12 YOGA POSES FOR A HEALTHIER AND HAPPIER YOU
Updated: Nov 22, 2020
We have all seen the explosive growth around yoga this past decade and we are one of the many who have embraced its many benefits. Some think it’s just a yuppie fad, when in reality, its popularity has risen out of necessity as many people continue to live sedentary lives.
If you were to reflect upon the stereotypical paradigm known as the North American lifestyle you would notice how much time people spend sitting – sitting in their cars, at their desks, on the sofa, and the dinner table. Our bodies were designed to be in motion. It needs to move and wants to move, yet a vast majority of society ignores this basic need.
Yoga is simply a series of exercises that have you moving your body in various positions that will increase your level of fitness and flexibility while improving your breathing to help relax your mind. It’s incredibly good for you because it challenges your mind and body.
Below are 12 yoga poses that help everyone at any age:
Pose #1 – Dancer's Pose
This pose is incredibly challenging and rewards you with huge benefits. When done properly It will help to build full-body strength, while increasing flexibility and coordination. It forces you to open your shoulders, chest, and hips, as it stretches and strengthens the thighs, ankles, and abdomen. Dancer's pose will promote greater flexibility in your spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. Balance on one leg then the other.
Pose #2 – Downward Dog
This is one of the most famous poses in yoga. It’s often challenging for bodybuilders, who tend to lose flexibility in their shoulders. Known to help with brain fog as it increases the blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive function while improving mood and combating anxiety. As an inversion exercise, it helps blood and lymph fluid flow in an opposite direction, taking pressure off the heart.
Pose #3 - Warrior II
Stand with feet 3–4 feet apart in a powerful posture position. Turn your back foot out 90 degrees. Line up your front heel with the arch of your back foot. Focus on opening your hips. When executed correctly, this standing pose can help calm your mind, strengthen your shoulders, ankles and legs, and increase stamina. It’s also great for improving blood circulation and respiration.
Pose #4 - Chair Pose
Start in an erect standing position. As you inhale, raise your arms, spread your fingers, and reach up toward the sky. As you exhale, sit back and down as if sitting into a chair, keeping your shins perpendicular to the ground. Sit back on your heels and try to raise your toes off the ground. This pose requires time and patience to perfect. The benefits you’ll experience include strengthening of the legs, upper back, and shoulders. If you can’t breathe calmly and comfortably, back off slightly until you can.
Pose #5 Cobra/Upward Facing Dog
Lying face down, bend your elbows and place your hands on the ground in line with the lower ribs. While hugging your elbows close to your body, point your toes and press the tops of your feet into the ground. As you exhale and push away from the ground, focus on pointing the top of your head toward the sky as you press your chest forward. As you straighten your arms and broaden across the chest, hover your hips a few inches above the ground. If you feel any pain or compression, relax down toward the ground until it alleviates.
This controlled back bend is great for relieving stress, decreasing stiffness in the lower back, while opening your chest and shoulders, abdominal muscles, and hip flexors.
Pose #6 - Tree Pose
Focus on a fixed point in front of you (wall or ground) and stare at it to help you stay balanced. As you inhale, shift the weight into one foot and lift the other anywhere from an inch off the floor, all the way up to your inner thigh. It’s okay to use your hand to raise your foot to the ideal position. Be sure to avoid placing your foot directly on the knee. As you exhale, ground through the standing leg and lengthen through the crown of your head. Bring your palms to touch in front of your sternum into prayer hands and focus on opening the hip of the raised leg.
For a more challenging pose, lift your hands up toward the sky and let your gaze follow. This pose helps improve concentration, as well as your ability to balance by strengthening the arches of the feet and the outer hips.
Pose #7 - Eagle Pose
This is one of my favourite poses because it challenges me more than any other pose. You must balance, twist, and contort in ways not common in daily life. For someone like me who has struggled with tendon and joint issues, as well as bulging discs, this pose gently stretches everything.
The benefits of Eagle Pose Include:
Stronger arms, legs, knees, and ankles
Opens your shoulder joints, creating space between the shoulder blades
Opens the hips and IT band
Increased circulation to all joints
Improved digestion and elimination
Pose #8 - Bow Pose
Lie face up with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Position your feet parallel to one another, hip-distance apart with heels under the knees. Bring your hands to the floor, framing your ears. Your fingers should be facing your heels. On an exhale, press down into your hands and feet. Lift your hips and chest off the floor. Straighten your arms and lift through your shoulders.
This pose opens your entire front body, while strengthening the muscles in your back, shoulders, and hamstrings. This is an extremely challenging pose, so stay patient.
Pose #9 - Child's Pose
With knees together or mat width apart, sit back on your heels while bending forward until your forehead kisses the mat/floor. Hands and arms can be extended forward or relaxed behind you
Benefits of Child's Pose:
Lengthens and stretches the spine
Releases tension in the back, shoulders, and chest
Great pose when feeling dizziness or fatigue
Helps alleviate stress and anxiety
Massages the body's internal organs
Pose #10 - Forward Fold
Relieves tension in the neck, spine, and back, and is known to calm the brain to help reduce stress and anxiety. A great morning pose to wake the body and mind. It provides similar benefits as inversion poses - improving blood circulation and posture, while relieving spinal pain.
Pose #11 - Supported Leg Raise
Legs up the wall is commonly found in restorative yoga classes and is great for relieving lower back discomfort and easing stress and anxiety.
Benefits of Legs Up the Wall Pose:
Helps with insomnia
Regulates blood flow
Alleviates menstrual cramps
Relieves swollen ankles and varicose veins
Refreshes tired legs and feet
Stretches the back of the neck, front torso, and back of the legs
Pose #12 - Plank Pose
A tremendous core strengthening pose and an excellent way to on work your stability and stamina. Get into a push-up position and focus on drawing your navel toward your spine while keeping your spine straight and elongated. As you press your heels back, lengthen the crown of your head forward. Push the floor away beneath you to lengthen through the arms and broaden your chest. Come down to your knees or forearms if the pose is too intense. This pose is designed to strengthen your abdominal muscles and promote stability.