Need Better Sleep?
Are you looking to counteract the effects of excessive smartphone and computer use? The neck strain or pain you feel from repetitively using technology devices has a new name...Tech Neck. Some common feelings from Tech Neck include stiffness and soreness in the upper back, shoulders, and neck. Headaches and reduced mobility may also be experienced.
To help prevent or relieve Tech Neck, we hope you explore these two stretches.
Corner Stretch: Find a corner in any room or a door frame. Bring your arms to goal post position and place your palms and forearms on adjacent walls. If it’s comfortable, look up slightly and then slowly step into the corner. Hold for 3-5 breaths, and repeat 3 times. If that’s too intense, keep your gaze at the horizon and simply press into your palms and forearms. This stretch provides a deep upper back and shoulder stretch. (see below image).
Side of Neck Stretch: Draw your chin back slightly to lengthen and align with your neck. Then bring your left ear toward your left shoulder, place your left hand gently on the top of your head, and bring your right hand to the small of your back. Hold for 3-5 breaths, release, and repeat on your right side. If that’s too intense, do not place your hand on the top of the head. The weight of your hand on your head will intensify the stretch. This stretch provides a deep stretch in the sides of your neck. (see above image).
Here are a few other relief techniques:
Yoga Model: Zoey is a Humble Warrior volunteer, and she loves the outdoors, fall, and sunshine.
Need Better Sleep?
With so many benefits associated with yoga, it is no surprise that yoga can help people sleep better. The gentle stretching and relaxing of muscles, tendons, and connective tissue supports getting more and higher quality rest. You can be a totally new beginner or an experienced practitioner to explore this short sequence for better sleep. The National Institute of Health reminds us “you don’t even need to be particularly athletic or flexible” to use yoga for better sleep efficiency. Johns Hopkins’ sleep expert Anastasia Rowland-Seymore, M.D. shared “ the benefits are more due to its (yoga’s) meditative properties” that improves sleep.
Try this four pose sequence to promote better sleep.
1. Bridge Pose
2. Knees to Chest Pose
3. Supine Twist
4. Legs Up the Wall
Spend time in these different poses and find what feels good for you! You can read about these poses, their instructions, benefits, and more, by scrolling through our Yoga resources page.
Check out this Yoga for Sleep article by Johns Hopkins Medicine for more research and recommendations.
Knees to Chest Pose
(Sanskrit: Apanasana, meaning upward flowing life force )
Do you have a secret fear of farting in public, or have you passed gas in a yoga class? You are not alone. It happens and it’s normal. Knees to Chest Pose supports the ‘flowing of energy’ and is sometimes laughingly called pawanmuktasana or the “gas release pose or wind-relieving pose.” Feel free to incorporate this pose into your yoga practice, daily stretch, or to head off constipation or gas. So, let’s take a look at this pose.
Use caution or avoid this pose if you have neck, shoulder, or back injuries. Avoid after the first trimester of pregnancy or if you have a hernia.
Our model is our own Humble Warrior 2021 Mentor Tess O. Tess is a happily married US Navy veteran who enjoys traveling with and training her awesome German Shepherd, Syd.
(Sanskrit: Trikonasana; trikon meaning triangle and asana meaning pose)
Let’s take a look at Triangle pose, and don’t fret...no geometry is required. But we do think triangles can be perfect, right, and sometimes (a)cute. Triangle pose is a standing yoga pose that incorporates side bending and deep stretching of the lower back muscles. While it is an intermediate-level pose that requires a degree of strength and balance to practice, practicing it against a wall for stability and using a yoga block helps to make it more accessible.
Use caution if you have neck or knee injuries, and avoid this twisting pose if you have back injuries.
Our model Claire is a former EMS first responder, a trauma-sensitive yoga teacher, boy mom, and self proclaimed bourbon connoisseur.
(Sanskrit: Baddhakonasana )
People can have a formal name, an informal name, or family name. We may have even earned a cool or slightly embarrassing nickname! Are you ever confused by the various names of so many yoga poses? Butterfly Pose, has many aliases: Bound Angle, Throne Pose, Cobbler Pose, and groin stretch. All of these names refer to a variation of a seated pose focused on stretching the hips. Let’s break it down...
Begin sitting with the soles of your feet touching, but place a yoga block or folded blanket under each knee for support.
Use caution or avoid this pose if you have a knee or groin injury
Our yoga model is Raquel D. She is a US Army Veteran and a Humble Warrior Chairwoman. She is thankful to have received her full COVID-19 vaccine and is looking forward to being able to travel and have her next adventure!
Let’s explore a pose that strengthens our entire back body! It’s hard to see the back of your body, so we may adopt the mind set “out of sight, out of mind.” In fact, many people may not think much about their back body until their back hurts. Locust pose is a prone supported (meaning on your belly) backbend that strengthens the entire back body. Locust Pose has also been called Grasshopper.. The pose is considered an intermediate backbend and a foundation posture for deeper backbends such as Upward Dog and Wheel Pose. Let’s break it down...
From the prone position, stretch your legs long and your arms straight back with the palms facing down. You may opt to squeeze a yoga block between your thighs or calves. Beginners can rest their forehead on their mat and lift the legs only or conversely, they can rest on the top of their feet and lift their upper body and arms.
Use caution or avoid this pose if you have neck or back pain or injuries.
Imarii P. is a 5 year Navy veteran. She describes herself as a black woman, a daughter, a veteran, and a warrior! Many like to tell us who we are, but she looks to her name for inspiration. Imarii means love...love for self and all that we are. She wants to be a reminder that loving yourself is a warrior thing to do, so just breathe.
Dolphin Plank Pose
(Sanskrit: Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana )
Do your wrists become aggravated when holding plank poses? If so, know that you are not alone. We invite you to try Dolphin Plank Pose. This pose offers both a modification of and variety to the traditional plank pose. Most importantly, it removes weight bearing on your wrists. All plank postures build your core and tend to burn more calories than traditional calisthenic-type core exercises. Dolphin Plank Pose becomes an inversion when your hips are elevated from plank to a pike position. It can serve as a nice lead up to Downward Facing Dog, Headstand, and Handstand Poses. Let’s break it down...
Begin from a Downward Facing Dog or Plank posture vice Table Top. Also, try planking on your knees versus full leg extension. To build strength for inversions, like head or handstand, you can pike - lift your hips toward the sky and hold for 3-5 breaths. An example of this modification is pictured below.
Use caution or avoid this pose if you have neck, shoulder, or back injuries.
(above) Sherry M. is a volunteer Firefighter at Shiloh Community Volunteer Fire Dept in Madison County. Sherry has been a firefighter for 7 and a half years and was the oldest (40 years) recruit and only woman in her recruit class. Sherry enjoys fitness classes and has a cat named Aki.
(below) Karla J. is an Army veteran and participated in the “22 Day Pushup Challenge--Veteran’s Suicide Prevention” Challenge. She like the movies Tommy Boy and Eat Pray Love.
(Sanskrit: Uttana Shishosana, meaning extended or stretched out puppy pose)
The word puppy is synonymous with playfulness, cheerfulness, and happiness. While this pose may not fill you with tail-wagging fun, we hope it cultivates a fresh and playful start of 2021 for you!
Puppy Pose, also referred to as Melting Heart Pose, is a mild inversion and has several modifications and options. It’s the midpoint pose between Table (hands and knees pose) and Child (inversion and resting pose). Puppy serves to expand the chest, reduce or relieve tension in your neck and shoulders, and lengthen your spine.
Use caution or avoid this pose if you have neck or back injuries
Yoga Model: US Navy Veteran Rachel B. Her puppy co-model is named Shadow. Rachel is a twinless twin who knew part of herself was missing. As a child she would pretend she had a twin and imagined her reflection was her twin. She operates Bella Vita Mushrooms and for the past three years has been growing gourmet mushrooms for the public and restaurants. She also makes mushroom tinctures that help support many health ailments. Find out more, visit www.bellavitamushrooms.com.
Have you ever seen a child sleep all curled up, yet relaxed, and deeply asleep? Then you’ll understand why this month’s posture is literally called “Child” or “Pose of the Child.” This go-to pose in any yoga class or personal practice allows you to turn inward, feel secure, and rest. In turn, it serves to rejuvenate or refresh your body! We relate this position to jogging while running, floating while swimming, or simply hitting pause while watching a favorite movie. The activity isn’t over; instead a comfortable change in action is experienced. We can turn our attention inward, deepen our breathing, and refresh our efforts before we continue. Tip: at any time you need a comfortable pause in a yoga class, go to Child Pose and linger there until you feel ready to continue.
Like all forward folds, Child’s Pose is both nourishing and protective for your body. There is a gentle squeeze to your internal organs, an increase of blood flow to your brain, and a stretch to your spine, hips, and ankles. Overall, many people experience a sense of nourishment, safety, and calm during and after Child’s Pose.
Yoga Model: Katie is an Army veteran, who recently obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Integrative Studies, and her social media profile saying is “love, love, love.”
Awkward Chair Yoga Pose
(Sanskrit: Utkatasana pronounced uh-t-kah-ah-sah-nah)
Awkward Chair Pose is a standing pose that serves to both strengthen your lower body and stretch your upper back. The name alone may invite images of discomfort and you may wonder what’s in store for me. The pose has aliases, such as Powerful Pose, Yogic Squat, and Lightning Bolt which give you a heads up that “YES,” this is a strength building pose. Standing poses are traditionally the starting position for short sequences or a preparatory pose for attaining other poses. Awkward Chair is most often used in the Sun Salutation B sequence; however, it can also be a standalone pose.
Yoga Model: Erika is a military family member and she loves cats!
(Sanskrit: Bhujangasana pronounced “boo-jahng-ah-sah-nah )
Cobra is a reclining back-bending pose that stretches and strengthens the vertebral column. The pose reflects a cobra with its hood raised. There are many benefits:
You can place your entire forearm vice palms on your mat or by trying one of several seated options:
Option 1: While seated, rest on the balls of your feet on the ground and your forearms on the seat of a chair directly in front of you. As you inhale, press into your forearms and lift your trunk, arch your neck slightly backwards as you look up. Breathe.
Option 2: While seated, hold the back of a chair where it makes contact near the seat. As you inhale, raise your chest, arch your neck slightly backwards as you look up. Breathe.
Option 3: While seated, rest your forearms on your thighs close to your knees. Press into your forearms and lift your trunk, arch your neck slightly backwards as you look up. Breathe.
Note: Consult your physician before any exercise regime. This pose is not recommended for back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, pregnancy, hernia, and headache.
Yoga Model: Gwendolyn is an Army veteran, founder and director of The Peach Pit (equine-assisted psychotherapy), and shares that “yoga and pilates allowed me to retire from the military rather than be medically discharged.” One of her many superpowers is perfectly backing up a full-size truck and horse trailer that’s fully loaded!
(Sanskrit: Shavasana; pronounced shah-vahs-uh-nuh)
The final posture or pose in a yoga class is traditionally one of both ease and deep relaxation. The selected posture allows our body to take a rest from having practiced centering, bending, twisting, balancing, and strengthening. A common pose choice to absorb all the benefits of your yoga class or practice is Corpse Pose—a highly restorative posture allowing rest and inviting relaxation. While most people look forward to or love the final pose, some people consider Corpse Pose the toughest pose. In this busy and increasingly stressful world, many people cannot embrace the act of relaxation. They may live in the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system and remain hyper vigilant for long periods of time. By practicing Corpse Pose or systematic relaxation, we can remind ourselves that we are human “beings” and do not always have to be human “doings.” The important shift to our parasympathetic nervous system allows our entire being to “rest and reset.” Let’s take a closer look at Corpse Pose…
1: Lie on your back (head can rest on a 1-2” folded blanket)
2: Legs rest approximately 1’ apart and toes may naturally turn outward 45 degrees
3: Check in with your lower back! If you feel tension consider placing a rolled-up blanket, bolster, or yoga blocks under knees to reduce low back stress
4: Arms rest by your sides with palms up or perhaps try placing on hands on your low belly
5: Breathe diaphragmatically—allow the belly to rise on the inhale, then the chest and allow the chest to soften, then the belly on the exhale
6: Scan the body in a systematic manner from head to toe and then back to head for any tension, gripping, or tightness…then relax.
7: Optional self talk; you can repeat any of these phrases or create your own: My body is relaxed. My body is healthy. My body is rested. My mind is calm. My mind is clear. My heart is filled with peace, love, and joy.
Yoga Model: Shelley is one of our HW retreat graduates. Shelley is a 25 year US Army retired veteran. Her favorite color is purple and she enjoys quilting.
LEGS UP THE WALL POSE
(Sanskrit name: Viparita Karami; pronounced Vi-uh-ree-tuh-kah-rah-nee; meaning "inverted action")
Are your legs tired, ankles swollen, or dogs barking? If you answered yes, try Legs Up the Wall pose. This pose or posture is beneficial and rejuvenating by bringing ease to your legs, feet, and spine. Ancient yoga teachings add that this pose both strengthens your immune system and calms your nervous system. Healthline.com shares that Legs Up the Wall "helps bring more oxygen to your muscles, which can reduce lactic acid production and rid your muscles of any accumulation of lactic acid."
1. Sit with your right side against a firm, smooth wall.
2. Bend your knees and gently roll on to your lower back, resting on your elbows.
3. Gently pivot your body right toward the wall and raise your legs up and on to the wall.
4. Lower and rest your back and head on the floor. You may have to slide your buttocks closer or farther away from the wall depending on the tightness of your hamstrings and your comfort level.
5. Rest your arms at your sides with palms facing up or explore laying them palms down on your belly.
6. Hold the pose for 5-15 minutes while focusing on your breath. If it's comfortable, soften your gaze or close your eyes.
7. To release the posture, simply press your feet into the wall pushing your body away and then lowering your legs back down to the left side, returning to a seated position.
An inversion pose positions the heart higher than the head - think of a headstand or handstand. Legs Up the Wall is also considered an inversion where the head and heart are level or slightly elevated and recommended for all levels. However, it is not recommended for people who have the following conditions: high blood pressure, glaucoma, detached retina, or neck and shoulder injuries. According to healthline.com Legs Up the Wall is "a safer inversion option for people with high blood pressure... check with your doctor before adding this pose to your routine."
So create a sense of calm after a tough day of work, a challenging workout, or before bed by practicing Legs Up the Wall pose.
Pose model: Rachel demonstrates a slight modification of the posture by sliding her hips farther from the wall and bending her knees . This is recommended for anyone who has tight hamstrings. Rachel loves her cat Oreo, her favorite show is The Office, and she is going to school to be a judge someday.
Practice Bridge Pose to relieve upper back, shoulder, and neck strain. Strain may be caused from working from home, using hand held technology devises, and overall daily use. Bridge Pose is a back-bending posture that helps strengthens the back and hamstrings and also stretches your neck, chest, and back. It is easily modified, but not recommended if you have a neck injury.
1. Lie on your back, knees bent with soles of the feet on your mat.
2. With arms alongside the body, press your palms into your mat. (Note: fingertips may graze your heel.)
3. Begin by pressing mindfully your feet, hands, arms, shoulders, and back of your head into your mat.
4. On an inhale, lift your hips to plane and hold.
5. Continue to press (all body parts in contact with the mat) into the mat. Then, explore holding the posture, but not your breath.
6. On an exhale, begin to release the posture by coming down to your mat bone-by-bone...from the top of your spine to your tailbone.
Modifications: Place a block between your lower thighs for feet and knees alignment or rest your hips on a yoga black to reduce strain on your lower back.
Yoga Model: Gabrielle is a US Army veteran and currently serves as our Humble Warrior Website Manager and Resources Coordinator. She enjoys roller derby and finding a good (plastic-free container) hair conditioner for her 4 ft. long veil.
During this period of "flattening the curve," we should all being doing what we can to improve our immunity. This month we have a 3 min immunity practice from Raquel.
Hilary Nihlen is a friend of Humble Warrior. She has several accessible yoga practices on YouTube. This is just one of them. Search for Hilary Nihlen on YouTube to view more and/or subscribe to support Hilary.
February is a quirky sometimes out of balance month. Join Raquel in a balance sequence. Check out our first video.