Dinner's over—now what? Time to stretch! New research finds that light activity (like yoga or Pilates) after a high-fat meal can help lower heart-disease risk. These yoga poses also help with digestion and relaxation, so when you hit the pillow at the end of the day, you won't be too wired (or full) to drift off to sleep. Try this 10-minute routine for a feel-good fix.
BENEFIT This move stretches your hamstring muscles and will lengthen your spine.
HOW TO Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and hands on hips. Keep hips directly over knees as you hinge forward at the waist until you're at a 90-degree angle, back flat.
Hold here for one slow inhale and exhale, making each breath 5 to 8 seconds, then lower all the way down, allowing gravity to lengthen your back. Touch the ground with your hands, bending knees as much as you need to.
For a deeper stretch: Grab your elbows and hang, letting head and neck relax. Hold for 1 minute, breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly. To come up, place hands on hips and stand up. Repeat 4 times.
BENEFIT This classic yoga pose stretches and strengthens just about everything, including legs, shoulders, back and arms.
HOW TO Start standing up and fold forward, knees bent. Place hands on the ground with palms flat and fingers forward. Walk feet back 3 to 4 feet until legs are straight (or almost straight), back flat, bottom toward ceiling.
Keep your gaze between ankles to relax your neck, and press heels toward the mat to stretch the back of legs. Hold the position for 5 to 10 deep inhales and exhales.
BENEFIT It helps loosen up tight hip muscles (a cause of back pain).
HOW TO Lie with back flat on the ground, legs extended. Draw your left knee to your chest and hold it there for a breath or two. Bend your right leg so the knee is pointed toward ceiling and right foot is on the ground. Place left ankle on right knee to create a "figure 4."
Keep left foot flexed and push tailbone toward the ground as you gently pull your right knee toward your chest with your hands. Hold for 1 minute as you inhale and exhale. Repeat on the other side.
BENEFIT Twisting poses like this one help elongate your spine and strengthen and stretch your core muscles.
HOW TO Sit with legs in front of you. Extend the right leg straight out, fle the foot. Cross the left foot over the right knee. Lift right arm straight up, then turn torso to the left and place right forearm around left knee.
Using your abs and your right arm as leverage, twist torso gently to the left, keeping tailbone on the ground. Inhale and lift spine, exhale and then twist a bit more. Hold for 1 minute, breathing deeply. Release and repeat on the other side.
SOURCE: Jennifer Galardi, yoga and fitness instructor, Austin, TX, and creator, Flowetry yoga DVD. For more free moves and video instruction, check out Jen's YouTube channel or go to LivWhole.com. Moves demonstrated by WD health director Abby Cuffey.