STORY BY SHELBY DEERING ✷ PHOTOGRAPHED AT RANCHO VALENCIA IN RANCHO SANTA FE, CALIFORNIA ✷ PHOTOGRAPHS BY JONAS JUNGBLUT
Picture this. You’re in your office. The pad Thai you ate for lunch is digesting, and then it hits you—the afternoon slump. Your energy plummets and you reach for a cup of coffee.
Here’s another scenario. You feel that energy dip, and instead of caffeine you grab the yoga mat you keep in your office and do a few quick moves. Suddenly, you feel vigor running through your veins and you’re ready to take on the afternoon.
San Diego’s Five-Star, Five-Diamond Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa served as the perfect setting for our photo shoot, a tranquil oasis brimming with thriving greenery and olive groves. We know that your office might not be as idyllic as a stunning spot filled with lush plants and sunlight, but we promise that these moves will work all the same. Until you can travel to such a place, take a mental vacation with us.
Erika Gibson works as a yoga instructor at Rancho Valencia and shows us how to perform these energizing moves in the striking natural surroundings. It’s a destination for yogis of all abilities to improve their practice at the 1,000 square-foot Serenity Yoga Pavilion.
And it’s a world away from where Erika grew up. “I grew up in a very small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. One stoplight. More cows than people. And very little yoga,” she says.
Now, as a certified yoga instructor teaching at Rancho Valencia for over five years, Erika has witnessed the power of these energizing moves that increase blood flow and enhance mood.
Benefits: Strengthens hamstrings, glutes, and lower-back muscles.
Instructions: Lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Place your palms on the ground beside your ears with your fingers facing your shoulders. Press your feet into the ground and lift your tailbone and hips. Press into your hands and bring the crown of your head to the ground. Ensure that your elbows are shoulder-width apart. Keep your shoulders drawing down your back. Exhale, straighten your arms, and lift your head off the ground. Roll your inner thighs toward the ground and activate your hamstrings. Lengthen your tailbone and neck. Breathe in this pose for one minute.
Benefits: Improves spinal flexibility and posture.
Instructions: Place one block at its medium height between your shoulders. Place another block at its highest height behind your head. Straighten your legs. If this bothers your lower back, tuck your tailbone and encourage length in your lumbar spine. You could also bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Hold for five minutes or longer.
Benefits: Improves posture, helps with mild depression, sciatica, and fatigue.
Instructions: Lie on your belly. Extend your arms straight in front of you with a block between your palms and/or a bolster under your legs. Bend your elbows and lift them off the ground. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat three times.
Benefits: Calms the mind, relieves stress.
Instructions: From a tabletop position, place your forearms on the floor, shoulder-width apart and parallel to one another. Tuck your toes and lift your hips high—it’s okay if your knees are bent. Make sure your spine is lengthening, encourage your heart toward your knees, and engage your core.
Benefits: Boosts energy, opens front of body, strengthens back.
Instructions: Push firmly into the four corners of your feet. Slightly bend your knees. Roll your inner thighs back to protect your low back. Take the tops of your thigh bones and descend them toward your hamstrings. Draw your low ribs in to slightly engage your core. Lift your sternum as you slide your shoulder blades down your back. Draw your elbows wide, creating a “cactus” shape, and stretch and enliven your fingers. Gaze slightly upward and gently tuck your chin to keep the back of your neck long.