Gentle Yoga Stretch is another yoga/flexibility collection from Jessica Smith. Jessica has quite a few of these types of workouts and she does them very well. These are more excellent and thorough yoga practices to add to my collection. I didn’t find them as gentle as the title promises but that could be due to how tight my muscles and joints have become. These workouts will give you a lot of mobility and flexibility work and I found much of it uncomfortable. But as I describe below, this is not a bad thing. I need flexibility and mobility work. And Jessica does a great job delivering it in both of these sessions to help me work out the tightness that seems to have literally just appeared in the past year. As an aside, I remember when many yoga poses–including a simple child’s pose!–used to feel so good Now? Even a child’s pose is uncomfortable. What is going on? I never quit doing yoga/flexibility work or exercising, and yet everything in my body seems to have tightened up. Or do age related changes really manifest that fast?
These sessions have a beautiful and relaxing setting; they are set in a wooden gazebo lined with benches and trees and greenery behind Jessica. At the end of each session, the soothing music continues for another minute so that you can continue to lay in corpse pose and relax. Though you should be laying there with your eyes closed, if you’re not, the screen is also showing beautiful scenery.
Session 1: Flexibility and Relaxation is 32 minutes. This was a very deep stretching session. I remember when I used to enjoy workouts like this–back when I was much more flexible. Now everything is so tight. But I need workouts like this and I plan to do this one frequently. I found many of the poses/stretches uncomfortable due to how much my muscles and joints have tightened up. There seemed to be good focus on the hips and shoulders but that could just be because I noticed those stretches/poses more due to how tight my shoulders and hips have become over the past year–so they were the most uncomfortable stretches (for me) in the workout. But whatever the reason, I count it as a bonus because it is just what my body needs right now. Though you do flow in and out of a few poses, for the most part you are holding static stretches/poses. I never broke a sweat so it wasn’t working me hard in a strength or cardio fashion but it did stretch me deeply.
The workout starts with Jessica standing on a mat with a pillow on the ground behind her. Cross arms behind you so each hand is cupping the opposite elbow; tilt head to side, stretching neck. Lace fingers and extend arms in front of you, rounding back. Hands still laced, extend arms overhead; twist torso to side. Arms are bent, elbows pressed into side, palms facing floor, open arms out to side (elbows still pressed into sides) while turning palms up toward ceiling. Extend arms in front of you, hands in loose fists, rotate wrists in a figure 8 motion. More dynamic wrist/hand stretches. Stand in split stance and bend back knee, keeping heel on floor to stretch Achilles; press up onto toe (back leg), straightening leg; point toe and roll foot so top of toes is on the ground. Forward fold, each hand cupping opposite elbow; sway upper body side to side in this position. Lower hands to mat and extend spine. On hands and knees do cat/cow. Still on all 4s, curl toes under and do a more exaggerated cat/cow, shifting body forward when arching spine and shifting hips back when rounding spine. Puppy pose. Downward facing dog. Walk hands back toward feet and and roll back to standing. Stand with legs wide and lace fingers behind back, fold forward while extending arms toward ceiling. Release hands to mat and walk hands over to one leg and hold. Lower into runners lunge w/ back knee on floor; lower to forearms; shift hips back, straightening front leg. Sit cross-leg on the mat, extend arms overhead then forward fold over crossed legs. Still sitting cross-leg, do a spinal twist, looking over shoulder. Lay on belly with one leg extended straight and the other brought up beside you with knee bent, both hips pressing into floor, arms crossed in front of you and forehead resting on hands (half frog pose). Still in half frog pose, extend one arm out straight to side (same side as straight leg) and place other hand on floor beside shoulder and push up, looking up toward ceiling; bring straight arm back, bend straight leg and grasp top of foot with opposite hand, pulling heel into glutes, stretching quads. Lay on back, both knees bent and feet on floor, hug one knee into chest; grab ankle and bring foot into chest, turning the knee out to the side. Still laying on back, extend both legs straight up to the ceiling, flex feet and release; circle the ankles. Still laying on back, bring knees into chest and hold shins just below knees, circle your legs (rotation through hips); knees are bent and pulled into chest, extend both arms out to side on floor (in a T), rotate both knees to one side (lying spinal twist); bring soles of feet together and open knees out to side (reclining butterfly) and open arms into goal post on the floor. Still on back, feet on floor, knees bent, wrap your arms around shoulders (hugging yourself). Extend one leg straight on floor and opposite arm straight above head (also on floor) and hug the other knee into chest w/ opposite arm. Corpse pose.
Session 2: Stability and Mobility is 36 minutes (the last minute is music and images) Stability and Mobility is both similar and different from Flexibility and Relaxation. This one did focus more on mobility than static stretching, so you are flowing in and out of poses as well as doing physical therapy type of exercises that move through range of motion. There is also some balance moves I had to modify. But like Session 1, I found a lot of the poses uncomfortable due to how tight my muscle and joints have become. Again, I do not find this a con. It is actually a pro because that feeling of discomfort means it is working joints and muscles that need the work. There was never any pain, just discomfort. I did a moderately vigorous workout prior to doing this, so I was already sweating when I came to it. I continued perspiring mildly through the first half of this session. It may not have made me sweat had I come to the session cold, but since I was already warmed up and glowing, it kept the warmth burning for a while longer.
The session starts standing on mat and doing large arm circles. Extend both arms straight in front of you, hands fisted and thumbs facing the ceiling, open arms wide, arching back to stretch chest then round back, bringing arms back in front of you and turning thumbs down. Hands are still fisted (thumbs tucked in now) and rotate wrists up and down; changes to rotating the wrists side to side; changes to circling the wrists and opening the hands. Bring arms up into goal post with fingers spread wide; rotate hands downward moving only from the elbow so that fingers are pointing toward floor; changes to extending arms from goal post to straight overhead, keeping palms facing forward. Standing cat/cow (hinged forward, hands on thighs). Keeping toe on the floor, circle one ankle. Balance on one leg and circle other calf (from the knee down). Do crescent knees (now you are circling hip joint). Chair pose; flow from chair pose to standing, pressing arms straight behind you and arching spine. Forward fold with arms extended straight out to sides; while still hinged forward with spine straight, extend straight arms behind you then bring them straight out to sides then overhead. Stand on one leg, other knee bent and raised, arms extended straight overhead (hold this balance pose); extend leg behind you, still straight and hold pose; lower foot to ground and come into crescent pose. Warrior 2; straighten front leg and raise arms overhead, flow between this pose and warrior 2. Return to crescent then lift back foot and bring back in front of you (knee raised and balancing). Legs are wide, toes turned out, extend arms overhead, lower into plie squat while lowering arms between your legs, flow in and out of plie squat. Legs still wide but now toes are faced forward, fold forward and place hands on mat; leave one hand on mat and extend other arm to ceiling, looking up toward hand. Lower to hands and knees. Bird dogs (extend one leg and opposite arm out straight then bring both in under body, elbow to knee, rounding back). Sit on heels, knees on floor and pressed together, toes flexed under you, hands in prayer, extend arms overhead then return hands to prayer. Lay face down on mat for half bow pose (bend one knee and grab the foot with same side hand and pull back foot, lifting knee slightly). Raise and lower in and out of cobra. Child’s pose. Sit on bottom, knees bent and feet on floor, hands on floor behind you, alternate opening one knee out to side of body keeping feet on floor. Butterfly pose. Sit with one leg extended straight and other leg brought in so sole is close to other thigh, thread fingers through the toes of that foot to stretch the toes, reach other arm overhead and hinge forward reaching hand across the foot of the extended leg. One leg is still extended straight in front of you, bend other knee cross it over the straight leg, foot on floor outside of thigh, hug knee w/ opposite arm and twist spine, looking over shoulder. Lay on back, knees bent and feet on floor w/ heels close to glutes, raise hips into bridge and clasp hands under body. Still on back, cross one ankle over other knee and pull legs in to chest (reclining pigeon). Place one foot on floor and hug other knee into chest; raise heel to ceiling w/ knee still bent into chest, grip heel with same side hand and pull down (half happy baby pose). Hug knees into chest. Extend arms overhead and legs straight, stretching body. Corpse pose.