A yogi’s biggest challenge is always to figure out how to bring the calming effects of practice out into the world—and doing a few poses while standing in the kitchen as you wait for the coffee to brew or eggs to fry helps you do just that.
While not my first choice as a place to seek tranquility, the kitchen is still a great spot for practice. You have to spend time there on the vast majority of days, after all, even if you’re just waiting for water to boil—so why not put that time to good use doing something that will make your mind and body happy?
Your counters can make a great prop, especially for the hip-opening sequence below that also stretches the backs of the legs and the side body and wakes up the core. You may have to stand on a cookbook so that your hips are level when you have one foot resting on the counter; take a minute or two to experiment with finding your alignment and then store your height-provider nearby.
Spend three breaths in each pose, then switch legs and repeat. If you have time, repeat the whole cycle once more—you’ll be surprised by how much more flexibility is available to you the second time around!
Incorporating a simple routine such as this into your daily routine is the perfect recipe for creating and maintaining increased flexibility and, yes, even strength. (Your legs and core have to work hard to support you and lift those arms up tall!)
So try these four variations on the traditional yoga poses, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, or Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose, shown here.
Arms Up, Facing Forward
Place your right heel on the counter with the left foot directly under the left hip, both knees as straight as possible. Reach your arms and ribcage up high, while also allowing the shoulders to move down, away from your ears. Stay three breaths.
Keeping your legs as they are, hinge at your hips to bring your hands to rest on the counter and let your head drop down toward your knee. If your hamstrings are tight, you will likely need to let each knee bend slightly. Only go as far as feels OK—mild discomfort indicates stretching, but any level of pain means it’s time to back off. Stay three breaths.
Keep your right heel on the counter but turn your left toes and both hips 90 degrees to the left. Lift your arms and your ribcage up again, pressing through the sole of the left foot and using that downward action to reach the whole rest of your body up, growing as tall as possible. Stay three breaths.
Fold Sideways, Facing Sideways
Drop your right arm to your right leg. Keep reaching up so strongly with your left hand that you lift up and over, side bending to the right. You want your spine evenly arched, like a rainbow, not crunched, like an upside-down letter L. Spin your chin up as if you were going to kiss your left bicep. Stay three breaths.