Yoga has become a very popular form of exercise and muscle relaxation. Though there are various types of yoga, the core concept for all of them remains the same: protecting your body and taking care of it through stretching and meditation. Whether you are a seasoned yoga enthusiast or new to the practice altogether, there are a wide range of different workouts and poses to choose from based on what your body needs. Here are 12 of the best yoga poses that are sure to change your body and your life!
1. Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts will reveal any traces of low back pain and stiffness. Do them slowly and keep going until the movement feels fluid. After 10 to 20 rounds, you’ll likely feel more limber. Remember that pelvic tilts are subtle. You’re simply rocking your hips towards your face, without lifting your butt off the floor. You should start off with your lower back just slightly curved, and as you perform the movement you should feel your lower back pressing into the floor.
2. Mountain Pose
For this pose, stand with your feet together or hip-width apart and ground down through the four corners of your feet. Roll your shoulders away from your ears, draw your shoulder blades down your back, and lift the crown of your head. Engage your thighs, draw your belly button in, and lengthen up through the spine. Turn your palms facing the front of the room. Relax your jaw and unfurrow your brow. Breathe easy. It may seem like you’re, well, just standing there, but this pose is very important and works as basically the blueprint for all other poses. It promotes balance and directs your attention to the present moment.
3. Chair Pose
This heating standing pose (give it a minute, you’ll feel the burn) strengthens your legs, upper back and shoulders. As a bonus, you’ll have an opportunity to practice patience as your thighs work hard. To begin, Start in Mountain Pose. As you inhale, raise your arms, spread your fingers, and reach up through your fingertips. As you exhale, sit back and down as if sitting into a chair. Shift your weight toward the heels and lengthen up through the spine. As you inhale, lift and lengthen through your arms. As you exhale, sit deeper into the pose. Just remember to breathe.
4. Down Dog (On a Chair)
Downward-Facing Dog is the bread and butter of yoga, but it can be challenging for beginners. This modification shares the same benefits as the classic pose — stretching the hamstrings, opening the shoulders, and creating length in the spine — without all the weight on your upper body. Start by placing your hands on the back of a chair with your palms shoulder-distance apart. Step your feet back until they align under hips, creating a right angle with your body, spine parallel with the floor. Ground through your feet and lift through thighs. Reach hips away from hands to lengthen the sides of your torso. Firm your outer arms in and lengthen through the crown of your head.
5. Warrior II
A pose with “warrior” in its name may not sound very zen, but this standing pose can help calm and steady your mind. Tougher than it looks, it also strengthens your legs and ankles while increasing stamina. Stand with feet wide, 3–4 feet apart. Shift your right heel out so your toes are pointing slightly inward. Turn your left foot out 90 degrees. Line up your left heel with the arch of your right foot. Bend your left knee to a 90-degree angle, keeping the knee in line with the second toe to protect the knee joint. Stretch through your straight back leg and ground down into the back foot. On an inhale, bring arms to a T at shoulder height. Draw your shoulder blades down the back. Spread your fingers and keep palms facedown. Gaze over the front fingers. As you exhale, sink deeper into the stretch.
6. Seated Forward Fold
This feel-good fold elongates the back of your body, lengthens your spine, and stretches your hamstrings. Sit and straighten your legs out in front of you, grounding your thighs into the floor. Hinge at the hips to elongate your torso over your thighs. Grab hold of the outer edges of your feet. If your hamstrings are tight, grab a strap and loop it behind your feet. Use the leverage to bring your torso closer to your thighs. You can also sit on the edge of a blanket to help you fold forward.
7. Corpse Pose
It’s as simple as it sounds. Every yoga class includes a savasana, which relaxes the whole body and gives you space to absorb the benefits of the practice. Lie faceup, bringing your legs to the outer edges of your mat, like a starfish. Splay your feet out to the sides. Place arms along sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and just relax.
8. Plank Pose
Considered one of the best moves for core strength, the plank pose strengthens your abdominals and promotes stability. Start your stretch in Downward-Facing Dog, shifting forward so your shoulders are stacked over your wrists. Draw your navel in toward your spine and keep your hips from dropping. Reach your heels back as you lengthen the crown of your head forward. Ground down into your hands, pushing the floor away beneath you, then lengthen through the arms and broaden your chest.
9. Intense Stretch
The pose helps calm the mind and stretches your spine, shoulders, wrists, hips, and hamstrings. Start in mountain pose and step your left foot back and place it flat on the floor at a 45-degree angle. Ground down into both feet and lift through the thighs. Place your hands on your hips and rotate your torso forward. Hinge at the hips and lengthen your spine over the front leg. Lift away from the floor and broaden across the chest.
10. Dolphin Pose
This pose helps build strength in your upper body in preparation for a headstand and forearm stand. It can also help calm your mind and relieve stress. Starting on all fours, come down onto your forearms. Spread your fingers wide and keep your elbows shoulder-width apart. On an inhale, tuck your toes and lift your hips up and back like you’re in Downward-Facing Dog. Allow your head to hang above the floor. Ground down into your forearms and lift your upper body away from the floor. Press your heels down toward the mat for a nice hamstring stretch.
11. Bow Pose
This backbend stretches the whole front of the body, especially the chest and the front of your shoulders. It also gives a nice massage to your abdominal organs. Lie face down, roll your shoulder blades down the back, and send your arms back behind you. Bend your knees so that your feet are near your butt. On an inhale, lift your upper body and legs off the floor, keeping the hips grounded. Reach back to grab outer ankles. Use the leverage to lift your body up and broaden across the chest.
12. Boat Pose
If you’re looking strengthen your abdominals and hip flexor muscles, this pose is definitely a good starting point. Start by sitting with your knees bent, then place your hands underneath the knees. Tip back on the sitz bones and draw the lower back in and up as you hug your abs toward your spine. Lift your shins parallel to the floor, then stretch the arms forward. Finally, straighten your knees if you can.
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Ready to jump on a yoga mat? What’s your favorite pose on the list? Tell us below!