Simply Caring for Yourself

This week we welcome guest blogger Heidi Valenzuela, owner of YogaXoga and board member of GateWay of Hope Ministries to give us advice of taking care of our bodies.

Gentle Stretches to Lift Your Mood & Increase Energy 

There are gentle stretches that we can do to improve our mood.  When we’re feeling depressed or just having an off day, try these heart-opening, mood-lifting stretches. When we lift the heart and expand the chest, we stretch and extend the spine. We release tension in the neck and shoulders and lift our mood, increasing our energy level. 

First Thing in the Morning…

Standing Cat & Cow: With feet a bit wider than hip width apart and knees soft, inhale and open the arms out to shoulder height, lifting the chest and gently arching the back (like Cow pose). As you exhale, reverse the stretch, round the back and draw your arms in front of you. Continue this stretch moving with your breath, keeping the knees soft. Repeat 6-8 times.

Chest Expansion: Keeping the low back in a neutral position, draw your arms behind you (as if you’re holding a beach ball) and lift with your chest/sternum.  Continue to breathe, lifting the chest, drawing the shoulder blades toward each other and lengthening the neck. You can modify by clasping the hands behind you and drawing your arms down. Breathe and hold for 3-4 breaths.

At Work…

Seated Chest Expansion:  Move toward the front edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands slightly behind you on the seat of your chair.  Gently press your hands into the chair and lift your chest. Draw your shoulder blades toward each other while trying to keep your shoulders down.  Hold for 3-4 breaths and gently move with Seated Cat & Cow as you release.

Hourly Posture Check:  Every hour that you’re at your desk, take a moment to check your posture.  Make sure that your shoulders are over your hips, your ears over the collarbones and your head is directly in line with your spine.  Sit tall with your feet on the floor and your back supported by your chair.  Draw your shoulders down from your ears.  Engage your belly – your abdominal muscles – so that they support your spine. Breathe deeply 3-4 times and check in, noticing what that feels like to sit well.  

At the End of Your Day…

Knees to Chest: Lay on the floor with your knees in toward your chest, gently rocking side to side or holding here.  Continue 6-8 breaths.
Flowing Bridge:
Place your feet on the floor hip width apart with your feet right under your knees and arms along your sides.  As you inhale gently press into your arms and feet and lift your hips. As you exhale lower the hips again.  Move with your breath gently and only lifting to the point that feels comfortable.  Be sure and keep your gaze on the ceiling and avoid turning to look to the side. As you get used to this pose, you may try holding your hips lifted and drawing your shoulders underneath you.  As you continue to breathe and hold the pose working to lift the chest/sternum toward the ceiling.  Release your hips whenever you need to and return to Knees to Chest.

 Heidi Valenzuela is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and owner of YogaXoga, which was founded on a simple desire to bring yoga to people in a way that’s friendly and accessible, not intimidating or rigid.  She teaches Demystified YogaTM and Christian Yoga in the Kansas City metropolitan area and offers instructional yoga DVDs nationwide.