Everyday stress can throw your entire system off kilter; your muscles tighten, your heart races, and your stomach starts acting up -- again. A simple seated forward bend can activate a reserve of sustaining energy that, according to Chinese medicine, rests between the kidneys. "It calms the nervous system, gets the organs fully functioning, and clears up obstructions in the kidneys and adrenal glands," explains Daniel Max, nutrition counselor, shiatsu practitioner, and yoga instructor with Max Sense of Self in Watertown, Massachusetts. Get your qi back in no time with this quick stretch.
What It Does
Calms the mind; relieves stress; stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings, and back; stimulates the kidneys and adrenal glands; improves digestion; and reduces fatigue.
How to Do It
1. Sit with your legs extended straight in front of you, feet parallel with toes pointing up. Press the back of your legs into the floor.
2. Inhale deeply and lift through the upper body. With your spine straight and shoulders back, pull the navel in slightly toward the spine, creating space in the abdomen. Exhale, release, and lean forward, bending from the hip, not the waist.
3. Fold forward only as far as you can (keep your knees bent if that's more comfortable). With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the front torso slightly; if you feel able to go further, release a little more fully into the bend on an exhale. Try not to crunch; maintain length through the spine.
4. Hold for a few breaths, allowing your body to open up. Direct your breath toward the kidneys, breathing deep into the lower back. Then inhale and sit up slowly, lifting your torso away from the thighs until your back is straight. Repeat 2 to 3 times.