Pose of the Month: Opposite Arm Opposite Leg

This is not exactly a yoga pose, but more of a yoga movement that I use to start all my yoga classes. It is a great centering warm up movement that prepares yogis for the poses to come.

How to: Opposite Arm Opposite Leg

Start by lying on your back with your arms stretched overhead and your toes stretched to the front of your mat. Reach and arch your back; this move will almost send you into a big yawn. After taking a few breaths here, press your lower back into the mat and engage your abs.

Leave your head on the floor and lift your right arm up and left leg up and touch your finger tips to your leg. In a perfect world, your finger tips will touch the toe tips and your hamstrings are nice and open. I hear athletes say over and over, "My arms are not long enough!"

That is not the case. Some people will start out only able to touch their knees, but with time and practice this will gradually improve.

Repeat the other side and continue this alternating motion for two minutes. Grab your knees into your chest when you are finished.

Benefits of Opposite Arm Opposite Leg

The role of this movement is vast. Done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits include:

  • Lubricate shoulders and hip joints
  • Stretch hamstrings
  • Open shoulder joint and hip joint
  • Strengthen the abdominals
  • Sync breath with the movement
  • Overall centering

For the lay person or yogi, this movement is a great habit to get into before starting their yoga practice. It is the perfect way to disconnect from the outside world. You can center your breath and your thoughts to prepare for a better, more focused practice. This is also a great time to tune into your body and identify a tight spot or misalignment and focus on going forward in the practice. It is important to notice which hamstring is tighter or feels more restricted.

For the athlete, this movement of opposite arm opposite leg is also an opportunity to tune into misalignments and imbalances, as well as sync the breath with the movement. Too often athletes hold their breath during workouts. This will help build a great habit of breathing during movement. More than that, it is an amazing way to warm up the whole hip joints to prepare you for a grueling day on the playing field. The more open your hips, the less pressure there is on your knee joints and the quicker and more agile you will be right from the start. Finally, it is a gentle way to engage the abdominals creating more strength and stability in the core.

Although you should always consult your physician and research a properly trained teacher before starting a yoga practice, there are a few instances where you should avoid this movement entirely:

  • Recent shoulder surgery
  • Pins in the shoulders, modifications can apply
  • Pregnancy in the late stages
  • Lower back injuries

Have fun exploring this movement and learning about your body.

Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since1990. Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program www.poweryogaforsports.com. Gwen's unique combination of dance,massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy and nutrition, provides her clients and athleteswith overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga coach for several New YorkYankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants,New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, New York Rangers, several majorcollege teams, including Yale and UNC, and many youth teams in avariety of sports. She is also the official spokesperson for AFRINPureSea, and an ambassador for Lululemon. Her writing appears in Men'sHealth, Women's Health, Fitness Magazine and Shape.com. She has madeappearances on NBC TODAY show and many TV news and national radioshows. Gwen also owns her own Yoga School where she trains people toteach the power yoga for sports system. She lives in the New York tristate area with her husband and three teenage boys.

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