15 minutes doesn’t sound like a long time but we are busy people, and sometimes even that can be hard to find. This is the rationale behind my latest feature on the site: 1-Pose / 1-Minute. In my experience, there are many situations when, if you know which pose to practice, 1 minute might be all you need. And in this article, I’m going to give you 5 that, if you’re in pain and you only have a minute, will give you fast-acting relief.
YOGA FOR FAST-ACTING PAIN RELIEF
Yoga is practically unrivalled in its ability to alleviate common aches and pains caused by poor posture, repetitive stress and exacerbated by our sports. I know this because I am not immune. I too fall prey to nagging muscular pain if I sit and write for too long, neglect to stretch out properly when I’m crossing continents or become overzealous at practicing a specific activity over and over. Luckily, I know which poses can act fast to give me relief.
Here is a quick guide to 5 regular offenders and the postures that will release tension in just the right spot.
1. TIGHT LATS + SHOULDERS: PUPPY
Puppy is a wonderful counterpose to the rounded upper back posture (kyphosis) that many of us fall into if we ride a bike, work at a desk or spend considerable time commuting. Puppy stretches the lats and shoulders and alleviates stiffness in the thoracic spine (mid back).
Variations. You can increase the intensity of the pose by bending your elbows and bringing your palms together behind your head. And you can twist it up by threading your right arm under the left and vice versa.
2. PAIN IN BETWEEN THE SHOULDER BLADES: THREAD-THE-NEEDLE
Thread-The-Needle is great for alleviating pain in between the shoulder blades and for easing stiffness in the neck and shoulders. It works by releasing tension in the upper back through spinal rotation and opening up the chest and the fronts of the shoulders.
Modifications. You can reach your top arm towards the top of the mat, rest it in front of your face or bind the pose to increase the intensity. And if you find this pose uncomfortable, you can try resting your head on a pillow or a bolster.
3. LOWER BACK PAIN: BRIDGE
Bridge pose activates the glutes and lower back and opens up the hip flexors, abs and the fronts of the shoulders. It’s a back-bending counterpose like Puppy that can provide fast-acting pain relief if you fall into poor posture. The beauty with Bridge is that it also targets shortened hip flexors.
Modifications. The key with this pose is to lift your chest up and back. You might find this easier with your hands interlaced behind your back. And you can practice a restorative variation by putting a yoga block under your sacrum.
4. TIGHT HIPS: DEAD PIGEON
Dead Pigeon is fantastic for loosening up tight hips. Primarily it stretches the glutes, piriformis and TFL that can get really tight, especially from sitting for long periods of time but also from sports that involve running and cycling.
Modification. If you have the flexibility, you can reach through to take hold of your shin. Try to relax your neck and shoulders. And flex your foot to protect your knee if you experience pain here.
5. TIGHT CALVES + HAMSTRINGS: DOWNWARD DOG
Downward Dog is a great pose for stretching out the feet, ankles and backs of the legs. Don’t feel that you need to straighten your legs. When you have found your alignment in your upper body, spend a little time walking your dog.
Variation. You can turn this pose into a hip opener by raising one leg in the air, bending your knee and dropping your foot back behind you in Downward Dog Split. This pose opens up the groin and hip flexors.