Simple Trick for Tight Hamstrings and Sore Feet

"Body is not stiff, mind is stiff." 
Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois

I have ridiculously tight hamstrings. Like, "can barely touch my toes on a good day" tight. I dream of one day having my heels touch the mat during downward dog. However, until that day, I am doing what I can to increase my flexibility and softly stretch my tight muscles.

Thankfully, one of my favorite tricks can be easily done at home for a few minutes everyday with some amazing results! All you need? A tennis ball!

Before beginning, I like to stretch down to see how far I can reach so I can compare afterwards and to measure my progress over time. I've found that even after only one session, I can gain a few inches of reach.

Standing up tall, start by rolling the tennis ball under your feet with moderate pressure. If you have trouble keeping your balance, stand close to a wall so you can use it as a prop. Make sure to massage from the front to the back of your foot, including under your toes. After you have done one foot for a minimum of 2 minutes, switch to the other foot. It is as easy as that!

This technique is wonderful for people who are on their feet all day. Do this when you get home after a long day and feel all that tension melt away! (It seems to work faster than attempting to subtly imply to your significant other that you would appreciate a foot massage. I may be known to attempt this technique with varying success: *cough... cough... foot sneaks onto lap... "Whoops... well since it is there, do you mind getting me a foot rub, please?"*)

Try using this technique once a day. I usually do it every morning along with my usual yoga routine. See where it fits best into your schedule. You could even keep a tennis ball under your desk to do this at work!

Make sure to listen to your body. It is possible to hurt yourself by overdoing it, so pay attention to pressure and time.

A little tip from personal experience: keep your tennis ball in a drawer so it doesn't get covered in dog slobber! Yuck!

Do you have tight hamstrings too? Have you used this trick before? Happy stretching!

Sleep Better with Bedtime Yoga

I am a big believer in nighttime yoga. I fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and feel more relaxed the next morning. My only issue? I get so relaxed afterwards that the journey from my yoga mat to the bed seems a million miles away! My solution? Yoga in bed! Once you are done, close your eyes and drift off... perfect!

Unlike the typical, fast-paced yoga class you may have attended at your yoga studio or gym, this practice is very yin based: slow, relaxing, and deep. Spend a little while in each pose to enjoy all of the lovely benefits.

This is a short and sweet version of my nightly routine... aka: no excuses not to do it! Some nights I spend more time and add in additional poses, but at the very least, I do this routine nightly to release any stress and tension (and recommend you do the same).

Begin by sitting cross legged in the center of your bed. With your back straight, center yourself by focusing on your breath. Hands can either rest on your knees or held in front of your chest in prayer. Using Ujjayi breathing (yoga breathing where your breath sounds similar to ocean waves), take the first few moments of your practice to let go of the day's events and stress.

Place your right hand on your left knee and your left hand behind your back. Exhale while gently twist your torso to the left, and allow your gaze to follow. Breathe in deeply and allow the breath to fill the empty space being created by your stretch. Slowly release, and repeat on the right side.

Turn to face a wall (or your headboard). Laying flat on your back, scoot your butt a few inches away from the wall, and place your legs straight up against it. Relax into the pose, and make sure not to lock your knees. If the stretch is too much, back away slightly from the wall. Remember to breathe in deeply, and feel the breath filling your belly as you sink heavier into the bed.  Remain here for a full minute or two.

Next, lie on your back with your knees bent. With an exhale, bend both legs back towards your belly. Inhale and grip the outsides of your feet with your hands. Bring your knees towards your armpits by opening your knees slightly wider than your torso. Make sure your ankles are stacked over your knees so your shins are perpendicular with the bed. Breathe deeply, and slowly pull your hands down to increase the stretch to a point you feel comfortable with.

When you are ready, return to laying flat on your back with your arms and legs stretched out slightly away from your body. The goal is total relaxation, so if need be, place a pillow to support under your legs. Remain here for at least five minutes. If you're like me, however, you will snoring pretty quickly!

Enjoy the restful sleep, and namaste!