience it often helps us discover new things about ourselves.  

Incorporating a daily backward bend sequence into your routine will have huge benefits for your body, ​mind and heart.

1. Standing Backward Bend 

How to do this Posture:
Stand with feet together, heals and toes touch. Body weight in the heels. Engage your legs from the beginning - pull your thighs up and squeeze your glutes. Bring your arms over head and interlock all ten fingers, release the index fingers, keep a tight grip throughout, arms straight. Inhale, lift your chest up and drop your head all the way back, don't be scared let it go! This may be enough for you, if so stay here and get used to this sensation. Ready to go a little deeper, inhale lift your chest up and bring your arms back - try to get your arms with your ears. Push your stomach, hips, legs forward. Every inhale lift your chest up and bring your upper body back more, every exhale push your hips forward. 

Modifications - you can keep your feet hip-width distance apart, and place your hands on your lower back for a supported version of this posture. 

Why do this posture? This posture is wonderful for opening up into the throat, heart and lungs as well as compressing the spine and counteracting slouching and sitting we all tend to do too much of! 

 

2. Crescent Lunge Backbend

How to do this Posture:
Step one foot forward, a big step. Front leg, bend the knee so knee is stacked over ankle. Back leg, come up high on the toes, engage the leg. Inhale, bring your arms over head, palms together in prayer position. Inhale, reach up out of your waist, feel the rib cage lift and look up towards your thumbs. This will challenge the balance. When you're ready, legs strong and solid, drop your head all the way back and bring your arms back. No collapsing, keep core engaged and keep reaching up out of your waist as you go back to stay lifted. 


Why do this posture? This posture is great for building leg strength and balance, as well as moving the spine and opening up into the chest and ribcage, so beneficial for our heart and lungs. 


Modifications - back leg can drop knee to the floor for a supported version of this posture 

3. Bow Pose

How to do this posture:
Lie on your stomach, chin forward, look forward. Bends your legs and grab your feet from the outside, all five fingers included in the grip. Your baby finger should touch along the crease where your toes meet your feet. Keep hip-width distance between your feet and and your knees. Point your toes, keep them pointed. Inhale, press your hips into the mat, exhale kick. Kick your feet up towards the ceiling, at the same time look up. Keeping kicking up and looking up. On an exhale roll forward gently so more bodyweight is into your stomach. Kick hard and kick high. Come out with control, gently lower yourself all the way back to your mat. 

 

Why do this posture? 
This posture opens up into the shoulders as well as the chest, allowing the heart and lungs to expand. Bringing more bodyweight into your stomach massages internal organs, great for digestion. Opening up the whole front side of the body while at the same time whole spine backward bending. 

 

Modifications - if it is too difficult to hold both feet at the same time, hold one foot at a time and do one set of right side and one set of left side. Over time your body will open up and allow  you to hold both feet at the same time. 

4. Camel Pose

How to do this posture:

Stand up on your knees, keep hip-width distance between your knees and your feet. Place your hands on your lower back, fingers facing down. Actively squeeze your elbows together to start opening up the chest. Push your hips forward, inhale lift your chest up and bring your head all the way back. Keep pushing hips forward and carefully bring right hand to right heel, left hand to left heel, fingers on the inside, thumbs on the outside. Make sure you have a full grip on your heels and pull against them. Keep lifting your chest up and pushing hips forward, no collapsing. Use your eye gaze to go deeper, one day seeing your own mat, your own feet. 
 

Why do this posture?
 This is a deep backward bend, allowing for maximum compression of the spine as well as opening up the whole front of the body. This posture also has great benefits for releasing stress and tension. 


Modifications - keep your hands on your lower spine and don't reach for the heels for a supported version of this camel. Alternatively, you can also tuck the feet so the heels are lifted and slightly easier to reach. 

5. Upward Bow / Wheel Pose 

How to do this posture:

Lie on your mat and bend your knees, bringing the soles of your feet onto your mat. Make sure you can touch your heels with your fingertips and make sure to keep your feet parallel and hip-width distance apart. Bring the palms of yours hands underneath your shoulders, fingertips pointing towards your feet. Inhale and press into your palms and your feet as you lift you shoulders and hips up off the floor. Do not press all the way up straight away, bring the crown of your head to the mat. Take a breath here and make sure that your elbows are still parallel and not splaying out of the sides. Straighten your arms as you lift your head off the floor, push your chest all the way up as your straighten your legs, head is relaxed no tension in the neck. Keep pushing the mat away from you with hands and feet. Come out with control, tuck your chin to your chest and slowly lower down. 
 

Why do this posture?  Wheel pose improves spinal mobility and opens the chest, it strengthens the arms, shoulders and legs.
Traditionally, the posture is said to be energizing and can lift your mood. 

 

Modifications - you can take a Bridge pose, or stay in the first part of wheel keeping the crown of your head to the mat until you are ready to push the whole way up into wheel. 

 

Written by: Yoga Instructor and Psychologist Dr Fyona Flinn - 

@educationalpsychologistni

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