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 super long hair.
Bird Dog Pose, named after the pointing dog breed, is one of our favorite go--to postures for targeting the core! Yes, that's right, we said core. Our core muscles wrap all the way around our mid body. Since this pose involves both arm and leg movement as well as core stability, it also targets the glutes, back, shoulders, and thighs. Now that's multi-tasking! In preparation for a Yoga in Parkinson's class, we also learned that Bird Dog Pose mimics the "crawl-walk-run" (or contralateral) movement where the opposite arm and leg works in sync with a stabilized core. This action supports a positive wellbeing brain correlation.
Modifications & Safety Tips:
Beginners may choose to extend only the arms or legs and work up to simultaneously extending both opposite arm and leg.
Focus on preventing your shoulders and hips from dipping by holding for a shorter period of time or alternating sides.
Not recommended if you have knee, ankle, and wrist pain; please consult with your physician before practicing.
For Bird Dog variations visit:
To build a mini sequence around Bird Dog visit:
Yoga Model: Pam N., is a retired nurse and grandma. In true southern fashion, she can whip up a homemade treat in no time flat. She enjoys resting and resetting in the mountains with her husband and growing family.
(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!
(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!
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.”
(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.
Are you ready to embrace summer and let go of built up tension? Let's take a look at Crocodile Pose. This is a friendly crocodile and not the toothy kind. This is a beginner-friendly pose that encourages total relaxation. By lying on your belly and supporting your head, shoulders, and chest, you can turn inward and just rest. This is our go-to pose if we are awakened at night and want to return to sleep quickly... it's that relaxing.
Step to Practice:
Not recommended if pregnant or having back pain.
Alex B is an Army veteran spouse, CPA, seasoned yogi, and world traveler. Plus she makes the best gingerbread cookies in the world!
(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: Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Are you a dog lover? If so, you may recognize the similarity of a dog taking a long stretch after lying down with its forearms extended and their tail up in the air with the yoga pose Downward Facing Dog. this well known posture is an inversion that is equal parts strengthening and stretching. Students work to press their hands and feet into the floor while forming a pike position with their bottom skyward. The posture is also considered a resting posture, but may not feel like one if you arms are overloaded or if your chest is not drawing toward your thighs. In this rest position, we encourage you to conduct a "check in" with yourself. You can assess how you are feeling (pssst... without judgement) and identify where to modify or focus your practice. Let's explore this classic pose that offers a deep, full-body stretch.
Many practitioners enjoy "walking their dog" by pedaling out their feet to gently stretch the calves, hamstrings, and low back before holding the pose statically. If tension is felt in the neck, you are encouraged to nod your head "yes" and shake your head "no" for a gentle release. See the photos for other ways to modify this pose including using a sturdy chair to help bring the floor up to you.
Use caution or avoid this pose if you have weakness or injury in your wrists, ankles, or shoulders.
Diane is an Army Veteran, was the first Chairwoman of Humble Warrior and is a certified Yoga Therapist and Yoga Instructor (C-IAYT, E-RYT 200, RYT 500). Diane spends her spare time mountain biking, traveling, and reading.
Have you ever noticed a baby breathe? They deeply inhale and exhale within their abdomen. As life continues after birth, the breath travels up into the rib cage and becomes short and shallow. This breathing technique is simple, extremely effective, and you can practice it anywhere. Continued practice can transform your breathing.
Deep Belly Breathing
1. Find a comfortable position. There are several different positions that can be utilized for this technique. Try to take a seat on a blanket or pillow or place this seat against a wall for support. You can also sit in a chair. If you prefer, lay down on a flat, comfortable surface. Close your eyes if it feels well, but feel free to keep them open by just relaxing your gaze.
2. Locate your navel and place both palms on your abdomen directly beneath the belly button.
3. Take three deep breaths and direct your attention to the breath itself. Where does your inhale begin? Does it change when you exhale? Is the temperature of the air in the room warm, cool, or exactly right?
4. On the next inhale, actively breathe into your abdomen. Notice the belly and hands rise as you inhale.
5. As you exhale, notice the belly and hands fall to a lower position.
6. Explore ten cycles of breath to start and repeat for as long as you like.
7. If you closed your eyes earlier, open them, but keep a soft gaze.
Some benefits of Deep Belly Breathing are relaxation, coping, core muscle stability, and stress reduction.
Yoga model: Ashely is a proud wife of a Marine Veteran and First Responder. She serves as an important connection between her local YMCA and their community!
The Figure Four Stretch is a simple, yet extremely effective way to release tightness and tension in the hips, glutes, and lower back. It can be practiced many different ways so feel free to explore the this stretch from your bed, couch, or anywhere else you can lay comfortably.
1. Start with both feed solid on the surface you are resting on, with the knees up to the sky.
2. Place your ankle on your opposite thigh, directly below the knee. Keep the foot flexed.
3. Your hand can rest on the inside of the knee, gently pressing the knee out and away from the body. If this feels well on your hips, feel free to stay here.
4. When you are ready, thread through your legs picking up the belly of the thigh. (Make sure to grab the thigh that your ankle is resting on).
5. Connect with the breath and pull both legs in towards your chest.
6. You can explore staying active in the stretch, while you are pulling the legs into the chest try and press the knee out and away from the body at the same time.
7. Feel free to explore using a strap here like our model Gabi is doing.
8. Hang out in your stretch for 10 breaths.
9. On a long exhale, gently set back down and come out of your variation of the figure four stretch.
10. Repeat on your opposite side. Do you happen to notice a difference in that side compared to your opposite?
Yoga model: Gabi is a Deputy Sheriff 1, and her favorite stretch is the figure four. She is a passionate foodie, dog and cat mom, kayaker, and loves to beat her husband at video games.