By Geeta Maraj
November 6th, 2013 Edition
If you suffer from aching muscles, arthritis or other types of joint pains, you already know your challenges upon waking up every morning. This is especially so as the barometric pressure falls when rain is in the forecast. Yoga asanas (postures) are most beneficial in alleviating joint pain and muscle tenderness. Best of all, most of these stretches can be performed before getting out of bed in the morning.
Here are a few stretches which you can try when you awake:
Resistance stretch for limbs:
Lie in the centre of the bed without any pillows. Keep your arms about 4-6 inches from your body with your palms facing downward. Bring your legs to about 6-8 inches apart. Keep the elbows locked – meaning that you let your elbows be as straight as possible. Breathe in, and push your left arm onto the bed, as if you are trying to push the mattress away with your entire arm. This creates a resistance in the full length of your arm, causing the muscles to tense. Then as you breathe out, relax the arm slowly, and feel the muscles become loose. Repeat the same stretch with the right arm. Then try to do the same resistance push against the mattress with both arms at the same time. This exercise can be repeated 3 to 6 times or as is bearable.
A similar stretch can be performed with the legs. As you breathe in, push the entire left leg against the mattress with us much force as you can, keeping the knee locked. As you breathe out, relax the leg and feel the blood flow back into the leg muscles. Repeat the same exercise with the right leg in similar fashion. Depending on your level of stiffness, you may try to do both legs at the same time if you are not in extreme pain. Always remember to breathe in as you begin the posture and exhale as you come out of the posture.
After stretching the legs it is important to stretch the spine. This is done by outstretching your arms at shoulder level across the bed (similar to making a T-shape with your body). Place your palms facing upwards. Bring your legs together and pull both knees towards your chest. Keep your torso in as straight a position as possible, and swing both knees to the right side of the bed. Turn your head to face the left hand. Hold this position for a few minutes and breathe long deep breaths. To come out of this position you simply swing your legs back to the center position towards your chest then stretch them out. Turn your head back to the original position where your chin is in alignment with the middle of your chest. Repeat this exercise onto the other side by taking both knees onto the left side while turning your head to the right side. Remember to breathe long deep breaths while holding the position.
Lying on your back in the center of the bed, keep your legs together and arms close to your body. Place your palms facing downwards. Crawl your fingers toward your feet – as if you are trying to reach your knees without bending forward. When your arms are very tense, hold the position. As you breathe in, turn your head to the right side – as far right as you possibly can turn. Hold the position and keep breathing so as to relax the muscles of the neck. Return to center position, breathe in and then repeat onto the left side.
Entire body stretch:
From the center of the bed, breathe in and hold your breath. Tense the arms by making a fist and stretch the arms towards the feet so as to lengthen them as much as possible. Tense the legs by pushing out your heels – as if you are pointing outward with your heels. Lift your head off the bed and push your chin towards your chest, all the while holding your breath.
Your entire body should be very tense while you are holding your breath and your chin is pushed toward your chest. To relax out of this asana, bring your head back onto the bed and exhale through your mouth, allowing your entire body to relax all at once.
These variations of yoga stretches should be performed on a daily basis, upon awakening, and/or before you sleep. These stretches will help to strengthen your muscles, thereby benefiting your joints.