Yoga pose of the month: Stretch hips and lower back with squats at the sink

This is the perfect time to tune up everything from the waist down by practicing "Squats at the Kitchen Sink,’ the last in our 8-month Vichy Best Health Challenge "Yoga pose of the month” series.

Yoga pose of the month: Stretch hips and lower back with squats at the sink

Source: Web exclusive: February 2011

If you happen to live somewhere cold, February can be the kind of month that deposits large amounts of snow directly to your doorstep. As you layer up and plough your way along slippery sidewalks and clamber over mounds of snow and ice, the simple act of getting from A to B requires strong, flexible hips as well as increased stability and a healthy dose of patience.

Squatting is one of the most natural movements for the young and limber, but with lifestyles that demand long stretches in front of computers, together with the inevitable march of time, our joints tend to lose their elasticity and flexibility, resulting in seriously decreased mobility, which can be detrimental as you negotiate your way through the sometimes treacherous February landscape.

So, every morning, while your coffee or tea is brewing or steeping and the oatmeal is cooking, grab on to the kitchen sink and squat. As you bend your knees and lower your torso toward the floor, you’ll feel a delicious opening in your lower back, and an increased rotation in your hips. Try this pose every morning for the next week, or better yet couple of months, and I guarantee you’ll be gliding through February, arriving in March and April with lovely loose hips and a pain-free lower back, enabling you to squat down to water the daffodils and tulips. Now that’s something to look forward to!

Top 5 benefits:

‘ Opens, loosens and strengthens tight hip joints, increasing flexibility, stability and range of motion
‘ Stretches and lengthens inner thigh muscles
‘ Relieves pain and compression in lower back
‘ Strengthens knee and ankle joints
‘ Releases tight shoulders

Off-the-mat suggestions:

‘ At your bathroom sink or countertop
‘ At your desk at home or work
‘ Holding on to a secure handrail or banister
‘ Standing at the window with hands on the windowsill
‘ Any tabletop or flat area

Contraindications:

Recent back, hip or knee surgery; certain rotator cuff conditions.

The steps:

1. Hold on to the edge of the kitchen sink with your hands shoulder width apart. (Slip on a pair of kitchen gloves if you need extra grip.)

2. Step back 1-2 feet and place your feet hip width apart with your toes turned out slightly.

3. Bend your knees and slowly lower your torso toward the floor. Keep your chin level, or look up slightly if it’s more comfortable. Relax facial muscles and jaw. Don’t worry if your heels don’t touch the floor; just balance on the balls of your feet.

4. As you inhale, draw breath upward to fill and expand your mid/upper chest, and as you exhale, move knees outwards to stretch your inner thighs. As your hips start to open, try to drop more deeply into the squat. Keep shoulders relaxed  throughout.

5. Repeat for 3-10 rounds, depending on level of flexibility.

6. On your last inhalation, slowly pull yourself up to standing and as you exhale, release arms to your side and relax shoulders back and down.

Note: If you’re able to squat without holding on, when you’re in the pose, bring your palms together at your heart centre (mid chest) and firmly press elbows against the inside of your knees.

Remember what’s important to remember

My 86-year-old mother always says that the most important thing in life is your health. We know this to be true, but staying fit and healthy while juggling the demands of modern day life can be overwhelming, exhausting and sometimes seemingly impossible. This is why an ‘off the mat’ yoga programme like ‘Kitchen Yoga’ makes so much sense.  So remember, in the 2-5 minutes it takes to brew coffee, cook the oatmeal or simmer the chicken soup, just fit in a pose or two. If you make this a daily habit, before you know it you’ll have practiced upwards of 40 minutes of yoga a week AND you haven’t had to leave your home, negotiate the traffic, pay for parking, or add more emissions into the atmosphere! It’s an all round win-win and a simple solution to bringing more energy and vibrant health to all aspects of your precious life.

So no more ‘I wish I could, I know I should, but I just don’t have the time!’  You do, it’s right there in your kitchen!

Kitchen Yoga is available at www.ruthshawyoga.com in both print and ebook editions. Practice Kitchen Yoga for 2-5 minutes a day and you will fit 30 or more extra minutes of yoga a week, without adding one more ‘to-do’ in your busy schedule.

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