Besides building strength and increasing flexibility, yoga helps you focus and relax your mind. Exercises by Cyndi Lee, founder of Om Yoga, in New York City, and lead instructor in the DVD Om Yoga & Meditation Workshop ($25, amazon.com).
Sit cross-legged on the floor, back straight and hands relaxed in your lap. Close your eyes and breathe deeply and evenly through your nose for two minutes. Slowly bend your torso from side to side for 15 breaths, exhaling to each side.
Try to make the movements flow from one to the next. Hold each position (the how-tos are on the following pages) for three breaths unless instructed otherwise.
Cow and Cat Poses
What they do: Warm up the muscles along the spine; stretch the hips, back, abs, shoulders, and neck.
How to do them: Start on your hands and knees. For cow (shown), arch your back and press your shoulders down and back, away from your ears, and open your chest. For cat, round your back, lower your head, lift your belly, and look at your thighs. Try to create space between your shoulder blades.
What it does: Strengthens the arms and legs; stretches and energizes the shoulders, thighs, feet, and hands.
How to do it: Starting from cat pose, press your buttocks high into the air to form an upside-down V. Contract your thighs and lengthen your abs. Press your shoulder blades together and away from your ears; reach your heels toward the floor.
Extended Side Angle
What it does: Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles; stretches the inner thighs, back, hips, chest, and shoulders.
How to do it: Start with your right leg forward in a lunge. Lower your left heel and turn your toes out about 45 degrees. Lower your right forearm to your knee. Reach overhead with your left hand, creating a straight line from heel to fingertips.
What it does: Strengthens the back, buttocks, arms, and legs; stretches the shoulders, chest, abs, and thighs.
How to do it: Lie facedown, arms at sides, feet pointed. Press your legs down, inhale, and lift your head, shoulders, and arms. Take two full breaths, then lower everything. With your forehead down, lift both legs and take two full breaths. Lower. Lift your upper and lower body at the same time and take two breaths.