Fitness / Yoga

18 Songs That Are Perfect for Cool Downs, Yoga Flows, or Stretching

18 Songs That Are Perfect for Cool Downs, Yoga Flows, or Stretching

When I started experiencing anxiety in middle school, my mom enrolled me in a preteen yoga class. I had been a devoted dancer leading up to that—taking classes twice a week since I was a toddler—but still, yoga felt awkward. My body, albeit young and limber, wasn’t familiar with the movements. And, frankly, I was not quite used to the idea of wearing a sports bra. If you’re reading any of this and thinking, Hey, that sounds a lot like me, great. The rest of this story and the consequential playlist are especially for you.  I continued to do yoga on and off, starting a more dedicated practice in college. I quickly fell in love with this form of moving my body to music, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. It enables me to fully let go—to get out of my head and let the soundtrack replace my usual anxiety loop. As far as I’m concerned, my awkward movements no longer matter. On the mat I do an intimate dance with myself, listening to everything from Fiona Apple to Childish Gambino.So I’m extremely excited to share a playlist with some of my all-time yoga faves. You can also listen to it when you’re stretching in the morning or before bed, at the end of your workout as you cool down, or, honestly, whenever you’re just looking for some laid-back vibes. These songs are chill, but not depressing. Some are old (hello, The Velvet Underground) and some are new (no yoga playlist is complete without a little Solange). The playlist is organized in a very particular order—I’m partial to a soft, gentle opening, a groovier crescendo in the middle as your flow climaxes in intensity, and then a slow wind down that leads you into savasana—but, of course, you can put it on shuffle or skip ahead if that’s more your speed. I also love the duality of mixing genres and decades in a yoga playlist. It’s an excellent reminder—much like the rest of a yoga practice—that life is full of ebbs and flows, and feeling good is sometimes just an exhale (and a good song) away. ContentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Full playlist: “Plus Töt,” by Alexandra Streliski“Sound & Color,” by Alabama Shakes“Place to Be,” by Nick Drake“Retrograde,” by James Blake“Tessellate,” by Alt-J“No Diggity,” by Chet Faker“Hard Place,” by H.E.R.“Redbone,” by Childish Gambino“Cranes in the Sky,” by Solange“I Try,” by Macy Gray“The Spot,” by Your Smith“Texas Sun,” by Khruangbin and Leon Bridges“Pale Blue Eyes,” by The Velvet Underground“Mayla,” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros“River,” by Leon Bridges“Fade Into You,” by Mazzy Star“Across the Universe,” by Fiona Apple“Coast,” by ParticipantRelated: 

8 Standing Yoga Poses to Build Balance and Strength

8 Standing Yoga Poses to Build Balance and Strength

For example, poses like chair, warrior pose, and crescent lunge are ideal for building strength in your lower-body muscles, Chen says. Chair pose really hits your glutes and quads, while the crescent lunge targets your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. “The crescent lunge incorporates a bit of balance because you need to use your inner thighs to help you stabilize,” she says. “By squaring your hips toward the front of the room, you’re opening up through your hip flexors.” Your core also fires to help your torso stay upright and keeps your body stable. And building core strength is important because it can help prevent and even relieve low back pain.The warrior poses are also excellent for building lower-body strength. In warrior I, you’ll engage your quads and hamstrings, while warrior II activates your glutes and thighs, Mosley says.Then there are the standing yoga poses that, along with building strength, also really hone your balance, such as airplane, warrior III, eagle, tree and dancer’s pose. Standing balance poses are often done with one foot on the ground, so all of your weight is on one leg. This forces you to recruit your core and the muscles in your ankles so you don’t fall.“These help you build ankle strength since you’re on one foot, which is great for runners,” Chen says. “They require core and lower body strength as well, and they open up your hips, hamstrings, and shoulders, depending on what pose you’re working.”In terms of flexibility, standing poses like the forward fold focus on lengthening and stretching tight hamstrings, so they may help with post-workout recovery and easing tightness.What is the difference between standing poses and seated poses?Well, besides the obvious, of course, that standing poses take place on your feet while seated occur sitting or lying on a mat, the main differences between standing and seated yoga poses are that standing ones work more of your lower-body muscles and recruit your core for support. That’s because your core helps keep your torso upright and prevents you from completely folding over and falling.The time you can hold each kind of pose differs too, and that affects the rewards you’ll reap from each.“Seated postures, since you can hold them for longer than standing postures, allow for deeper twists and more lengthening and flexibility,” Chen says. “Think about the time you can hold a [standing] prayer twist versus a seated twist.”Because you’re able to hold seated poses for a longer period of time, they also tend to provide more relaxation and allow you to reconnect with your breath. “Oftentimes, classes may begin or end with seated yoga poses to find connection and grounding and to create space in the body through stretching each side,” Mosley says. “Standing poses like those in the warrior series often feel more active—both harnessing and building strength.”What should beginners know about standing yoga?Standing poses are foundational in yoga and are one of the best ways to get started with a regular practice. Beginners should focus on poses that have a grounding element—meaning ones where you’re connecting both feet into the ground and your breath to your body, Chen says. Mountain pose, in particular, is a foundational pose for many of the other standing poses, and can help you become more comfortable with the stability and grounding necessary in it.

Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat vs. Lululemon—Which Expert-Recommended Mat Is Best?

Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat vs. Lululemon—Which Expert-Recommended Mat Is Best?

As someone who practices yoga daily and writes about it, a (very specific) question has loomed large for me: In a matchup of the Manduka ProLite yoga mat vs. Lululemon The Reversible Yoga Mat which mat comes out on top? Both brands come highly recommended by yoga instructors and experts, and customers have written troves of glowing reviews—safe to say, this is a tight race.In the name of yoga science, I decided to put Manduka’s and Lululemon’s top-rated offerings to the test in my home yoga studio (read: my living room). Here’s how some of the best yoga mats on the market measure up. Manduka ProLite Yoga MatManduka ProLite Yoga MatLululemon The Reversible Yoga MatHow I TestedI’ve had experience using both Lululemon and Manduka yoga mats. I’ve been a longtime user of both The Mat and The Reversible Mat from Lululemon in my personal yoga practice, preferring these makes for their smooth top layer and Goldilocks-esque level of cushion (for a fast-paced vinyasa flow followed by floor poses, it’s just right). In other words, I was already very familiar with Lululemon’s yoga mats—my go-to mat right now is the Lululemon Reversible Mat and I’ve put several others through the wringer.  I used Manduka’s GRP Mat for hot yoga for a time a few years ago and found that it performed exceedingly well under ultra-sweaty conditions (no yoga towel required), but I’d never experienced the ProLite Mat until setting out on this experiment. Upon receiving my sample ProLite from Manduka, I swapped it in for all of my practices, leaving my tried-and-true Lulu mat to collect dust. I used the ProLite mat every day for two weeks for yoga sessions that took anywhere from 40 to 75 minutes. Texture and MaterialDespite their names, both The Mat and The Reversible Mat from Lululemon are reversible. One side is made from natural rubber for lower-sweat flows where you want more cushion, while the other has a polyurethane top layer that provides additional grip and sweat absorption, though it feels smooth to the touch. Meanwhile, the Manduka ProLite is textured with a grid-like pattern, which is intended to prevent slipping during your flow. Lululemon’s site states that its mats do contain latex, so people with latex and rubber allergies should steer clear. Conveniently, the Manduka ProLite is made from PVC and thus latex-free. The ProLite’s material actually comes with a lifetime guarantee and, if you opt in to the brand’s Live On sustainability program at checkout, you can send your mat back to be recycled when you’re done with it. The ProLite’s material is also closed-cell, which seals moisture and protects bacteria from penetrating the mat. By comparison, Lululemon uses an antimicrobial additive in its mats to prevent mold and mildew growth. While there are major differences in these mats’ materials, they’re designed with similar ends in mind: to provide a grippy, supportive, and relatively clean experience on the mat.Cushion and SupportAt the risk of stating the obvious, a thick yoga mat will always be cushier than a thinner one, and that was easily the case here. Clocking in at five millimeters thick, Lululemon’s mat had a slight edge over Manduka’s, which was a close second at 4.7 millimeters. The rubber base on the Reversible Mat provided an ample amount of support for me during seated and supine postures, and I could stay on my knees for extended periods of cat/cow pose. (That said, if you have sensitive joints, you may want an even thicker mat—consider choosing a mat between six and 10 millimeters.)

The Best Yoga Accessories for Stretching, Resting, and Deepening Your Practice

The Best Yoga Accessories for Stretching, Resting, and Deepening Your Practice

If you’ve been practicing yoga at home with just your yoga mat and nothing else, adding a couple yoga accessories or props to the mix could level up your flow in ways you wouldn’t expect. Maybe a block under your knees makes seated forward fold feel more accessible; or perhaps laying a silky eye pillow over your face during Savasana helps you relax. Whether you’re a Yoga expert or just beginning to try Yoga, yoga accessories can be game-changing. If you’re looking to make your practice more challenging, cultivate proper alignment, or just feel more comfortable during yoga class, (whether in-person or via a Yoga YouTube channel), the right prop can get you closer to your goal. “With students of all shapes, sizes, and ages practicing yoga, props can offer accessible variations so everyone can experience the postures truer to their body’s individual needs,” Kelly Colleen, director of programming at YYOGA, tells SELF. Jennifer Brilliant, yoga therapist and instructor, echoes the sentiment that props can benefit everyone (from beginners to seasoned yogis, from home practitioners to studio enthusiasts), explaining how, exactly, props can change all types of yoga experiences: “Props can be helpful in yoga practice for giving support, increasing comfort, offering stability, managing variations in anatomical body proportions, and allowing for distinct levels of intensity for poses.” If you’re ready to add to your yoga gear collection, you’re in luck—we’ve highlighted some of the very best yoga accessories and props on the market right now, from major brands like Lululemon and Manduka, plus smaller, expert-approved businesses like Tools For Yoga. Read on to find the best yoga equipment for your practice.BlocksJake Panasevich, yoga instructor and health science journalist, lists yoga blocks as one of the most essential items for all yoga students, with Gaiam’s blocks ranking as his go-tos. Panasevich also notes that the material of your blocks can make a big difference in their function: “Blocks of different firmness can be helpful for different pose variations. I prefer wooden, cork, or firmer foam blocks because they are more stable.” What you get in stability you lose in portability—Brilliant points out that wooden and cork yoga blocks, specifically, tend to be heavy, so go for a foam option if that’s important to you (she likes the blocks from True Blue). If you want something a little smaller than a standard yoga block, many brands make half-size blocks for subtler modifications. Brilliant likes placing her half wood blocks under her pelvis during reclining Hero’s Pose, while Colleen recommends Canadian brand Half Moon’s Chip Foam blocks for hot yoga, because they come with sturdy, washable covers. EtsyChad Floyd Woodworks Wood Yoga BlockBolsters and CushionsA staple of yin and restorative yoga practices, a high-quality yoga bolster provides support, stability, and cushion during grounded poses. “They can make many poses more accessible and comfortable,” Colleen explains. “For example, it can often be uncomfortable to lie on the floor on the backside of the body in Savasana, Corpse Pose — the use of a bolster underneath the knees can provide a student the comfort to be able to relax better into the resting phase of the practice.” (This writer personally loves using a bolster for a supported Child’s Pose.)

The 10 Best Yoga Apps So You Can Practice at Home

The 10 Best Yoga Apps So You Can Practice at Home

Starting an at-home yoga practice has never been easier, thanks to the seemingly infinite number of yoga apps available at your fingertips. Curious about the best yoga apps out there? We’ve got you covered.We waded through the app store to pick the 10 apps most deserving of your download. To be frank, not every option out there was up to snuff. Because we firmly believe yoga is for everyone, we looked for apps that were affordable, inclusive, and made an effort to be accessible to a broad range of bodies and abilities. We also aimed to include apps that respectfully honor yoga’s ancient roots and place an emphasis on qualified, knowledgeable instructors.The list is filled with apps that deliver a superior experience across categories including accessibility, inclusivity, affordability, instructor expertise, and cultural sensitivity. These options are a solid bet no matter your fitness level, experience with yoga, or reason for starting an at-home practice. From gentle yin yoga to sweaty vinyasa flows to pranayama (breath-focused) sessions and more, you can likely find the yoga classes you’re looking for in one (or more) of these apps.But before we dig into the best apps, a few quick things: If you’re totally new to yoga and curious about what to expect in your first class, read these expert tips for beginners. If you’re in the market for a quality yoga mat, here’s advice from seasoned instructors, plus more at-home yoga products that can boost your solo flow. And if you want to learn more about the history of yoga and how to practice it respectfully, check out this important article on the roots of yoga and why the physical practice, called asana, is actually only one component of this ancient tradition.Now, without further ado, here are the 10 best yoga apps to check out.1. The Underbelly AppThe brainchild of yoga teacher, author, and SELF columnist Jessamyn Stanley, the Underbelly offers inclusive, accessible classes ranging in focus from breath work and essential postures to grounding sequences to fast-paced postures and more. As Stanley puts it, the Underbelly is “a home for wellness misfits who may feel displaced, discouraged, or overlooked due to a lack of diversity in the health and fitness community.” New classes drop every Monday, so your practice can stay fresh. Try it out with a two-week free trial. (iOS and Android, $9.99/month)2. YogaWorksSometimes you just want that live-class vibe, even if you’re unfurling your mat in your living room. YogaWorks delivers that experience with more than 30 daily livestream classes covering a variety of levels and yoga styles—from therapeutic yoga for all levels to more advanced vinyasa flow to YogaWorks signature classes, which combine alignment, breath work, and movement. On top of all that, the app offers over 1,300 on-demand classes, so your chances of getting stuck in a yoga rut are virtually nil. Try it out with a two-week free trial. (Android, $19/month for on-demand classes; $49/month for live and on-demand classes)3. Yoga for Everyone With DianneYoga for Everyone is all about body-positive and accessible yoga. ​​Created by instructor Dianne Bondy, this app takes an inclusive approach to yoga, striving to make it a practice that anyone can do no matter their shape, size, or ability. Classes range in both style (think: vinyasa, slow flow, and chair yoga) and length (5 to 60 minutes). Learn how to use props and adapt poses to fit your body, and expect exactly zero diet talk or body shame along the way. Try it out with a two-week free trial. (iOS or Android, $15/month)4. Alo MovesCreated by the ultra-popular apparel brand Alo Yoga, the Alo Moves app offers more than 2,500 video classes from big-name instructors, including Dylan Werner, Briohny Smyth, and Ashley Galvin. Classes range in ability level from beginner to advanced and cover more than 20 different styles of yoga—from vinyasa, hatha, and ashtanga to restorative, kundalini, and more. Oh, and if you’re looking to perfect a certain skill—say, a handstand, the splits, or arm balances—they have series for that too. Try it out with a two-week free trial. (iOS and Android, $20/month)5. Asana RebelAsana Rebel is a yoga-fitness hybrid app offering more than 100 workouts designed by yoga and fitness experts. Content ranges from strength workouts to yoga flows to meditation sequences and even calming playlists to help you sleep. Another cool feature? In the app, you can input your health and fitness goals and browse classes and programs that line up with your objectives. You can also sort classes by time and intensity, making it simple to find a workout that fits your schedule, mood, and energy level. (iOS and Android, free or $16/month for subscription option)6. YogaGloWhether you only have two minutes or want to flow for an hour and a half, YogaGlo has classes for you. This app is big on variety in every sense, including class length, yes, but also ability level and workout style. Choose from daily live classes and more than 5,000 on-demand options ranging in difficulty from beginner to advanced. Programs cover 16 categories—from vinyasa, hatha, kundalini, yin, and Iyengar yoga, to barre, Pilates, cardio, strength, HIIT, and more—so there’s really something for everyone. Try it out with a seven-day free trial. (iOS and Android, $18/month)7. Find What Feels GoodYou may already be familiar with the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel, but yoga teacher Adriene Mishler also has a subscription app with lots of members-only content. Find What Feels Good gives you easier access to hundreds of yoga videos, plus exclusive classes, premium courses, and a global community aspect. If you’re new to yoga, you’ll love the emphasis on modifications and the oddly specific and relatable flows (like Yoga for Tired Legs and Yoga for Uncertainty). Try it out with a seven-day free trial. (iOS and Android, $13/month)8. Apple Fitness+Yoga is one of the most popular offerings on Apple Fitness+, a fitness service built around the Apple Watch. Classes are taught by a diverse set of experienced instructors that you may know from Instagram, including Jonelle Lewis, Molly Fox, Dustin Brown, and Jessica Skye. You can sort classes by length, music type, and flow style (slow vs. energetic, for example), making it super easy to find the ideal match for your schedule and goals. Also cool: The app offers guided meditation with video and audio components so you can end your workout (or day) with an extra dose of chill. (iOS, $10/month for Apple Watch owners)9. Yoga Wake UpEase into your day with the Yoga Wake Up app. It can replace your usual alarm clock with gentle, audio-guided yoga and meditation that you can do in bed (yes, really). You can also find your flow any time of day with hundreds of on-demand beginner-friendly yoga options. Bonus: All classes are 20-minutes or less, and new sessions are added weekly. And yet another plus: The instructors represent diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and body types, which gives the app a welcoming vibe. (iOS and Android, $11/month)10. Yoga InternationalBilled as the “world’s most diverse yoga site,” Yoga International offers more than 1,000 classes from over 500 teachers through its app. Classes range in length from 15 minutes to more than an hour and cover styles including vinyasa, hatha, yoga for beginners, restorative, kundalini, and yin. Live classes and new content are added daily, with offerings in both English and Spanish. Beyond asanas, the app also offers podcasts and articles to help you deepen your knowledge of yoga. Try it with a 30-day free trial. (iOS and Android, $20/month)Related: 

An Easy Stretch for Relieving Tightness in Your Back, Butt, and Hamstrings

An Easy Stretch for Relieving Tightness in Your Back, Butt, and Hamstrings

If you’re looking for stretches you can do anywhere at any time, it doesn’t get much better than the forward fold. Yes, we all know we should be following a regular stretching routine before and after a workout, and even on rest days if we truly want to improve flexibility. But sometimes you really just need that one stretch you can turn to when you want to loosen up and relieve tension during a busy day. Forward fold can be that for you.The forward fold—also called a forward bend or fold-over stretch—is one of the best and easiest stretches to improve flexibility. It targets the back of the body and also relieves tension in your back and neck. And you can do it right next to your desk (no sitting on the floor required). Doesn’t get much easier than that.What is the forward fold?The forward fold is a stretch where you essentially fold your upper body over your legs. It’s actually a standard yoga pose (or asana)—“forward fold” in Sanskrit is Uttanasana—that’s included in a well-known series of poses called sun salutation. If you’ve ever taken a vinyasa-style yoga class, you’ve likely done plenty of forward folds.The forward fold can be done standing or in a seated position. “When seated, you eliminate the contribution of the legs, so it is an easier form or a modification of a standing forward fold,” yoga instructor Bethany Lyons, owner and CEO of Lyons Den Power Yoga and Lyons Den Digital, tells SELF.The benefits of the forward foldIn yoga, forward folds are used to help you ground down and get a solid foundation in your feet and legs, Lyons says. “They soothe the nervous system, they encourage some inward looking (introspection and inquiry), and they can be used as a warm-up and also as a cool down from more vigorous asanas.”“On the physical front, this pose stretches the hamstrings, hips, and calves,” Lyons says. You’ll also feel a gentle release in your neck and back. “A standing forward fold improves flexibility on the posterior [back] side of the body, which is so important for the amount of time we all tend to sit.”It can also help improve your balance and proprioception, or your body’s ability to recognize and position itself in space. “The changing of visual cues and being upside down, along with changing your weight distribution, will improve the proprioception of the muscles around the joints of the the lower extremities,” Lyons says.Who shouldn’t do the forward fold?Forward fold is generally a safe and gentle stretch, but folding can exacerbate a back injury or spinal disc issue, Lyons says. Modifications that are gentler on the spine include bending the knees or switching to the seated version.Also, putting your head below your heart, which happens in forward fold, may not be safe for people with high blood pressure. If you have any concerns about the safety of this pose for you, talk with your doctor or physical therapist before trying it. How to add the forward fold to your routineLyons recommends doing forward fold any time during the weekday when you need a quick reset. In general, it’s a good idea to take standing and walking breaks throughout the day. When you do, add in a forward fold. “Start with bent knees and gradually start to straighten the legs to the degree they allow. Your hands can be on the floor for support or clasped behind your back,” Lyons says. 

11 Things to Know Before Your First Vinyasa Yoga Class

11 Things to Know Before Your First Vinyasa Yoga Class

If it isn’t obvious (or you aren’t sure) what a class level is, call the studio and ask questions like: I’m new—is this class good for beginners? What teacher would you recommend for new students? Is it okay to ask questions during this class? Will we be walking through the poses one by one to get a handle of what they are? Does the teacher spend time in the poses themselves explaining what I should be feeling?“Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions ahead of time,” encourages Parikh, “because, ultimately, that will give you a better experience.”3. Finding the right fit with your instructor can enhance your experience.When it comes to finding a good teacher, keep an eye out for certain credentials. Ask the studio if their teachers have taken extra hours (and if so, how many) of anatomy, kinesiology, or movement science classes, says Parikh. Someone who has 200 or 300 hours of training in those areas will likely be better at teaching beginners than someone without that training, says Parikh. Folks trained in yoga therapy may also be well suited for beginners, Parikh adds.If accessibility is a concern for you, it might be worth looking for a yoga teacher who emphasizes that in their practice and has either lived experience or training around yoga for various body types and ability levels. “If the teacher is really able-bodied and has been athletic their whole life, they may have a little bit of trouble relating to a beginner”—versus somebody who has had a major injury or doesn’t come from an athletic background—says Parikh.Lastly, Briggs suggests finding an instructor you like and relate to in some way—someone who makes class an enjoyable experience for you, whether that’s because they have the same sense of humor, energy level, or taste in music. It may take a few tries to find a teacher you click with. That’s why if you have a less-than-stellar first-time experience, Briggs suggests trying out at least one more vinyasa class before deciding whether vinyasa is right for you.4. Classes typically range from 45 to 60 minutes.There’s no one set time period for a vinyasa class. But in general, classes are close to an hour, says Parikh. That said, some classes may be longer (up to 90 minutes) and others may be shorter (say, 30 minutes). Most often, the class length will be obvious when you sign up; if it’s not clear, call the studio and ask.5. You’ll flow through a variety of poses, some of which may be new to you.Like we mentioned, there’s no standard format for a vinyasa class. But there are some common poses you can probably expect, including downward facing dog, upward facing dog, plank, chaturanga (a “yogi push-up,” says Parikh) and lunge variations. You may also encounter balance-focused poses, like tree pose and warrior three, as well as squats and twists, Parikh adds. Most classes will end with a resting pose like savasana (corpse pose), says Parikh.6. The pace may feel more intense than other styles of yoga.The tempo of a vinyasa class really depends on the specific instructor and the style they are teaching that day, says Briggs. That said, in a typical class, you’re moving from one pose to another “usually pretty quickly” with a pace that can be described as “one breath, one movement,” explains Parikh. That means when you inhale, you’ll be in one pose, and as you exhale, you move into another pose. Because of this faster pace—which again, is not the standard in every vinyasa class—vinyasa may feel a little more intense than other styles of yoga.7. Comfortable, breathable clothing is best.First things first: You probably don’t need to buy a new outfit for vinyasa, says Briggs. Chances are you already have clothing in your closet that will work just fine for class. Also important: There’s not a specific uniform you need to wear to vinyasa, nor do you have to don the same exact clothing as other class goers. “You’re welcome to try different things out and do what works for you,” encourages Parikh.

This Yoga Routine for Beginners Will Get You Started With Backbends

This Yoga Routine for Beginners Will Get You Started With Backbends

A backbend yoga routine may sound intimidating, but these kinds of moves don’t necessarily need to be intense. There are beginner backbend poses that can help you ease into those types of moves, while still reaping the tension-releasing benefits to both your upper and lower body.Today’s 40-minute yoga video, which is the eighth and final installment of Sweat With SELF’s Yoga for Beginners series, will focus on backbends and back flexibility. In the routine, yoga instructor Rita Murjani—the chief of staff at mindful living brand Aduri who teaches at NYC-based studios SkyTing and Equinox—will take you through poses that work to stretch your shoulders, back, chest, legs, and glutes, as well as your core. These poses are great for beginners just getting started (Murjani offers tons of modifications for the moves throughout the routine) and they will also help you gain more familiarity with the movement so you can build on them in your future yoga practice.In this video, you’ll begin with easy movement and flows that warm up your upper body, and then transition into flows that will get the blood flowing to your core and lower half, too, such as downward dog to plank. Then you’ll progress through poses that will open up your back, chest, and shoulders, such as twisted lizard pose and full locust pose. With the help of a yoga strap, you’ll also try out the dancer’s pose, a unilateral or single-sided move that hones your balance while opening up your chest and shoulders and stretching out your hip flexors. Murjani will also take you through a three-legged dog into fallen triangle pose to open up your upper body while making your glutes and core fire.While this is the final video in Sweat With SELF’s Yoga for Beginners series, you don’t have to be done with yoga just yet! You can revisit any of the earlier videos—like this foundational introduction to basic poses, or this hip-opening routine—and slot them into your regular schedule!ContentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Related:

7 Stretching Exercises That Feel Amazing After Spending All Day on Your Feet

7 Stretching Exercises That Feel Amazing After Spending All Day on Your Feet

After a full day of work, running errands, working out, and completing countless other tasks, some soothing stretching exercises are exactly what your body deserves. Whether it’s tension in your feet, tightness in your low back or hips, or just a general feeling of stiffness, stretching your hip flexors, shoulders, neck, and hips can be the perfect way to unwind. Stretching is one of the best (and most often overlooked) practices for your body because it will help improve flexibility, an essential component of physical fitness. Flexibility can help increase your range of motion, improve your posture, reduce your chance of injury, and yes, it can be mentally and physically relaxing.But whether you’re stretching for better flexibility or to relieve general tightness throughout your body, you don’t necessarily need to get into one position and then hold it for several minutes. “I always recommend holding stretches for a few seconds at a time and doing them as a set of repetitions rather than one long hold,” says Jeff Brannigan, M.S., program director at Stretch*d, a stretching studio in New York City. Muscles work in pairs throughout your body. One muscle (referred to as the agonist), contracts to facilitate a movement while the opposing muscle (called the antagonist), relaxes and allows that movement to happen, Brannigan explains. This concept is called reciprocal inhibition. “By applying this principle to active stretching, you can lengthen the muscle in a very safe and natural way,” Brannigan says.Static stretching—getting into one pose and holding still—can feel good for some, but for others, it might be boring or even risky, especially if a person is forcing the stretch. And a sharp or uncomfortable feeling is the exact opposite of what we want when it comes to soothing stretching exercises. Bottom line: If you’d rather move around a bit while you stretch, don’t feel the need to hold still for more than a few seconds at a time. Likewise, there’s not necessarily one right way to breathe while stretching either. “Play with [breathing through your] nose or mouth. See what feels best. What will help slow down the heart rate is [breathing] in through the nose, out through the mouth—but do what feels best,” says Jo Murdock, a 200-hour EYT and 300-hour certified yoga teacher, dancer, and fitness instructor. Murdock adds that while following a strict breathing pattern isn’t required, inhaling and exhaling comfortably should be a priority while stretching. You may find that you can relax deeper into a stretch upon an exhale—but again, it’s important to not push yourself.And though we hate to add yet another item to your already stacked agenda, it’s best if you can make a little time for stretching each day. “Stretching should be as routine as brushing your teeth,” Murdock says. “Even if it’s five or 10 minutes daily.” Murdock jokes that if you “don’t use it, you lose it,” and that cliche is absolutely true when it comes to flexibility and keeping your muscles loose. So whether you’re using these as post-workout stretches or carving out some time at the end of a long day, know that a simple stretching habit can be an excellent self-care practice.Of course, as with all exercise, consult your doctor first (particularly if you have chronic pain or a specific injury history), and always stop if you feel sharp pain. With that in mind, here are a few stretches Murdock and Brannigan suggest that are almost guaranteed to help ease you into a calm and relaxed evening.

A Lower-Body Yoga Routine to Help Build Strength and Balance

A Lower-Body Yoga Routine to Help Build Strength and Balance

One of the best parts of a yoga routine is how it makes tight muscles feel amazing. But yoga can have other benefits, too. For instance, this lower-body yoga routine can help you build leg strength and bolster your balance.In this 40-minute yoga routine, which is the seventh installment of Sweat With SELF’s Yoga for Beginners series, you’ll go through a flow that’ll really hit your lower body. In the video, yoga instructor Rita Murjani—the chief of staff at mindful living brand Aduri who teaches at NYC-based studios SkyTing and Equinox—will take you through a bunch of poses that will not only help loosen up your tight muscles, but will also help you get stronger as you hone your balance. It does this by focusing on unilateral, or single-leg poses, which will challenge your muscles in new ways. Plus, your core will really fire during these moves too in order to help you stay steady.Take the Warrior III pose, which Murjani demonstrates with yoga blocks, making it a supported pose. When you hinge forward on one leg and raise your other leg off the floor, your hamstrings and glutes on your planted leg really fire to support your weight—and your deep core muscles engage as well to keep you from tipping over. This routine will also introduce you to the extended hand-to-big toe pose, another single-leg pose that strengthens your leg muscles and ankles while also stretching the back of your legs. You can also use a yoga prop for this as well—in this case, a yoga strap—to make the move a little easier!In just 40 minutes, this yoga flow will take you through a whole bunch of poses that will strengthen, stretch, and pretty much just make your body feel amazing. So gather your props, unroll your mat, and get ready to show your muscles some love!ContentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Related:

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