These are stressful times. External panic and anxiety can manifest themselves physically, so it’s important to check in with our bodies from time to time to connect and unwind. Stretching, as championed by yoga teacher, artist and pole dancer Cami Arboles (@camiarboles), is a way to do this: all you need is some space and a mat. Below, Cami guides us through her favourite healing stretches, ranging from easy to more complex, for you to try from the comfort of your own home.
I remember when I took my first yoga class. I was a junior in high school, and it was the night before exams started. I was so stressed and I wanted to try something to take my mind off of my studies. I had heard good things about yoga, so I figured, why not try it? I was admittedly nervous when I walked into the studio for the first time. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good enough, or that I’d make a fool of myself in front of strangers. Soon those feelings of self-doubt faded away as I got lost in the flows of chaturangas and forward folds. I remember laying on the mat at the end of class, dripping sweat. My body felt warm and calm. It felt like I had wrung out every ounce of anxiety in my system.
After that, I was hooked! I ended up earning my yoga teacher certification in the summer of 2017. I taught yoga as an undergraduate at Yale, and now I own my own yoga business for women, femmes, and non-binary folks. I am also a pole dance artist and instructor, and my background in yoga informs the movement that I teach my students every single day.
To me, movement is a practice of liberation. We often hold tension, stress, and emotions in our bodies without even realizing it. Through physical movement, we can liberate ourselves from the weight of these emotions and sensations.
Here are some of my favorite stretches to do at home that help to both ground me and liberate me.
This one is especially great for opening up the hips and stretching out through the bottoms of the legs, glutes, and thighs. I incorporate this posture (or a variation of it) in every single class I teach.
DOWNWARD FACING DOG
Downward facing dog is my go-to especially when I need to warm up and stretch out in the mornings! It feels especially nice as a shoulder/upper body stretch. It even feels good in the hamstrings. Try sending your hips up towards the sky as you plant your heels into the earth. Then pedal out your feet and legs. It feels so refreshing!
I love this posture, especially when I am feeling a bit foggy in my head. It is an amazing heart and chest opener. This posture also helps to open the heart chakra, which governs our capacity to show love and compassion towards ourselves and others.
This is another great heart opener! Can you tell I really love heart openers? This is called wheel pose. I love the way it opens up the chest, shoulders, and hip flexors. I really love the variation pictured here with one leg off the ground. It makes me feel like I am floating, and the shape itself makes me feel majestic.
Surprise… another heart-opening posture! I love the way heart-openers feel for me in mind, body, and spirit. Whenever I do deep heart-opening postures such as bow pose, I feel so open in my chest and shoulders. I feel inspired to keep better posture throughout the day! And spiritually, heart-opening postures make me feel more receptive and generous with love. I find I am able to give and receive love freely. There is no greater gift in this life than that!
Thank you for sharing your time with me and learning about my movement practice. Remember you are divinely created and protected.
Credits: Photographer Erica Elan