From sitting at our desks all day to eating on the go, we don’t always give our bodies the time and care they deserve. Yoga is one of the best ways to slow down, stretch, and relieve the tightness that keeps us from feeling our best selves.
Research shows that regular practice not only improves muscular strength, overall body flexibility, and respiratory function, but has therapeutic effects that increase your quality of life as well. A growing body of research has found that yoga is an effective complementary therapy for anxiety and depression. Plus, the body-wide benefits of this ancient practice are accessible to anyone with a good yoga mat and comfortable clothes to move in.
So anytime you start feeling tense, achy, and slumpy with exhaustion, try one of these six simple yoga positions—they’ll help you recharge and capture some serenity, this season and beyond.
1. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose With Leg Outstretched (Seated Spinal Twist)
Too much wine last night? Gentle twists are thought to stimulate the liver and kidneys, which helps rid the body of toxins. Sit with your legs extended, bend your left knee, and place your left palm on the floor behind you. Reach your right fingertips toward the ceiling and turn toward the left, looking over your shoulder. Then bend your right arm and hook your elbow onto the outside of your left knee. Take 10 breaths; switch sides.
2. Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
Tune out the chaos of your day with a forward bend—it’s like putting yourself into your own personal cocoon. (This is also a great pre-bedtime sleep inducer.) Start on your hands and knees and bring your right leg forward, placing your right knee on the floor in front of you. Slide your left leg back, then lower your forehead toward the floor. Hold for 10 breaths; switch sides.
3. Malasana (Garland Pose)
When you’re feeling uncomfortably full after a second helping of stuffing, try this move to help relax and stretch the intestines. Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart and keep your toes and heels grounded as you exhale; bend your knees and slowly lower into a squat position. Bringing your palms together, rest your arms against your inner knees and relax your shoulders. (Sit on a firm pillow if needed.) Hold for 10 breaths.
4. Ustrasana (Modified Camel)
Foil a rotten mood with a mini backbend: It helps stimulate the vagus nerve at the base of the brain, which can trigger the release of feel-good hormones. Start in a kneeling position (pop a folded towel under your knees for comfort). Put your hands on your backside with fingers pointed toward the floor. Exhale and begin to lean back slightly; lift your chest toward the ceiling, keeping your belly tight and using your hands to stabilize your back.
5. Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
When you twist to one side, you release the muscles on the other side of a sore back (which feels so “Ahhh…”). Lie on your back with your arms extended to your sides; bring your left knee across your body and let it drop toward the floor. Turn your head to the left. Breathe and relax for a minute. Switch sides.
6. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Plug into this power source: The move flexes the major muscle groups in your legs and core, and activating them can release feel-good endorphins. Stand with your feet together and bend your knees deeply as if sitting in a chair. Reach your fingers toward the ceiling, squeeze your arms by your ears, and take up to 10 deep breaths.
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