This is a challenging style of yoga that is centered around a progressive series of yoga sequences that, traditionally, students practice on their own under the guidance of a teacher. If you think that yoga is not a workout, you haven’t tried an Ashtanga class. Classes include advanced poses such as arm balances and inversions including headstands and shoulder stands. Beginner students are strongly advised to study with an experienced teacher. Ashtanga classes will also often include teachings in yoga philosophy.
Most yoga styles being taught in America today are a form of hatha yoga, which is a general term that refers to the physical part of yoga, rather than yoga philosophy or meditation. A Hatha yoga class is likely to be a combination of poses and breathing exercises, but it’s hard to know whether it will be challenging or gentle. Check with the school or the teacher to find more about the level of classes that are described only as Hatha yoga.
Lying Knee-to-Chest Stretch
This one reaches your quads, hip flexors, lower back, and hamstrings. Lie on your back and gently pull one knee toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Leave the other leg bent if you have low back pain. Otherwise, choose what's more comfortable. If straight, you can add to the stretch by pushing the back of your knee toward the floor. Hold it for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Sideways Neck Stretch
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Tighten your belly and pull your shoulders back. With your head slightly forward, slowly tilt your ear toward the shoulder on the same side until you feel a stretch. Hold it for about 10 seconds, and slowly bring your head back up and do the other side. You can increase the stretch by using the hand on the tilting side to gently pull your head down.
Reclining Figure 4
You'll feel this one in your hips and glutes, and it should release some tension in your lower back. Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Cross one ankle over the opposite thigh and pull them toward your body. Try not to force it. Use gravity and the weight of your legs to get them closer to your body. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
In a standing position, find something to hold for balance. Put one straightened leg up on a step or a block. Bend slightly (not beyond your toes) with the opposite knee until you feel a gentle stretch at the back of the thigh of the raised leg. Bend slightly forward from your hips if you need more stretch. Move slowly and evenly, without bouncing. Hold it for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.
This one loosens up your inner thighs, groin, hips and knees. Sit on the floor or a mat and bring your feet together so that your soles touch and your knees bend to opposite sides. With a straight spine, grasp your feet, then lean slowly forward and gently push your thighs down with your elbows until you feel the stretch along your inner thighs. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
Your hip flexors - muscles that help you lift your knees and bend waist - can get tight if you're a runner or you sit for long periods. Drop one leg back, keeping it straight or slightly bent. Try to keep your torso upright and your spine straight. Drop your tailbone down toward the floor and tuck your butt forward until you feel the stretch of the inside thigh of your rear leg. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch legs.
It stretches your stomach and back muscles. Lie on your belly with your hands facing forward flat on the floor, directly under your shoulders. Stretch your legs out behind you and point your toes. As you exhale, lift your chest up and push your hips into the floor. Take care not to extend your arms so far that you lift your hips up. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.
Standing Quad Stretch
Stand behind a chair with your legs about shoulder width apart. Put one hand on the chair for balance. On the opposite side, lift your foot behind you and grab it with your free hand, keeping your bent knee pointing straight to the floor. Avoid bending forward, and try not to lock the knee of your standing leg. Pull gently on the leg until you feel the thigh stretch. Hold it for 10 to 30 seconds.