Yoga Poses

Yoga Poses for a Healthier You

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Yoga is a mind and body meditative practice that is rooted in the ancient Indian philosophy. It combines meditation, breathing exercises, and physical postures. Scientific research had proven its effectiveness and safety.

Yoga practitioners are actively promoting the practice to help solve various health concerns such as low back pain, blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Researchers found out that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses can treat some health problems and improve function.
Doing yoga every day together with other forms of exercise can generally improve the quality of life of an individual.

There are different styles of yoga. The most common style practiced in the United States and Europe is Hatha yoga, which simply refers to the practice of physical yoga postures.

To maximize the effects of yoga and avoid injuries from poor execution, one must seek the help and guidance of a well-trained instructor before stepping onto the mat. And before your first session, it is better to know some poses you’ll be doing. Here are some of the yoga poses to familiarize yourself with.

 

Beginner Level

Mountain Pose

It may look like you’re simply standing while doing this pose but the truth is you are also sensing how to feel your feet, grounding it to the Earth below. Mountain Pose is the base for all standing poses.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet together, pressing down your ten toes while you spread them open.
  2. Engage your quadriceps to lift your kneecap through the inner thigh.
  3. Draw your abdominals in and up as you lift your chest. Press the tops of your shoulders down.
  4. Keep your palms facing inwards towards the body while you open your chest and feel your shoulder blades coming towards each other.
  5. Breathe deeply into the torso. Hold for 5 to 8 breathes.

Benefits:

  • Improves posture
  • Increase awareness
  • Steadies breathing
  • Firms abdomen and buttocks

 

Downward Facing Dog

This pose is frequently used in most yoga practices. It stretches, strengthens, and energizes the body. The knees should be bent with the hips up and away to lengthen the spine.

How to do it:

  1. Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Keep your wrist, shoulders, and knees under your hips. Spread your palms and index fingers slightly turned out as you turn your toes under.
  2. Press your hands down firmly creating a cup of air in the middle of your palms. Rotate arms and shoulders outside while the forearms rotate in. Tuck your toes under.
  3. Press hips up and back reaching the chest towards the thighs. Lift up to the tailbone to keep the spine straight.
  4. Let the head and neck hang freely from shoulders. Breath and hold for 4 to 8 breaths.

Benefits:

  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve menopausal symptoms
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Therapeutic for sinusitis and high blood pressure

 

 

Triangle

A standing posture that is great in stretching the sides of the waist, strengthen the legs, opening the lungs, and tone up the entire body. imagine being trapped in two narrow walls while doing this pose.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet keeping it one-leg length apart. Stretch your arms to the sides aligning it with your shoulders. Turn right foot out 90 degrees and turn left foot at 45 degrees.
  2. Hinge to the side over your right light, engaging your abdominals and quadriceps.
  3. Place right hand down the ankle, shin, and lift left arm up to the ceiling.
  4. Turn gaze up to the top hand. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths. Return to standing position and repeat to the opposite side.

Benefits:

  • Relieves stress
  • Stimulates function of abdominal organs
  • Helps alleviate back pain

 

Tree

A standing balance that every beginner encounter. Working on this pose will help you gain clarity and focus while learning to breathe and balance on a foot. Keep in mind to not lean on the standing leg while doing this pose.

How to do it:

  1. Start with feet together. Then right foot on inner left upper thigh.
  2. Press hands together and find a spot in front of you where you can fix your gaze steadily.
  3. Hold and breathe for 8 to 10 breathes. Switch sides.

Benefits:

  • Help relieves sciatic pain over time
  • Improves balance and stability in the legs
  • Strengthens ligaments and tendons
  • Helps the body establish pelvic stability

 

Seated Forward Bend

Open up your body by starting with this pose. It stretches the sides, hamstrings, lower and upper back. Seated forward bend also helps with breathing through uncomfortable position.

How to do it:

  1. Sit with your legs together, feet firmly flexed and steady, and keep your hands by your hips.
  2. Lift chest and start hinging forward from the waist. Engage your lower abdominals.
  3. Stop and breathe for 8 to 10 breathes once you hit your maximum. Shoulders, head, and neck should all be released.

Benefits:

  • Improves digestion
  • Soothes headaches, anxiety, and fatigue
  • Increases appetite and reduces obesity

 

Bridge Pose

A good backbend for starters, a counter pose to forward bend. It strengthens the back body and stretches the front body.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on supine on the floor with your feet hip-width apart. Press firmly on your feet and lift butt off the mat.
  2. Interlock your fingers together and press fists on the floor while opening the chest more.
  3. Engage the hamstrings. Hold for 8 to 10 breathes. Lower hips down. Repeat two more times.

Benefits:

  • Rejuvenates tired legs
  • Reduces insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue
  • Stimulates thyroid and lungs
  • Beneficial for asthma and osteoporosis

 

Child Pose

It is a resting pose used by yoga practitioners at all levels. Needing a mental break or tension release? Do the child pose.

How to do it:

  1. Start on all fours. Bring knees and feet together as you sit the butt back to the heels. Stretch your arms forward.
  2. Lower forehead to the floor (you can rest it on a pillow or blanket) and let the body release. Hold as long as you can or want.

Benefits:

  • Calms the brain, relieving stress and fatigue
  • Relieves neck and back pain
  • Gently stretches the ankles, thighs, and hips

 

Chair Pose

A fierce standing yoga pose that tones the thighs and builds stamina as well as strength. Chair pose often used as a transitional pose but can also be done on its own. Squeezing a thick book or block between the thighs while doing the pose can increase thigh strength.

How to do it:

  1. Start with the Mountain Pose. Inhale arms forward parallel to the floor, palms facing down.
  2. Exhale and bend the knees to a squatting position. Reach the hips down and back bringing the weight to the heels.
  3. Press shoulders down and back to arch the spine. Relax shoulders down and back, reach out through fingertips. Stare at a fixed point in front of you for balance.
  4. Breathe and hold for 3 to 6 breaths.

Benefits:

  • Reduces flat feet
  • Strengthens lower back, torso, calves, and spine
  • Tones digestive organs and the heart
  • Stimulates the metabolic and circulatory systems

 

Easy Pose

This pose is commonly practiced for meditation and breathing exercise. It is a pose that most people had automatically practiced as a child but loses the ability after sitting in chairs over time.

How to do it:

  1. Start by sitting at the edge of a firm blanket. Extend legs in front of you, sit up straight, and cross your legs at the shin.
  2. Knees wide, place each foot under the opposite knee. Fold legs towards the torso. Place hands on knees with the palms down.
  3. Balance weight evenly across sit-bones. Align head, neck, and spine to lengthen the spine and soften neck.
  4. Relax feet and thighs. Look straight ahead.
  5. Hold the pose for a minute or for the duration of the meditation. Release and change the cross of legs.

Benefits:

  • Lengthens back muscles and spine
  • Strengthens back
  • Stretches ankles and knees

 

 

Intermediate Level

Bow Pose

It may look intimidating at first glance but once you started you’ll realize that it is beneficial. Bow pose offers your body an amazing opening and strength building.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach. Feet hip-width apart and arms on the side.
  2. Fold the knees, take hands rearward to hold your ankles. Inhale, lift your chest off the ground and pull legs up and back.
  3. Gaze ahead. Keep this pose stable while giving attention to your breathing.
  4. Continue taking long deep breaths as the body relaxes in this pose.
  5. After 15 to 20 seconds, gently bring legs and chest to the ground. Release ankles and relax.

Benefits:

  • Stimulates reproductive organs
  • Tones arm and leg muscle
  • Adds flexibility to the back and improves posture
  • Strengthens abdominal muscles

 

Upward Plank

A back-bending pose that provides a deep stretch that builds flexibility and strength. Some beginners find themselves struggling with the upward plank thus it is important to practice posture with the support of a chair.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with legs extended in front and arms resting on the side. Place hands several inches behind the hips and rotate palms so the fingertips point in the same direction.
  2. Hands should be shoulder-distance apart. Rotate externally the upper arm as the hands are press down on the mat. Lift your chest naturally; draw shoulder blades firmly into the back.
  3. On breathing, press hands and feet down and lift hips to the ceiling. Work toward pressing the soles of the feet into the floor with the legs straight and firm.
  4. Slowly release your head upon feeling comfortable. Allow it to drop back to open your throat, look towards your cheeks.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds. Release by slowly lowering hips to the mat.

Benefits:

  • Improves respiratory function
  • Stretches shoulders, chest and front ankles
  • Strengthens wrists, arms, and legs
  • Stimulates thyroid gland

 

Eagle Pose

This requires focus and calmness for a quite and stable pose. Once your mind is at peace, it becomes easier to release the distractions. The balancing aspect of the eagle pose helps protect the knees against future injury.

How to do it:

  1. Begin with the Mountain Pose with arms on the side. Bend knees.
  2. Balance on the right foot and cross left thigh over the right. Look at a point in front. Hook the top of the left foot behind the right calf. Balance for a breath.
  3. Extend arms straight in front. Drop left arm to the right. Bend elbows and raise forearms vertical to the floor. Wrap arms and hands and press palms together. Lift elbows and reach fingertips to the ceiling. Keep shoulder blades pressing down the back to the waist.
  4. Square hips and chest to the front. Draw belly in and up. Look at the tip of your thumb. Breathe smoothly and evenly.
  5. Hold for a minute. Gently unwind arms and legs, return to the mountain pose. Repeat on the opposite side.

Benefits:

  • Increases lung capacity
  • Stretches upper back and shoulders
  • Improves sense of balance and concentration

 

Camel Pose

It is a backbend stretching the whole front body. Camel pose is performed on the knees and a preparation for deeper backbends.

How to do it:

  1. Start on all fours with the knees hip-width apart and the body upright. Toes should be tucked under and point it back if you are flexible.
  2. Place hands on the lower back, heels of the hands resting on the lower back with the finger pointing down.
  3. Engage the legs. Pull the thighs back, hips still over the knees. Rotate the inner thighs in and with the hands lengthen the buttock down. Hip bones and lower ribs should be firm towards each other.
  4. Keep the lower body stable. Breathe in towards the chest and draw the shoulder blades back while lifting the chest.
  5. On an exhale, come into the backbend with the chest lifted and without crouching the lower back or neck.
  6. Keep this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Once you start having trouble breathing properly, back off to a variation that can sustain your breathing.

Benefits:

  • Improves spinal flexibility and posture
  • Energizes the body
  • Reduces anxiety and fatigue
  • Stimulates kidneys and improve digestion
  • Stretches the deep hip flexors

 

Fire Log Pose

A seated yoga posture that stretches the outer hips thus it requires a flexible lower body. It is frequently performed towards the end of a session when the body is warm and nimble.

How to do it:

  1. Begin by sitting on the floor legs extended, spine straight, and arms on the side. Bend right knee and hug it to your chest. Rest the ankle above the left kneecap. Bend left knee. Slide the left shin under the right shin and bring the ankle beneath the right knee.
  2. Word toward bringing the shins parallel to the top edge of the mat while keeping the right shin set directly above the left shin. Make sure both shins are 90 degrees to each thigh.
  3. Flex the feet and press through the heels. Spread toes. Press groins toward the floor, sit up straight and keep the front torso long.
  4. Place fingertips on the floor on both sides of the body. Stare at the space between your eyebrows. Hold for a minute. Release by extending both legs slowly and gently along the floor.

Benefits:

  • Gently stimulates abdominal organs
  • Regulates metabolism and digestion
  • Calms the mind and relieves mental tension
  • Stretches hip and groin

 

 

Advanced Level

Firefly Pose

An arm balance that combines flexibility with strength.  It requires less arm strength but demands flexibility in the hips and hamstrings.

How to do it:

  1. Start with the standing forward fold (reaching the toes), slightly bend the knees with the feet at hip-width. Grab the right calf and press deeply into the leg to work out the shoulder behind the calf. Repeat with the left leg and shoulder.
  2. Toe-heel the feel close but not too close than hip-width. After you bring the shoulders behind the legs, wrap the forearms around the side of the shins and bring palms on top of the feet with the finger pointing forward.
  3. Lift the feet and keep squeezing the sides of the body with the thighs. Drop the seat farther towards the wrist while lowering the belly. Hug your thighs around the arms.
  4. After setting the set, straighten your legs. Keep the sternum lifted, collarbones wide, and look forward.
  5. Spread the toes. Gently release fee and exhale.

Benefits:

  • Strengthen wrist, arms, and shoulders
  • Tones belly
  • Improves sense of balance

 

Reclined Hero Pose

The Reclined Hero Pose is only suitable for those who can sit comfortably in a Hero Pose. Attempting to do this pose without the mastery of the latter can cause serious injury. Recline Hero Pose is not advised to people presently suffering from heart problems and headaches.

How to do it:

  1. Begin by kneeling on the floor with the inner knees together and the thighs vertical to the floor. Open the feet slightly wider than hip-width. Keep the feet flat on the ground with the big toes angled toward each other. Press down evenly across the tops of both feet.
  2. Sit down between your feet, exhaling. Rest weights equally on both sit bones. Keep the feet right in line with the shins. Up to here, it’s the hero pose.
  3. If you feel at ease, place your hands on the floor behind you. Lean your weight into the hands and lower the elbows and forearms to the floor.
  4. If you’re comfortable and do not feel any pain, lower yourself all the way to the floor and allow the thigh bones to release deep into the hip sockets.
  5. Rest arms on the side and draw the inner groin up into the pelvis. Lift the sternum, create length between the vertebrae, and broaden the collarbone. Tuck chin towards the chest and look at the center of the body.
  6. Hold the pose for a minute. Once you gain flexibility, this pose becomes restful thus you can stay longer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Benefits:

  • Helps relieve tired legs
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort
  • Strengthens arches of the feet
  • Improves digestion
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