Spring has finally sprung and the cold is on its way out. But, as they say, April showers bring May flowers, and all the dampness in the air weighs heavily on a body and a digestive fire trying to shed the extra insulation of the winter months.
Spring is a great time to give your digestion an extra boost. This can help you drop a few extra pounds and clear out your sinuses (lessening the grip of spring allergies). Try these yoga poses to help you put a little more fire in your belly.
1. Leg Raises (Utthanapadasana)
This pose develops warmth in the navel center and helps encourage healthy elimination. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles, improving support for the low back.
Lying flat on the floor, place your hands, palms down, on the floor about a foot from your hips. Inhale, then exhale and press your lower back down into the floor, engaging your low belly. Keep your back pressed against the floor throughout the pose. Visualize a golden disc of light at your navel center.
Next, inhale and raise one leg until it is perpendicular to your body. Exhale, lowering your leg. Repeat this movement 10 times with each leg. Then, if you can do it without straining, do 10 reps raising and lowering both legs at once.
You’ll know if it’s too much if you start holding your breath or your low back starts arching away from the floor.
Alternatively, you can cycle the legs like you are bicycling (don’t forget to cycle backwards too!). You can also lift both legs to perpendicular, then lower and raise one leg at a time—this one can be helpful to start with if you are having trouble keeping your back pressed against the floor.
2. Plank Pose (Santolanasana)
This pose is incredible for increasing the strength and integrity of the core, which directly relates to digestive strength.
Come into Plank with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your legs straight. Take the arch out of your low back and gaze directly in front of your hands at the floor. Hold this twice for 30 to 60 seconds.
Try this slight spin on Plank to get a bit more bang for your buck: upon exhaling, press your hands and toes into the floor as if you wanted to pull them together. Feel how that increases the engagement in your abdominal muscles. Keep breathing deeply, drawing your shoulders away from your ears.
Try to work up to holding this pose with the added core engagement for up to 15 to 20 full, deep breaths.
3. Table Top Arm And Leg Extension
This pose strengthens the back and helps to improve balance and coordination between the two sides of the body.
Starting on hands and knees, torso firm and parallel to the floor, inhale and raise your right leg straight back until it’s the same height as your torso. Keeping the leg lifted, inhale and raise your left arm until it is also in line with the torso.
Feel the connection between the extended arm and the leg and lengthen them apart from each other without shrugging the left shoulder toward the ear or slumping down in the right shoulder. Hold the final position for 8 to 15 breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
4. Swaying Palm Tree Pose (Tiryaka Tadasana)
This pose stimulates healthy liver and gall bladder function, which supports the body in shedding the excess insulation of winter.
Begin by standing with the feet parallel and slightly wider than hip distance apart. Inhaling, lift your arms straight up alongside the ears, fingers Interlaced. Exhale and relax the shoulders. Inhale, turn the palms up toward the ceiling and lengthen the body to the left.
Feel the feet planting deeply into the earth and try to lengthen both sides of the body as you are bending to one side. Breathe deeply for 4 to 10 breaths. Inhale, return to center. Exhale, release your arms down. Repeat on the other side.
This pose can be done more dynamically by moving in and out of position with each breath. Inhale, lift the arms through center, exhale, lengthen to one side, inhale, return to center, and so on.
5. Yogic “Push-Ups” (Dandas)
This is one of the poses used in traditional Indian wrestling as a pre- practice warmup. It works the whole body and trains us to link breath and movement. It improves circulation and strengthens the core, shoulders, and chest.
Start in Plank and, inhaling, pull the hips back into Downward Dog. Initiate the movement from your abdominal core and not by pushing through your arms. Next, exhale, bring the hips forward and lift the chest into a gentle Upward Dog, keep the toes tucked under.
Lift up out of the shoulders, avoiding slumping. Inhale, pull through the core and lift the hips back into Downward Dog. Continue moving forward and back like this on each breath, avoiding pinching your low back when in Upward Dog position.
This variation is pretty challenging, but it will increase your chest and shoulder strength quickly.
Begin Dandas as described above, but after the Up Dog portion, bend the elbows and bring the chest down and forward into Chaturanga (sort of a low pushup pose) on the inhale. Then, exhale, lift back up into Up Dog.
You can repeat the Chaturanga pushup again, or pull back into Down Dog on the next inhale.
Your body knows what to do—sometimes it just needs a little reminder. It’s no coincidence that the springtime air and sunshine make us want to run through fields of wildflowers once we’ve digested the sluggishness and the dampness of winter.
What are your favorite poses to warm your blood and get your circulation going?