by Mayuri Gonzalez, The School Yoga Project Director and Little Flower Yoga Teacher Trainer
Chair yoga is beneficial for teachers to practice during their long stretches of desk-time and for students, who spend hours sitting in their desks without many opportunities for physical activity breaks. Practicing yoga in the chair is a simple way to bring movement breaks into the classroom and increase body awareness, giving kids a boost to be ready to learn.
STARTING FROM THE GROUND UP…..THE FEET!
The feet are the roots of the body and when they are soft and springy they can withstand physical shocks, protecting the spine. When feet are stiff, every step can send a harsh impact rippling up to the knees, hips and back, causing wear and tear on the joints and the spine. Foot exercises activate the musculature of the feet, restore mobility to the toes and ankles, and increase circulation. Bringing increased awareness into the legs and feet can also have a grounding effect on the body, building awareness of the present moment and a sense of stability and security, right here, right now.
Guidelines for exercises:
- Take off shoes, and socks if possible.
- Sit forward on your chair so that the soles of your feet can be in full contact with the floor.
- Feet and knees should be about shoulder-width apart.
- Spine is erect with the pelvis, back, and head aligned.
- Shoulders are relaxed and your hands are loosely resting in your thighs.
AWARENESS EXERCISE: SEATED GROUNDED POSTURE
This is a posture in which both feet are on the floor and your spine is straight, but not rigidly so. Your hands may be resting on your thighs or on the arms of the chair. Your head is held high, but relaxed, with a long neck. Notice the way your body rests in the chair; notice the way your feet are resting on the ground. Notice if you can sit in a way that you can experience both strength and ease. Which parts of your feet are touching the ground? Where are you bearing weight? What changes in your foot when you bend your toes like claws? How does it feel if you gently shirt or rock your body? Take a few breaths through your nose and imagine that the breath is flowing right down into the soles of your feet, and back out of your body through your nose.
Have your feet at right angles to your knees, so that your calves are perpendicular to the floor, like 2 pillars. Lift your right and left heels alternately noticing all of the bones and sensations in the feet as your roll over them. Let your breath flow naturally. (Repeat 10 times)
Benefits: Stimulates blood flow to the feet and calves and can prevents prevent varicose veins. Via the reflex zones in the feet it can relax the whole spine helping with a variety of back problems.
ROCKING THE FEET
Alternately raise the toes and heels of both feet, creating a rocking movement. (Repeat 5-10 times)
Benefits: Loosens the musculature of the feet and relaxes the foot and hip joint.
ROLLING THE FEET
With your feet shoulder width apart, roll your feet inwards and outwards, rolling to the inner edges and outer edges of your feet, and noticing all of the sensations in your feet, toes, and ankles.
Benefits: Increases circulation to the feet and calves.
TENSE & LET GO: FEET AND TOES
Clench and scrunch up the toes and soles of your feet, and then stretch them out again, relaxing the feet in between.
Benefits: Keeps the toes and feet supple and helps to relax and release tension in the shoulders, neck, eyes, and ears via the reflex zones in the feet.
LOOSENING & SPREADING THE TOES
Raise your right foot. Loosen the toes and spread them out, three times and repeat with your left foot.
Benefits: Maintains or improves suppleness of the foot, and activates the muscles in the legs and back.
CLENCHING THE TOES
Raise your right foot and flex your toes back towards you. Feel the stretch through the sole of your foot. Now clench your toes and feel the wrinkling in the sole of your foot. Stretch and clench the toes three times and then repeat the exercise with your left foot.
Benefits: Eases tension in the toes and stimulates the reflex zones in the feet.
FLEX & STRETCH
Raise your right foot. As you inhale, flex your whole foot towards you, and as you exhale, point your toes away from you. Repeat this three times slowly with awareness, synchronized with your own breath. Circle the ankle several times clockwise, and counterclockwise before lowering the foot and repeating with the left foot.
Benefits: Loosens ankles, and increases circulation to the feet, ankles, and calves.
ABOUT MAYURI GONZALEZ:
Mayuri Gonzalez (E-RYT, RCYT) has been practicing yoga and meditation for over 20 years since her own childhood and specializes in bringing yoga and mindfulness to children. She has taught for Little Flower Yoga since 2010 and is currently the Director of The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY offering direct service yoga and mindfulness classes for preschools and K-12 schools in the Greater New York Area, staff development workshops, staff yoga, and a national affiliate program.
For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Mayuri by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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