‘We are normal people. We like to have fun. And we like yoga.’ So goes the mantra for Yoga For Bad People – the fitness retreat company founded by Katelin Sisson and Heather Lilleston. This enlightened and entrepreneurial duo has lead yoga-centric trips to the deep woods of Montana, the jungles of Costa Rica and the beaches of Cuba. And because they’re just as down for a minibar as a mini workout session, we tracked Katelin and Heather down at GoldenEye hotel in Jamaica and asked them to lead us through a sequence of seven yoga poses, designed specifically with travellers in mind.
If you’d like to downward dog with these masters of mellow in person, YFBP has linked up with Mr & Mrs Smith to host a weekend retreat 2-4 June at Scribner’s Catskill Lodge in upstate New York. Come for the yoga, stay for the mod-country decor, mountain views and copious bottles of craft beer around the fire pit.
Now for those poses…
After a lengthy flight, car ride, train trip or tuk-tuk expedition (whatever your preferred mode of transportation), the gentle movement of cat/cow will warm up your back and realign your spine – especially if you’ve been slumping during all that sitting. Position yourself on your hands and knees with wrists in line with your shoulders and hips directly over your knees. As you inhale, arch your spine and look up. Then on the exhale, round the spine and tuck your chin and tailbone. Alternate arching and rounding the spine to the movement of your breath for five complete rounds. Exaggerate the height of each movement for maximum effect.
2 PARIVRTTA JANU SIRSASANA
Here’s a two-for-one stretch for your legs and torso. Bend your right knee in, creating a deep fold in the leg, and bring the sole of your foot to the inner thigh of the extended left leg. Lay the left forearm along the inside of your extended leg – if you need a little help (no judgement), you can place your forearm on a block or the elbow on your thigh). On an inhale, reach through the right arm, then exhale and extend that same arm toward the left foot, elongating through the right side of the body. Be sure to keep the right thigh and sit bones down as you extend toward the left. Take five deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
3 TABLE TOP/INCLINED PLANE
Give your hip flexors some love and open up the entire front of your body (the antidote to shoulder slouching) with either table top or its slightly more challenging cousin, inclined plane.
For table top…
From a seated position, bend your knees and place both feet on the ground hip distance apart and parallel. Place your hands behind you with fingers pointing toward the toes. Press into your hands and feet and lift your hips to the heigh of your knees. Keep knees in line with your ankles, as well as shoulders over your wrists. If you’re feeling good, release your head all the way back.
For inclined plane…
Start with the same setup as table top, then extend your legs. Press all ten toes down into the ground and lift through your inner thighs. Be sure to lift the chest and keep it broad across your collar bones. As with table top, you can release your head back if it’s comfortable.
Take some tension away from your lower back, which is often compressed during hours of sitting, or stressed from carrying heavy luggage. Start on your hands and knees and draw the knees together with your feet pointing in opposite directions, separating the heels just slightly wider than the hips. Walk your hands back and sit down between your heels. If this causes any pain in the knees or your bottom doesn’t touch the ground, use a block or a tightly rolled-up blanket under your seat. You should be able to sit upright comfortably without pitching forward. Hold for three minutes.
5 BRIDGE LEG UP/WHEEL LEG UP
Soothe your sacrum and strengthen your legs at the same time with either bridge or wheel, which is a bit more difficult (even if you’re not doing it on a narrow wall overlooking a Jamaican lagoon).
For bridge (setu bhandasana)…
Lying on your back with knees bent and hip-distance apart, lift your hips and interlace your fingers on the ground. Raise one leg, then the other for a total of five breaths.
For wheel (urdhva dhanurasana)…
Set up in bridge, then place your hands by your ears (fingers facing your shoulders) and press down through your hands and feet to lift up. If you’re feeling confidant, raise one leg, then the other for an added hamstring stretch. Hold for a total of five breaths.
Alleviate any inflammation in your legs (caused by in-flight elevation) and stimulate the immune system by striking a stand – balance on either your shoulders or sun-kissed crown.
For shoulderstand (salambha sarvangasana)…
Lying on your back, swing your legs overhead while supporting your lower spine with your hands. When you’re ready, lift your legs straight up, stacking your hips, knees and ankles over your shoulders. Make sure your neck doesn’t flatten against the ground – you should maintain the natural curve of the cervical spine (you can always prop your shoulders and upper arms on a blanket to take some pressure off your neck). Hold this pose for three to five minutes.
For headstand (sirsasana)…
From child’s pose, reach your arms forward, interlace your fingers and place the crown of your head on the floor. Place sure your forearms on the sides of your head and lift your hips, walking your feet toward your face. Pull your heels toward your butt and lift up, stacking your hips, knees and ankles over your shoulders. For beginners, keep your feet on the ground and practice pressing your forearms down while lifting your shoulders away from the floor (or sand) to develop a supportive foundation as you build up to a full headstand. Hold for three to five minutes.
7 SEATED FORWARD FOLD (PASCHIMOTTANASANA)
Send your hamstrings on a holiday of their own with this deep stretch. From a seated position with bent knees, grab the outside of your feet, lengthen your waist and wiggle your seat back to extend your legs. Go only as far as you can, keeping your hands on your feet and your chest close to your thighs. Rest your head on your knees or shins (depending on how far you can reach) and take ten breaths.
All photos shot at GoldenEye hotel in Oracabessa Bay, Jamaica