The benefits of yoga are plentiful. It improves posture and brain functionality, calms the mind, lowers blood pressure, and increases flexibility. Certain poses can also provide targeted relief for aches and pains due to travel, athletic training, or just your everyday routine. Incorporating yoga poses into your day can help you feel light on your feet, balanced, and focused. We talked to Bay Club San Francisco Yoga Teacher, Danni Pomplun about the best poses to practice in the morning, noon, afternoon slump, and night.
Many people tend to stretch their arms overhead when waking up. This instinctual movement is the body telling the mind it wants to get the blood flowing. What are you waiting for? Get out of bed and do a small series of movements.
Pose #1: Low Lunge
Start in downward facing dog and take a couple of deep inhales and exhales. Press into your heels and feel your back open up. Lift one leg toward the ceiling and press into your hips. Swing the leg forward and move into a deep low lunge. Once you’re stable in the stretch, raise your arms up to the ceiling and press your hips forward. If it feels good, arch your back a little.
Benefits: Low lunge treats lower-body soreness and any areas that might be tight like the quads, hips, and hamstring. It strengthens your knees, releases hip tension, and helps build mental focus.
Pose #2: Chair
Stand with your feet hips distance apart. Feel the ground beneath you and notice the connection between it and your body. Bend your legs as if you were sitting in a chair and sweep your arms over your head into a V-shape. Imagine that you are sitting in a chair and keep the back long and the inner thighs parallel to each other. Hold the pose for a few deep breaths.
Benefits: Chair pose stretches out the chest and shoulders and stimulates the internal organs. It strengths the legs—calves, ankles, and hip flexors—while toning them.
In the middle of the day, one can feel a wide variety of emotions related to work or things that happened in the morning. Stress, anxiety, negative thinking, lack of productivity—all of these may occur at any point during the middle of the day. Alleviate pressure and calm your mind by stepping away from your desk for five minutes to perform these poses.
Pose: Warrior II
This pose starts in a similar way as low lunge. Begin in downward facing dog. Lift one leg toward the ceiling and press into your hips. Swing the leg forward and move into a deep low lunge. Shift your weight, so you are standing with your front foot pointed forward, and your back leg pointed toward the side. Extend the arms into a T-shape at both sides. Press into the front leg, so you are in a strong lunge position.
Benefits: The Warrior poses take their name from ancient Hindi mythology and the story of a mighty warrior. When practicing Warrior II, harness the energy of this powerful warrior. Imagine that you are the embodiment of strength and when you breathe out, let go of the things that are worrying you. This pose helps develop stability and balance, improves circulation and respiration, relieves backaches, opens the chest and lungs, and energizes tired limbs.
A lull in energy and enthusiasm can occur between 1:00 and 4:00 pm—especially if you indulged in a large lunch. When you’re feeling sleepy and sluggish, don’t reach for the unhealthy snack. Instead, move your body! Get up, take several deep belly breaths, and move into a nice soothing yoga pose to ward off the tiredness.
Pose #1: Wide Leg Forward Fold
Start in mountain pose, and separate your legs anywhere from three feet to four and a half feet. Make sure your feet are parallel to each other and exhale. Lean your torso forward, and place your fingertips on the ground directly below your shoulders and flatten your palms. Extend your arms behind your body and walk your hands back and lengthen your torso.
Benefits: Wide Leg Forward Fold increases flexibility and stretches the spine and back. It also helps calm the mind and relieve anxiety and stress, while improving digestion. Additionally, this pose can help reduce fatigue—perfect for that afternoon slump!
Pose #2: Downward Facing Dog
Start in a tabletop position with your knees on the floor directly underneath your hips and your hands pressing into the ground directly underneath your shoulders. Slowly lift your knees off the ground and extend your legs. You should feel a gentle stretch in the back of your thighs and calves. Shoot your tailbone toward the sky and lengthen your back, so that you are making an upside down V-shape. Press your feet into the floor and breath in and out. Move from side to side and see how the stretch changes from one leg to the other. Press into your hands for more of a backstretch.
Benefits: Downward dog is an inverted yoga pose. These types of poses reverse the effect of gravity on the body and get the blood flowing in new directions. Seeing everything turned upside down can help one look at things differently. It strengthens the bones, lengthens the spine, and tones both the arms and legs.
After a long day, it’s time to slow things down and prepare for bed. Quiet and reflective meditation can calm the body down and so can doing a few deep stretches before climbing into bed.
Pose #1: Long Lizard
Start in a runners lunge with one leg forward and bent and the other leg extended behind you with both hands on the ground. Press into your bent leg, so you feel a nice deep stretch in the hip flexors. Bend the back leg, so that the knee is touching the ground and breath into the hip stretch. If you can, bring your elbows to the ground to deepen the stretch. Hold the pose, breathing in and out. Repeat with the other leg forward.
Benefits: Long lizard pose opens the groin, hip flexors, and hamstrings. It’s a soothing stretch that will feel good to anyone who sat at a desk all day. It opens and releases the chest, shoulders, and neck and strengthens in the inner thigh muscles.
Pose #2: Seated Forward Fold
Sit on the floor with your legs extended long in front of you. Straighten your legs and flex your feet pressing into your heels. Lift the arms over the head and fold your body over the legs. Leave the buttocks firmly on the floor. When you exhale lean deeper into the stretch extending your arms to reach your toes. When you inhale, ease up on the stretch. Repeat several times.
Benefits: A simple forward fold relieves stress and mild depression. It calms the mind down while stretching the hamstrings, spines, and shoulders. It soothes headaches, anxiety, and fatigue, and improves digestion.
And if you’re really looking to make yoga a priority before the end of the year, join Danni for his yoga classes at Bay Club San Francisco.