10 Simple Yoga Poses to Keep You Healthy
Yoga’s become quite the trend in the past couple years. Akin to coconut oil, people everywhere are suggesting yoga to fix just about anything you can name. The practice is a simple and calming way to get in your daily dose of exercise, but its benefits don’t stop there. Not only can you bulk up your muscles, its just as pain-free and effortless to detox your system or earn a little heart health. Each pose comes with its own set of bodily benefits, and with a well-choreographed routine, you could be on your way to tip-top shape in no time at all. Here are just a few issues yoga holds the solution for:
- Back Pain
Back pain is no match when it comes to the wonders of yoga on tight muscles. Certain poses can stretch and strengthen the spine, improve posture and balance, relieve stress, and even work its way up to your neck all the way down to the small of your back. How do you do it?
For what’s called Bharadvaja’s Twist—I promise it’s easier than it sounds—one must simply sit on the floor with their legs outstretched. Shift to the right hip and swing your legs over to the left. Place your right foot behind your back and your left arch on your inner left thigh. Inhale and lift your sternum to the sky, stretching your torso. With your next exhale, twist to the right and bring your left hand to the right knee to deepen the stretch. You can turn your head the same direction to delve even more or you can turn the opposite way to counter your stretch. Keep your tailbone as close to the floor as possible and relax your shoulders to create a lengthened silhouette. Stay here for close to half a minute and then repeat on the other side.
This helps to stretch the muscles in need, massage your organs, and is especially helpful for pregnant ladies in their second trimester by strengthening their backs to prepare for the extra weight.
With all the stress of the presidential election, economic crisis, and wondering what Kim and Kanye will name their next baby, its no wonder over 3 million Americans are diagnosed with clinical anxiety. Don’t worry, yoga’s got your back—literally.
Poses like the camel, the bow, and the big toe are all focused on easing the mind, relieving worries, and stimulating the upper body. A famous pose for this purpose is the easy pose. Don’t be fooled by the name, those of us who have spent the last 5 nights hunched over our laptops crying over the finale of Gilmore Girls for the seventh time might not have such an “easy” go.
To do this pose, simply sit criss cross applesauce on your yoga mat or floor, but keep a gap between your pelvis and shins. This should be a little difficult to arrange at first, so try your best without hurting yourself. Keep your chest high and spine lengthened. Lay your hands upon your thighs and just breathe. The meditation-like format of this pose should melt the tension away, even if only for a few minutes.
A few poses have a knack for stimulating the abdomen, improving digestion, and increasing the appetite. The head-to-knee forward bend is even said to relieve symptoms of menopause. This form is simple; begin with your legs stretched in front of you. With your inhale, bend your right knee and bring the flat of your foot to the inside of your left thigh. There are always opportunities here to support your legs and buttocks with folded blankets or pillows to make the process easier. Bend at the waist and outstretch your arms to reach as far as you can down your left leg. Keep your head level with your spine and let yourself fall into the stretch. This should fire up your digestive system and help with any stomach issues you may be having at the given time. Just make sure to light a candle afterwards.
Ah, your monthly gift from the fairy of all things evil and destructive. Nobody likes crying at the drop of a Charmin commercial, making the bedroom your permanent home, and eating everything in sight, but it’s a battle we all must go though. Unless you’re down for a little yoga. That’s right, they even have a cure for the “congrats-you’re-not-pregnants”! Poses like the bound angle are proven to soothe menstrual discomfort, energize the ovaries, and even ease pregnancy if your fairy didn’t show up nine months ago.
How to do it? Again, we begin by sitting with legs outstretched. Instead of crossing your legs this time, you’re going to fold them both in until the arches of your feet meet each other in the middle. This may be a little tough for those of you who haven’t worked on opening your hips lately. Use a blanket if needed. Next, you’re going to grasp the big toe or ankle of each foot and lower yourself down as far as comfortable. Never press your knees down, but putting a little weight on each thigh always feels nice and deepens the stretch.
Where Do You Stand?
What would you consider your yoga experience as?
Extended Puppy Pose
If you’ve been feeling blue, I’ve got the pose for you! Although yoga is not a clinical cure for depression, it can help ease the pain especially if the issue is temporary or mild. If not, its always best to go to a doctor. According to experienced yogis, the corpse and the extended puppy are some of the best poses for depression, bringing a calm mind and brightening flow into the ring.
For the extended puppy pose, we start on all fours. Channel your inner poodle and make sure your hands are beneath your shoulder, knees beneath your hip-points. Walk your hands out a bit and curl your toes under. Exhaling, move your buttocks parallel to your knees and lower your upper body, letting your head hang but keeping your elbows active and off the ground. Pulling your hips towards your heels can make this stretch feel extra-invigorating, but never push yourself past what feels comfortable.
6. High Blood Pressure
Here’s another one for all you worriers out there. Let your stress fly out the window for now and try a pose such as downward dog, or legs-up-the-wall, which is famously said to cure whatever may ail you. These poses stimulate blood flow and ease the mind, both wonderful for a high blood pressure.
Downward dog, one of the most recognizable poses of the trade is a tough workout for beginners, but gets easier and easier as one makes his or her way through their yoga journey. We begin on all fours again, inching the hands forward and curling the toes under. With an exhale, lift your knees from the mat to form a triangle with the ground. It may not be possible to keep your knees from bending, and if so, that’s completely okay. Another difficulty with this pose is stretching the heels towards the ground. Many beginners find they’re on their tippy-toes, breathing heavily and watching their sweat stain the floor. Don’t worry about that. Stay where you are comfortable and breathe. You’ve got this.
Can’t sleep? Spend hours counting sheep, memorizing the pattern of your ceiling, wondering whether you left the fridge open from that midnight snack run? Don’t sweat it. Pull out your mat and try the corpse, forward fold, or reclining hero to combat restless legs, relax the body and relieve an anxious mind.
Let’s talk about the corpse. I think you guys are really going to like this one. For example, we start by lying down flat on our backs. Nice, right? Already getting yourself in the sleepy mindset. Lift your pelvis off the floor and shimmy your shoulders together while inching your tailbone towards your feet. When you relax and let your buttocks and upper back to the mat, it will ensure you’ve reached a neutral position with no strain on your lower back muscles. Keep your shoulders relaxed down and stretch your legs a bit, giving yourself some space. Extend each arm away from your torso, palms up. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. This should calm your body in no time, and you may even fall asleep right then and there.
8. Common Cold
When you’ve got the sniffles and a sore throat, the last thing you want to do is hop out of bed and do some exercise, but hear me out for a second, okay? The forward fold is great for encouraging sinus drainage and easing a headache. Poses like the bridge that stretch your upper body give your lungs space to expand and dissolve congestion. Tempting, right? Especially when you just used up your third box of tissues and your room looks like a movie theater after the first showing of Titanic. Let’s check it out.
For the forward fold, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your sternum lifted. Exhale and bend from your hips rather than your waist. If at all possible, try and keep your legs straight while reaching your fingertips towards the ground. If you’re flexible, you may be able to rest your palms flat or grasp your ankles. Either way, relax the weight of your head and close your eyes. With each exhale, dive deeper into the stretch. Stay here for as long as you like, then return to standing position the same way you came down.
Benefits of Yoga
9. Osteoporosis and Joint Pain
This one’s a toughie, but try to stick with it; your bones will thank you. The plank is known for keeping the skeleton strong and reducing risk of bone issues in the future. I know what you’re thinking. The plank? That’s for people who go to the gym and say kale tastes just like potato chips! But I promise, just one or two of these a week and you’ll be feeling like you’re nineteen again.
To get into the plank, start on all fours. Curl your toes under and bring each leg back straight, one at a time. Make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders and focus on making a straight line from your head to heels. Keep your tailbone in check and don’t let it stick up farther than the rest of your body. If it helps, lower onto your forearms rather than your hands. This is still just as beneficial but it makes the move a little easier to bear. By using your own body weight, you’re practically strengthening every muscle in your body and it only takes sixty seconds a day. When the minute is up I give you full permission to flop onto the ground like a fish gasping for air (I did).
Lets. Get. Physical. With kids to bathe, bills to pay, dogs to pet, and a job to do, things can get exhausting pretty fast these days. It’s a wonder you even have time to read this article. But if you are here, let’s take the opportunity to treat yourself with a pose or two for a little extra energy. You can do this the minute you wake up, before the day’s had a chance to tire you, or in the evening when you need a pick-me-up. Whatever you choose, the wheel of vitality and all three warriors are here to guide you.
For the wheel of vitality, which can also promote heart health in addition to providing energy, stand with your feet wide. Turn the heels in towards you and your toes out. Exhaling, bend your knees and come into a squat, with thighs parallel to the ground (or your version of parallel). Bring your hands to a prayer position in front of your chest, then sweep your arms in a big circle from the ground to the floor, and back into prayer. Continue this arm movement three times before switching to the opposite direction. This creates the “wheel” and brings all of your muscles into play. Now get out there and wow the world!
Hopefully by now you've learned a lot about health, yoga, and your body. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is at a different level and never to push yourself too far into any stretch. The important thing is finding what feels good for you. Let me know in the comments if any poses stood out for you!
© 2016 Ally Bickle