Yoga, like other athletics, can actually be fairly imbalanced for the body. Like running, classical vinyasa is very leg-heavy, with much less demand placed on the upper extremities. The movement patterns tend to be practiced along a sagittal plane, which essentially cuts the body in half, separating the entire left side from the right side. Also like running, this does not provide enough variety on the muscular demand.
Here are some wonderful moves to expand the palette of the movement experience to keep the body better balanced and happy.
1) Side Lunges:
Lateral movement is an excellent antidote for the repetitive forward movement of walking, running, and many yoga postures. This exercise energizes the outer hip and stretches the inner groin. It also improves your breathing and upper arm mobility by freeing up the rib cage.
HOW TO: Parallel your feet about 4 to 5 feet apart. Bend your left knee and sit back into your left hip while keeping the spine extended. Shift to the right knee and continue this movement for at least 1 minute. If you feel pressure in your knees, make sure that you are hinging at the hips. You can move your arms to add more energy by swinging them side to side.
2) Twisted Lunge:
Moving your torso while keeping your pelvis level is a wonderful way to free up the hips and spine. Placing one hand on the floor gives feedback into the upper body and puts load on the muscles of the arm.
HOW TO: From a standing position, step left foot forward, bend left knee, and place right hand on floor (you can also put a block or large book under your hand or even put your hand on a chair if the floor feels too far away!). Turn the center of your body to the left, lean back into the back body and hug your lower belly in. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths, focusing on lengthening your spine and keeping the left hip pulled back.
3) Plank walks in circle:
Plank gets your upper and lower limbs active and revs up the core demand. Moving while in plank increases your heart rate, and is like a brain puzzler!
HOW TO: Start in plank position with your hands under your shoulders and feet about hip distance apart. Your body is forming a plank position, as if someone could balance a tray of food on your back. Begin to alternate lifting one foot at a time. Then begin to move your hands and turn in a clockwise position. Rest as needed before you turn in a counterclockwise position. Notice how much you have to think about what you are doing!
Moving differently puts different demands on every system in your body so that you grow and change and create more balance. Give these a try and share with some friends.