Five Ways to Use a Park Bench In Your Yoga Pratice
Hello, spring? Is that you? Looks like it, as flowers are beginning to bloom, birds are beginning to chirp, and more Bostonians are taking their workouts outside.
Boston is a great place for DIY outdoor workouts. You can run the Esplanade, power-walk through the Public Garden, use an outdoor gym, or build a workout around a very simple prop: a park bench.
A typical park bench can be used for exercises like step-ups, lunges, push-ups, and tricep dips. What you may not have thought to do, however, are these basic park bench yoga poses and stretches.
Bench-assisted downward facing dog
Start by standing in front of the bench. Place your hands on the edge of the seat, and start to walk your feet back a couple of steps. Bring your chest down, coming into an inverted “V” shape. Let your head relax and knees soften. Hold for several breaths.
Reverse table-top or plank
Face away from the bench, and place your hands on the edge of the seat, with fingertips wrapping around the edge. As you walk your feet out, bring your shoulders over your wrists, so that your arms are perpendicular to the ground. Stop your feet once they are under your knees. To come into a reverse tabletop, actively lift your hips toward the sky.
If this is comfortable for you, stay. You can also walk your feet out until the legs are straight and your body is in a reverse plank. Again, lift the hips up. In either pose, keep your eyes on the sky.
Stand facing the bench, with your right foot planted flat on the seat. Move your standing foot (left leg) back, to come into a bench-assisted warrior one. As you move the left foot back, keep the right knee over the ankle. Keep moving the left foot as far as you can without lifting the heel.
Adjust by squaring the hips forward and lifting the arms straight up. Spiral the biceps inward, palms facing one another. Hold for several breaths, then switch to the other side.
Standing half pigeon
Stand behind the bench and face the backrest. Start by resting the outside of your right shin onto the bench. Flex the right foot and start to heel-toe your left foot back a few inches. Keep the left foot flat as your lean forward to rest your hands or elbows on the bench. Breathe deeply, then switch legs.
Deep shoulder and spinal stretch
Start behind the bench, with hands wrapped around the backrest. Walk your feet back and come into an “L” shape: legs perpendicular to the ground, torso and arms parallel. Keep the heels flat and send your weight back to stretch the spine, shoulders, and arms. If you don’t feel a stretch, walk your feet forward a couple inches and try again. Relax your gaze toward the ground, so that the neck is straight. Take several deep breaths.