Yoga is a form of exercise that has been practiced for centuries. It is a process of stretching the body while focusing on breathing and relaxing the mind. The poses taught in these yoga classes are intended to be an aid in relaxation and stress management. In addition to helping you enjoy a better night’s sleep, they will also help you manage your anxiety levels and feel better overall. Below goes well known yoga poses that will help you take better care of yourself.
Downward-facing cat — Marjaryasana
The downward-facing cat, or Marjaryasana, is an ideal position for warming up your spine, invigorating your legs, and opening up your chest.
To get into this pose:
- Stand on all fours with the tops of your feet and hands flat against the floor. Your back should be level and parallel with the ground.
- Keeping your arms straight, exhale and push your hips toward the sky so that you’re bending at a 45 degree angle from just below your shoulders to just above your knees. Keep in mind that every body is different—your hips may not rise as high as others’. That’s okay! It’s more important to find a position where you feel a stretch in both your back and legs than it is to compare yourself to anyone else.
For many people, this will be enough of a stretch for their backs to feel good. In that case:
- Remain in this position for about 30 seconds while breathing deeply through your nose and out through your mouth; focus on keeping yourself stable by engaging (i.e., tightening) all of the muscles necessary to remain in position without straining any single one too much; relax as much as possible while still maintaining stability of form; release tension with each exhale while inhaling strength and balance; pay attention to how these movements make you feel and look forward to feeling those effects at other times during the day when they might be helpful.
For some people (those who are very flexible), however:
- Gently pull back on their heels until they feel another stretch along their backs (a common mistake here is pushing too hard or fast). Once you’ve found this new degree of stretching along the sides of either side of their spines, hold it for another 30 seconds while continuing all of the things described in the previous step. Do not continue pulling backwards unless you experience no more change/stretch after
Child’s pose — Balasana
This is a basic yoga pose that can be done by nearly anyone. It is often used as a resting pose.
Benefits: stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles; relieve back and neck pain; gently relaxes the body
Tips for doing it:
- sit on your shins with feet together behind you with knees wider than hip width apart (or sit on your ankles)
- bring your forehead down to rest on the floor or to rest on a block or blanket if it does not reach the floor comfortably
- lay your upper body along the thighs/shins, letting your arms go alongside the torso or extending them in front of you with palms facing down
Seated forward bend pose — Paschimottanasana
The seated forward bend pose is a great way to stretch and lengthen your spine, while relieving tension in the back of your neck and shoulders.
- To enter the pose, sit up tall on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your knees slightly if you’re new to yoga and want to make it easier on yourself. If you want more of a challenge, place a block or rolled-up mat underneath your knees while they are straightened (be careful not to injure yourself). Press through all five toes into the ground, then bend forward at the hips until you feel like you’ve reached your edge without causing any pain (you should feel some discomfort but not pain). Try to keep both sides of your waist equally long as you fold over; don’t let one side round out more than the other. Straighten through your arms, placing them palms down on either side of each leg if possible. To release from this pose, press through both feet and lift from the back body up into a seated position with an elongated spine.
Reclined bound angle pose — Supta Baddha Konasana
Also called the butterfly pose, this one’s great for opening your hips and releasing tension. And that’s not all: it can help relieve stress, menstrual cramps, back pain, and more. It’s also a good preparation for meditation. See below for instructions on how to practice it mindfully:
- Sit with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your knees and draw them toward your hips until the soles of your feet are flat on the floor and touching each other, forming a diamond shape with your legs.
- Lying down on the floor, open up your arms to form a T shape with your body while still keeping the soles of your feet together. If you’re looking for an extra stretch in this pose (or if you’d just like to get more comfortable), try opening up your knees as well until they touch both sides of the mat or floor underneath you. You may want to put some pillows under your knees or put blankets over these areas if they need additional support during this extension of Supta Baddha Konasana .
Wide-knee child’s pose — Balasana Variation
- Start in a kneeling position with your knees about hip distance apart and your toes at the back of your mat.
- Step your feet wide apart, turning them out, so that you create a V shape with your legs and thighs are parallel to each other, as shown above. Your heels should be pressed together and big toes touching. If this is uncomfortable, you can keep your heels slightly apart but angled towards each other while keeping the big toes touching each other too (however if you are new to yoga practice try getting into the pose with both heels and big toes touching).
- Drop your hips so they rest on top of your feet (or as close to it as possible), let your torso fall forward and bring the arms down along sides of the body palms facing up or back alongside the legs with hands placed on blocks (if needed). Let you forehead rest on top of a block or resting it on folded hands for comfort in front of you if this feels more comfortable than letting it rest on top of the mat completely (which is totally fine too!).5: Hold here for 5 breaths or longer if this feels good for you! 6.-7.: Release from pose by bringing yourself upright; bring one hand at a time to come up from pose making sure not to roll onto the neck when coming up into a seated position.
Bridge pose — Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Bridge pose is one of the most therapeutic poses in yoga, offering a variety of benefits. Bridge pose can help relieve back pain, open the chest and shoulders, stretch the neck, and strengthen the back muscles. Crossing your arms under you allows you to get more lift from your spine, which may be helpful if you’re just beginning with bridge pose and not quite able to get your hips up yet.
Here’s how to do it:
- Lie on the floor and bend both knees so that your heels are as close as possible to your buttocks. Your feet should be parallel with each other, hip-width apart. Place your arms flat on either side of you on the floor, palms facing down.
- As you inhale into this position, press firmly into your feet and lift up through your hips. Stop lifting once your shoulders stay flat against the mat. Keep pressing into both feet until they’re parallel with each other (so if one foot points out slightly more than the other from habit or preference, take care to even out that angle).
- Hold this position for 30 seconds (or longer), breathing normally through each breath cycle as much as possible while keeping yourself lifted up from the mat with just a little bit of effort in every part of this position (not too much effort!). Breathe steadily throughout this exercise without holding any part of a breath for too long– doing so will build strength over time instead of pouring excess energy into tension!
Legs up the wall — Viparita Karani
Legs up the wall pose, or Viparita Karani, is a great way to stretch your hamstrings and calves while relieving tension in your back.
- Sit sideways next to a wall, with one of your shoulders touching the wall. Lie down onto your back, and then swing both of your legs up the wall so that they are vertically oriented. Your bottom should be close enough to a wall that you can wiggle it against it if you want. If this is uncomfortable at first, try putting something soft (like a pillow) under your hips for support.
- Once you’re comfortable in this position, let go of any stress throughout your body and give yourself time to breathe deeply for as long as you feel necessary for maximum relaxation (this could be anywhere from 5 minutes onward).
- When you’re done relaxing in this position, slowly bend one knee toward your chest before using both hands to lift it over the other leg and return to sitting upright on the floor or bed beside where you were lying down (if doing this on carpeted flooring), which will help get rid of any dizziness from getting up too quickly after being upside down for an extended period of time!
While it isn’t a replacement for conventional medicine, or your physician, yoga practice can be an effective supplement to modern medical care. For example, many of these poses have been shown to help with various conditions, including anxiety, sleep issues, and high blood pressure. By building flexibility and strength, you may also find that you’re better able to cope with the daily strains of life as well. While these poses will have some effect on virtually anyone who tries them, keep in mind that no two people are exactly alike. So if you start experiencing side effects in your breathing or balance, try altering the positions slightly before calling it quits entirely.
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