Just One Pose: Breath Awareness

Our “Just One Pose” posts answer the question: “If I have time to do just one pose, what should it be?” When I wrote on Mountain Pose, I figured I had hit at the root of alignment and awareness with the most basic and fundamental pose. Then my father asked for help with yoga.

This was a fun shock for me, as I’d never thought he’d be interested in yoga asana, and I said as much in the preface to Lifelong Yoga. Dad had some need for core strength, and I sent him a copy of the book and some videos from my Core Strength for Real People series. And like the wise elder he is, Dad disregarded most of the poses and went straight to the crux of the issue: breath.

You have to breathe! Without your breath, you won’t be holding any pose for very long. But with your breath, you’re generating support for and from your torso, abdomen, and pelvic floor. With these areas engaged, any movement becomes more easy.

So here’s the Just One Pose for the month: breathe consciously for a few rounds daily. When you find yourself bored, when you are in line, when you are stressed, when you are about to lift something heavy or embark on any activity at all: Take a breath with full awareness. Feel what happens in your nose, in your lungs, across your ribcage, through your belly, and along the bottom of your pelvis.

Supported fish, pictured here and given the full Just One Pose treatment here, is a good home base if you have the time to give your breath your full attention for one or more minutes. But you can connect with your breath anytime, anywhere, with no need of any particular state of being in your body. It’s the sine qua non, without which no movement is possible.

—Sage

The Grandparent Game

It takes fitness and stamina to be a grandparent—it’s practically a sport. After a few days of watching my parents with my daughter, I came up with a short, simple sequence that  prepares you for the physical requirements of grandparenting. Practice this sequence ahead of a visit with babies or before a family vacation with little kids— it only takes about 5 minutes. We’re standing on a yoga mat here, but it’s not needed. You don’t need any props for this sequence, and you can even do it with your shoes on. My dad (Umpa, to his grandchildren) filmed with me and did a great job of demoing!

Problem

For a weekend with grandchildren, you need stamina, a healthy spine, and strong glutes (for picking up those little kiddos).

Solution

A simple, short sequence you can do anywhere and anytime.

—Alexandra

Just One Pose: Warrior III

Our “Just One Pose” posts answer the question: “If I have time to do just one pose, what should it be?” If your time to do just one pose is right before or just after your workout, Warrior III is your answer.

Anne Wander, Christine Cotton, and Mimi O'Grady, all fast runners in their 50s
Anne Wander, Christine Cotton, and Mimi O’Grady, all fast runners in their 50s

Why

This pose strengthens your lower leg, thighs, hips, and core, while stretching your hamstrings. Practicing it dynamically—pulsing in and out with the breath—will warm up and loosen your hip and thigh, a good preparation for movement. (Such warmups are increasingly important as we age.) And holding the pose for several breaths after your workout will improve your balance and core strength, setting you up to perform even better in the next workout.

How

Shift your weight into one foot, lifting the other foot behind you while holding your body in a long line from your raised foot through your head. Work to keep your hips square—don’t let your top hip lift—and your spine long and supported by your core. If you’re feeling stiffer or wobbly, keep your back foot near or on the ground. If you’re feeling loose or steady, lower your chest and lift your back leg toward parallel with the floor.

Variations

For a dynamic warmup: connect the movement with your breath. Exhale to lift your leg and lower your chest; inhale to lift your chest and lower your leg. Repeat for 10–20 breaths on one side before doing the other.

For a core/balance challenge: come to Warrior III and hold for 5–15 breaths. To sweeten the pose, rest your hands on your hips or in prayer position. To add spice, spread your arms to a T, or stretch them overhead, creating a long line from your raised foot to your fingers. Switch sides.

—Sage

Sequence: Snowga to Do When You’re Trapped Inside

In our Sequence posts, you’ll find a sequence for a specific purpose. This week, we’re looking at snowga! When we get snow in North Carolina (where Sage and I live), things really slow down. Businesses close, sidewalks stay icy, roads aren’t safe for driving for several days. Snow days are nature’s way of reminding us to slow down and do less. But doing less doesn’t mean doing nothing. That’s where this simple, short practice comes in. It’s easy to do anywhere: you don’t need anything except your body and a wall. Bookmark this post, and the next time the weather brings your active life to a halt, take 5 minutes to move. Your core, hips, legs, and shoulders will thank you. (We practice a lot of downward-facing dog at the wall in this video. For a tutorial on that, check out Sage’s Hack Your Down Dog.)

—Alexandra