Step into a wide standing posture. Plant your back foot at a 45-degree angle and your front heel in line with your back arch. Put weight on the outside of your back foot, and pull your belly back as you center your weight. Let your front knee come directly over your ankle. Your palms can either face each other high over your head, or you can extend your arms out to the side with your palms face up. Keep your spine and arms very straight, facing your hips forward. Look forward and breathe deeply for five or more breaths. You may lift your chest a bit higher and come into a slight, comfortable back bend. Move slowly to repeat on the other side.
This posture opens your torso and shoulders, expanding room for your lungs. It also stretches your hips, legs, and side body, reducing tension and increasing circulation. Extensions like this are great for strength building, waking up your mind and body, and energizing.
If you have a chair or bench, you can do this modified posture instead of starting on the floor.
Place a folding chair against the wall. Square your palms on the edge of the chair and slide your hips back as you come into a downward dog position with the chair. (This means your hips shift back, making an "L" position at your hips.) Take a deep breath and enjoy. Then, shift your hands to grasp the outside edges of the chair and lift your chest as you allow your hips to come forward. Let your face open up and keep your neck relaxed and softly open (it should feel like you're resting your head back into a headrest). All lifting should come from your lifted chest and the strength of your straight arms. Your hips can sink open while keeping straight and strong legs.
Engage your abdomen firmly. Keep your shoulder blades on your back, and breathe very deeply for five or more breaths. To come out of it, switch your hips back into downward dog (still with the chair) for several breaths.
Sit on a chair squarely, and reach your arms back and clasp them together. (Use a sock or a strap if you can't quite reach them.) Extend your spine and open your shoulders as you lean forward toward your thighs. Turn your chest to face right and look over your right shoulder as you keep lengthening your spine very long. As you look, lengthen your neck and tuck your chin to avoid strain. Keep your sit bones planted firmly. Breathe deeply for five or more breaths, and enjoy. Repeat on your other side. Each time you practice, switch which side you start on.
Another twist, this move also helps stretch and relax muscles in your back, abdomen, and shoulders; improve digestion; and release tension held in your chest, abdomen, back, neck, and shoulders. This posture is also a forward bend, which amplifies many of these twisting benefits.
Press your feet into the wall and lift your hips away from the floor so that your torso becomes 90 degrees to the floor. Do not strain your neck, and do not turn your head. You can bring your hands up to support your back, and use your abdominal muscles to try to lift your hips higher. If you feel any neck strain at all, come down and put a thicker cushion under your shoulders before practicing it again. Breathe deeply and slowly for five or more breaths. Come down gently, and enjoy several breaths with your legs up on the wall after this posture.
This posture is an inversion, but also brings wonderful stretches to your neck and shoulders and strengthens your abdomen. As an inversion, it flushes your body with fresh blood, improving circulation. It relieves stress, energizes your body, and stretches and relaxes many muscles.