With the Standing Bow Series, release the ribs and pelvis to get more oxygen into each stretch:
A Using the same side of your body, step one leg back while lengthening the arm in front. Reach your foot and fingertips in equal but opposite directions while inhaling as long as possible.
B Keep inhaling and continue the arc into an overhead side bend.
C Swivel your elbow out behind you and around to further expand the ribcage and chest.
Key: Back should not arch, pelvis should not tilt. This is not a back bend.
Hanging Forward Bend:
A Inhale fully as you raise your arms out to your sides and overhead. Feel the air flow in through your nose while allowing your belly and ribcage to inflate.
B Exhale as you fold forward and hang. Take another full breath while hanging feeling your belly expand toward your thighs. Exhale to return to standing position and repeat. Key: Breathe in s-l-o-w-l-y while relaxing the belly and keep exhaling evenly and fully.
With The Figure 4 Stretch, release the hips and inner thighs:
A Seated or standing, cross one ankle over the other knee. Inhale fully into your belly and exhale slowly as you bend forward. Keep your back lengthened as you reach out diagonally, first toward the right and then toward the left.
B Draw your top knee towards your opposite shoulder as you exhale.
C Press your top knee away from you to stretch the inner thigh. Remember to breathe deeply and exhale fully.
Tension created from holding your breath is the greatest enemy of stretching. The lack of oxygen causes the brain to send stress signals to the muscles. Enjoy deeper stretches with deep breathing borrowed from mind/body workouts like Pilates and yoga. Deep, continuous breathing tells your muscles to release and makes stretching more effective.
How to Breath
Nasal (Awareness) Breathing:
Inhaling slowly though the nose gives the brain a direct hit of oxygen and sets off a cascade of feel-good hormones. Using your index finger, close your right nostril and inhale slowly. Pause your breath as you close off the left nostril. Allow the air to leave the right nostril. Try to feel the sensation of the air as your nostril gently flares. Cycle your breathing this way several times then switch sides. Finish by trying to feel the cycling of your breathing without holding either nostril shut.
Belly vs. Chest:
Lie on your back with one hand on your chest and one on your belly noting which hand rises first. If only your top hand rises, you are a shallow breather and will struggle with releasing into a stretch. Practice inhaling until your belly hand naturally rises first.
Even and Deep:
Imagine a balloon on a string attached to your belly button. Inhale and notice the balloon rising; exhale imagining the balloon floating back downward. After a few breaths, count to see how long you inhale and then exhale for at least the same count. As you exhale, try opening your mouth with soft lips like you’re blowing on a pinwheel and keep the pinwheel turning as long as you can.