I’d like to say that I’m a zen yogi who always has a cool, calm mind; positive perspective; and zero-tolerance policy for things that don’t serve my highest good . . . But I’d be lying. What yoga has given me, however, is the awareness to stop myself in the moment, recognize what is happening, roll out my mat, breathe deep, and feel better sooner.
I may not always have the time or necessary gear for a full-length class when things are feeling crazy, but I can always stop what I’m doing and relax into the following five poses — no matter where I am or what I’m wearing. It may not change what’s happening around me, but it always leaves me with a refreshed point of view and a way better attitude.
Downward Facing Dog
- Downward Facing Dog brings oxygenated blood to your whole body, leaving you feeling energized and refreshed. Stay here for longer than usual today, let go of what is busying your mind, and start realizing how strong you are!
- From Child’s Pose, keep your hands on the floor, sit up on your knees, and then press back into Downward Facing Dog.
- Spread your fingers wide and create a straight line between your middle fingers and elbows. Work on straightening your legs and lowering your heels toward the ground. Relax your head between your arms, and direct your gaze through your legs or up toward your belly button. Hold for 10 breaths.
- Let all the anxiety holding you back melt away in Standing Forward Bend. When you’re in this pose, imagine that all your stressors are rolling off your back and onto the floor. For an even deeper stretch, focus on letting go of any tension in the back of your neck. Your spine and neck muscles will get a huge release.
- From Downward Facing Dog, slowly step forward to the top of your mat, let your feet meet your hands, and grab your big toes.
- On your inhale, gaze forward with a flat back, and as you exhale, engage your abs and fold forward. Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders, and extend the crown of your head toward the floor to create a long spine. Shift your weight forward onto your toes, straightening your legs as much as possible. Place your hands on the ground, fingertips lining up with your toes.Hold here for five breaths.
- Come to your knees, breathe deep, and relax in a long and luxurious Child’s Pose. Keep your arms out in front of you and rest your forehead on your mat, or if it feels good, try something new and stretch your arms back behind you with your palms facing down, resting on the mat. This will offer a big stretch to tense and wound-up shoulders.
- From Standing Forward Bend, kneel on your mat with your knees hip-width-distance apart and your big toes touching behind you. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs.
- Try to lengthen your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
- Rest your arms beside your legs, with your arms extended out in front of you.
- Stay here for at least 10 deep breaths.
- I hold all of my emotions in my hips, and Head-to-Knee Pose gives my hips and hamstrings what feels like a mini massage. Since I started practicing, this has been one of my favorite yoga poses.
- From Child’s Pose, sit back on your bottom and bring both of your legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and place the sole of your foot against your inner thigh, pulling your heel as close to your body as you can.
- Inhale to sit up tall, and exhale as you fold your torso over your left leg. Rest your hands on the floor on either side of your leg, place them on your shin, or wrap your hands around your left foot.
- Stay here for 10 breaths, sit up, and repeat this pose on the other side.
Legs up the Wall
- If you only have time to do one yoga pose when you’re stressed and overwhelmed, Legs up the Wall gets my vote. Beyond showing your lower back and the backs of your legs some love, you’ll be left with an instant sense of calm after just a few breaths in this shape. Trust me on this one.
- Grab your mat and move toward the closest wall.
- Sit sideways and position yourself a few inches away from a wall. On your exhale, swing your hips 90 degrees to bring your legs up the wall.
- Allow your shoulders and head to rest lightly on the floor, relax your arms at your sides, and close your eyes.
- Keep your legs firm against the wall, but don’t force anything in this pose. If it feels uncomfortable on your lower back, then move a few more inches away from the wall.