On the fourth day of Christmas, CN gave to me, four basic yoga poses!
These cold months can play havoc with our muscles and they do nothing to inspire our workout routine, “why on earth would we want to practice basic yoga poses?” I hear you say. “We’d rather curl up under the covers with a hot water bottle, thank you very much.”
Yoga can help relieve stress after months of exam preparation, it calms the mind, body and soul and can be done right from the comfort of your own home. Committing to a yoga practice can be hugely beneficial. It is suggested that regular practice in yoga is advantageous for those with high blood-pressure, those who suffer from depression and for the relief of migraines, aches and pains. All great reasons for you to get on the mat!
In my quest to keep you warm, I’ve compiled four of my favorite basic yoga poses to release tension and keep muscles warm this winter. Combined, these poses make for a great mini yoga flow that can be mixed up with variations to set you up for the upcoming festivities. Still not convinced? Give these four basic yoga poses a try!
Basic yoga poses to try at home
Adho mukha svanasana (better known as downward dog) is excellent for stretching and strengthening the shoulders and legs. This basic pose is a transitory pose and will come up in every yoga class at least once.
If you need any extra reason to give this a go, Rebecca Tung, MD, a dermatologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago says, “The added blood flow to your face and brain, combined with the requisite focus on your practice, add a boost in terms of a youthful dewy afterglow and calmer overall expression.” (Yay!)
Stretch arms up towards the ceiling and hold here for a few breaths. Roll the arms and spine down until your hands are touching the floor. Step one foot back at a time, hip-width apart, until you find yourself in a “V” shape, bum in the air. Ensure that the spine and legs are straight and push heels back onto the mat as much as possible, holding here for a few breaths.
To flow into the following basic yoga pose, lower and straighten your back into (the dreaded) plank pose before dropping your chest onto the mat.
Upward facing dog
This basic yoga pose’s traditional Sanskrit name is Urdhva Mukha Svanasana and is especially good for strengthening the arms and back and opening the chest—great for those who sit hunched over desks all day.
Moving from downward dog, root the tops of the feet into the mat, push your body up with your arms, keeping them straight. Push the chest out and lift so that your legs are floating above the mat. Hold for several breaths allowing your body to sink into this great backbend.
The mermaid pose is as majestic as it sounds. This powerful basic yoga pose is traditionally called Eka Pada Rajakapotasana and it’s terrific for strengthening the core and lower back and expanding and creating space throughout the front of the body.
Remember when I told you that downward dog is a transitory pose? To get into mermaid pose from upward facing dog, tuck your toes under and push your hips up and back into downward dog.
Lift your right leg up and back then pull it between your hands bending deeply at the knee. Rest the top of your left leg onto the mat, straight and stretched back. Breathe here for a moment then bend the left leg upwards holding with your left hand.
Slide the left foot up inside the left arm until it finds a place in the elbow crease. Raise your right arm and reach for the left until your hands are holding in a bind. Release the bind and the left leg after a few breaths, push back into downward dog and repeat the motion with your right leg!
Chair pose—or Utkatasana—is a pose that focuses on strengthening the thigh muscles and stimulates the diaphragm, heart and abdominal organs.
To get into this basic yoga pose (you guessed it) push your hips up and back into the final downward dog of this sequence. Step your feet forward towards your hands and stand tall reaching your arms to the ceiling above your head.
Keeping your arms stretched above your head, bend your knees until into a right angle, keeping your back straight and hold here for a few breaths. Pull your hands down into prayer and twist your torso to the left and then right, looking up over your shoulder for a powerful spine-twist variation which will strengthen the back.
These four basic yoga poses will have a great impact on your blood flow, increasing alertness and feelings of energy if practiced regularly —perfect for the busy holiday season!