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Day 11: Beginner

Forward Bends with Elise Lorimer

On a physical level, forward bends stretch the back of the body, including the erector spinae muscles, which run the length of the spine; the intervertebral ligaments; and the hamstrings. As we fold forward, we compress the intestines and other abdominal organs and create more space for the kidneys, stimulating their function. On a more subtle level, forward bends direct the gaze and attention inward.

Because of their calming effect, practices that emphasize forward bending are generally reserved for the end of the day. Today's sequence warms up the body with gentle Sun Salutations, hip openers, and twists, and it culminates in Paschimottanasana, a seated forward bend that calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression while improving digestion and stretching the spine, shoulders and hamstrings.

You'll need a block and a blanket for this sequence.

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Challenge Tip

One advantage of home practice over group classes is that you don't run the risk of competitive thoughts. But there's still the risk of harsh self-judgments. Try to observe the restrictions in your body without judgment. If you can't straighten your legs in forward bends, so what? If your forehead never grazes your shins, so be it. What matters isn't how far you go but how you respond when you reach your edge.

Today's Recipe: Mexican Hot

Cinnamon sticks take this from simply tasty hot chocolate to a warming, spicy treat.

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