Yoga is beneficial in numerous ways. Some only practice to lose weight, but others know that the physicality of it is only half of why yoga feels so good. Different poses are linked to different parts of the body. Some open the chest while others open the hips. Some challenge the core while others encourage rest and relaxation. In the body, we hold on to so much. Some believe that different asanas (poses) can release more than just muscle tightness. Our bodies are amazing. How we feel mentally can instantly be changed with how we feel physically and vice versa. Have you ever just been stuck in a mood or wish desperately for more energy but don’t have the hour and a half for a yoga class?
Read on to learn how to recalibrate with just one pose.
To Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Why: This pose is one to come back to any moment you feel overwhelmed with anxiety. It allows your body to rest and signals the mind that it is okay to pause.
How To: Kneel, sinking the hips back to touch the feet. Extend the arms straight, lowering the chest to the Earth. Allow the forehead to rest on the ground. Feel the spine lengthen.
To Feel Grounded
Why: One of the most underrated poses. To some it seems like this pose just signals the start of class, your mind anxiously anticipating when you’ll take your first sun salutation. It’s very likely that you’re not present and that you don’t realize that this pose in itself is a challenge—to be still, to feel the Earth beneath your feet, to breathe deeply into your heart.
How To: Stand with the feet parallel, toes pointing forward. Drop the awareness to the bottoms of the feet. Balance the weight of the body upon the four corners of the feet. Lightly lift the toes and spread them wide. One at a time, release the toes to the floor. Soften the knees. Extend the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head. Draw the low belly in and up. Breathe into the back of the heart. Relax the shoulders, as you float the back of the head upward. Balance the head on top of the shoulders so that the chin comes parallel to the floor. Soften and widen the gaze, so that you can receive everything that is in front of you. Scan the body from head to toe.
To Reduce Anger
Downward Facing Dog
Why: This pose allows the chest to open up as you elongate and stretch every muscle of your body. It is almost impossible to not breathe deeply in this pose. As you inhale and exhale, you will be able to feel any anger or tension dissipate. Imagine the negative energy exiting through the bottoms of your heels as you stretch them back and the tips of your fingers as you lengthen them out.
How To: Come to hands and knees (table top position), with the hands below the shoulders and knees below the hips. Walk the hands slightly forward of the shoulders and spread the fingers wide. Align the wrists so they are parallel with the front edge of the mat. Lightly engage the core (Hasta, Mulah, and Uddiyana Bandha). Exhale as you press the hips up and back. Sink the heels to the ground. Hug the shoulder blades onto the back and root down through the thumb and index finger. Hang the head heavy and slightly tuck the chin to feel length through the back of the neck. Lift the sit bones as you lengthen through the tailbone. Take care not to hyperextend the knees.
To Feel Energized and Elevate Mood
Why: This heart opener energizes and lifts the mood (as well as opens heart and encourages vulnerability). Feel any dormant energy flow out as your hips and chest begin to open.
How To: From a supine position (lying on the back), plant the feet about six inches in front of the sitting bones. Extend the arms down by your sides, palms flat on the floor. The fingertips should slightly brush the heels (you may need to adjust). Engage the inner muscles and core. Inhale as you lift the hips up off the floor. Take care to keep the knees stacked over the heels. Lift the chest as you draw the shoulders slightly underneath the torso, interlace the hands and extend through the forearms. Tuck the chin toward the chest. Feel the back of the neck lengthen.
Jordan Nicholson graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she studied innovative coaching methods, over 100 dietary theories, and practical lifestyle management techniques. She also is a certified yoga instructor (200 hr RYT) and has a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from University of Iowa.