Fanny Spencer (New York '08) supports a cohort of 30 corps members and sees how stress can impact their wellbeing. Fanny is also a certified yoga teacher and offers some simple yoga poses to help recharge, restore, and refuel.
November 30, 2017
At this point in the year, our corps members have continuously given all of themselves. They've given to their students, their professors, their communities and to Teach For America. During the winter break we're encouraging all of our corps members to take a moment to check in with themselves and do what they need to in order to recharge, restore, and refuel! Yoga is a great way to do this. The sequence below is great for everyone, regardless of experience level. As with all exercise, only do what you can and always listen to your body.
Start your practice with this seated pose.
Bottoms of feet touching; spine is neutral (don’t arch nor round your back); top of head facing the ceiling; look a few inches in front of you. Take deep inhales through your nose while counting to 4, and slow exhales through your nose counting to 7. Extending the exhale stimulates the vagus nerve, which is responsible for calming the nervous system. This is a breathing technique you can use anywhere and at any time.
I’m cheating here a little because a vinyasa flow encompasses four poses, but they are often done together as one. These four poses are simple but not necessarily easy, which is why we practice them over and over again in the course of a vinyasa class.
1. Downward facing dog: feet hips width apart reach your heels towards the mat, hips reaching towards the sky, five fingers spread evenly, arms are straight, push the ground away, let your head go and look at your feet.
2. Let your hips sink down and keep your spine neutral. The top of your head is facing the front of the room, arms are straight, navel in and up, legs are engaged and press onto the balls of your feet.
3. Chaturanga dandasana (push up) from a plank bend at your elbows until reaching a 90 degree angle drawing them back towards your ribs while bringing your chest forward. Feel free to do this pose on your toes or your knees.
4. Upward facing dog: from chaturanga straighten your arms drawing your chest forward, let your hips sink low, untuck your toes pressing on the top of your feet to keep your legs off the mat, draw your shoulders away from your ears and let your head go back looking towards the ceiling.
Warrior 3 For Balance
Balance poses are crucial for our wellbeing. They help us sharpen our concentration skills as well as strengthen our bodies. General advice for maintaining balance poses is to engage your core (naval in and up) and find a point in the room that isn’t moving and focus on that point during the pose (so probably don’t look at yourself in the mirror or at another person).
1. Lean forward until your hips are at a 90 degree angle, place weight onto your right leg and lift left leg behind you as high as your hips, foot is flexed with toes facing down towards the mat, keep both hip points facing down; reach your arms forward/ by your side/ or at prayer by your chest.
2. For modification, feel free to use blocks by placing them underneath your shoulders at their highest level. You can also use a wall to stabilize your lifted leg. REPEAT WITH OTHER LEG
Inversions like handstands can seem intimidating to many of us, but there are many supportive ways of trying this pose. L-shape handstand is my favorite kind of handstand as you gleam all the benefits of an inversion while avoiding the fear of falling. Turning your body upside down helps turn your perspective upside down, which we all need from time to time. Inversions are also great for blood circulation, and give us a boost of energy. Keep in mind that the definition of an inversion is a pose in which your hips are over your heart so a downward dog is an inversion, as well as putting your legs up the wall and propping your hips up with a blanket or block. Here is a fun way to practice a handstand even if you think you can’t do a handstand.
1. Start in a downdog facing away from a wall with heels resting on the wall, lean forward and bring your shoulders directly above your wrists while you start walking up the wall.
2. Walk as high as your hips and then straighten your legs, keep your arms straight pressing into all corners of your hands, squeeze shoulders behind you, and continue to walk up to bring your hips directly over your shoulders. Let the top of your head face the mat.
Just as inversions helps us turn our perspective upside down, heart opener/backbending poses help us open our hearts and minds to new possibilities.
1. Start this pose on your back, knees bent, press arms down into the mat
2. Lift your hips, squeeze shoulders and interlace hands underneath you or use your hands or a block to support your lower back, continue to draw inner thighs together, bring your chest towards your chin.
After six years of practicing yoga, Fanny took the plunge and completed a 200 hour Vinyasa Flow teacher training at Om Factory New York. You can find her teaching with the C3 Method Mondays at 7:00 am at Arlo Soho Hotel, and Saturdays at 5:30 pm at Prospect Heights Yoga.
*Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.