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Yoga Standing Poses To Improve Your Practice

Kyran Doyle

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Yoga-Standing-Poses-Wise-life-lessons

Standing yoga poses are a great way to improve your balance, posture and mobility. Doing these poses regularly will allow you to build strength and lay a foundation for a safe yoga practice.

Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility and strength in your body, it also helps to strengthen the mind. Yoga improves your balance, posture, endurance, co-ordination, concentration, circulation, breathing and energy. In this article we will go over some standing yoga poses to use in your practice.

 

Contents

Beginner’s Level Standing Yoga Poses

If you’re new to yoga these beginner level standing yoga poses will give you a strong foundation to build upon in your practice.

 

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

yoga standing mountain pose

The mountain pose is the foundation of all standing poses. It might not look like much but the mountain pose is an important starting position, resting pose and tool to improve posture which leads to many other standing poses in yoga. The mountain pose also helps to provide a sense of groundedness, stability and confidence in your practice.

Performing your Mountain Pose:

  • Start with your feet together or hip width apart and balance your weight evenly across the balls and the heels of your feet, (make sure you do not lean forward or backwards).
  • Keep your arms out to the side.
  • Breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth.
  • Let go of any negative thoughts and just focus on the present moment.
  • Next up, pull your knee caps up, tuck your tailbone under and squeeze the thighs (keep your legs straight but not locking the knees).
  • Make sure your hips are aligned and over your ankles.
  • Lift and spread your toes.
  • Slightly tuck your chin towards your sternum but keeping your neck in a natural position as it is an extension of the spine.
  • The crown of the head should be pressing up towards the ceiling.
  • Keep your shoulders back and down in a relaxed position, with your chest lifted and reaching your fingertips towards the ground.
  • Now you can either stay at this level or if your body feels ok and you want a little bit more then you can bring your hands to your heart in the prayer position and keep your gaze forward.
  • Or if your want even more you can, inhale taking your arms up into a H position, keeping your palms facing inwards.
  • Reach up with your fingers, keep the crown of your head up and take upto 8 breathes here.
  • To finish the pose, if you are not already at the prayer position, then as you exhale come into the prayer then release.

 

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

yoga standing forward bend pose

Standing forward bend is a smooth transition from mountain pose and you will find a deep stretch in the entire back body.

Beginner’s Level

Performing your Standing Forward Bend:

  • Start with your feet together and a slight bend in the knees.
  • Inhale deeply and as your exhale fold your upper body over your legs from your hips (not from your lower back).
  • Bring your hands to the mat, either to the sides of your feet or in front of you, (keep a slight bend to the elbows or even use a block).
  • Hang the crown of your head down.
  • Ground the heels of your feet to the mat and lift your sit bones up to the ceiling, rotate your thighs slightly inward (do not lock your knees).
  • Engage and draw up your inner thighs towards the ceiling, keep your hips inlined over the ankles and the weight in the balls of your feet.
  • On each inhalation, gently lift your torso and lengthen, then as you exhale reach a little deeper into the pose.
  • Keep the pose going for up to 10 breathes, the to release bring your hands to your hips, keeping your back flat and pulling down through the sit bones, gently rise up in to Mountain Pose.

 

Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I)

yoga standing warrior 1 pose

There are three variations of the warrior pose. The Warrior I pose stretches the shoulders, chest, lungs, abdomen and groin. It strengthens the back muscles, shoulders and arms. It stretches and strengthens the ankles, calves and thighs.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing Warrior I Pose:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Step your right foot to the back of the mat, placing it on a 45 degree angle and grounding the heel down (aligning your right heel with your left heel).
  • Bend your left knee on to a 90 degree angle, keeping both hips facing forward.
  • As you inhale, reach both arms up above your head with the palms facing inwards (keeping your shoulders back and down).
  • As you exhale, turn your torso to the right and try to align your pelvis with the front of the mat.
  • Press your left foot into the ground and arch your upper back slightly.
  • As you exhale, bend your right knee over your right ankle, so the shin is facing the floor.
  • Keep your ribcage lifted and reach out through your arms, keep your gaze forward.
  • If you want a little more out of the pose you can, bring the palms together above the head and reach further and tilt your gaze towards your thumbs.
  • Stay in this position for up to 10 breathes.
  • To release the pose inhale deeply, press the back heel into the ground, straightening your back whilst reaching through your arms.
  • Turn the feet forward and either keep reaching your arms up or release them when you exhale. (Take a few breaths here before alternating to the other side).
  • Finally return to Mountain Pose.

 

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

yoga standing pose warrior 2

Warrior II stretches and strengthens the body in the one movement, allowing you to feel like a strong warrior. This pose will build strength your ankles, legs, glutes, core, back and shoulders.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Warrior II Pose:

  • Begin in Mountain pose.
  • Step your right foot to the back of the mat, placing it on a 45 degree angle and grounding the heel down (aligning your right heel with your left heel).
  • Keep your legs straight and firm, whilst pressing the four corners of your feet into the ground.
  • As you inhale keep your arms parallel to the floor and make sure your shoulders are back and down.
  • As you exhale bend your left knee (keep it over the ankle) and the left thigh should be parallel with the floor, (feet should be aligned heel to heel).
  • Press the big left toe into the ground to stay balanced and push the right thigh back.
  • Engage your abdomen, tuck your tailbone under and your shoulders should be aligned with the hips.
  • Lengthen through the neck and reach into the finger tips, bring your gaze to over the left hand (should be at the front).
  • Hold the pose for 8 breaths here.
  • To release the pose press into your feet and as you exhale straighten your legs.(Take a few breaths here before alternating to the other side).
  • Finally return to Mountain Pose.

 

Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)

yoga standing pose reverse warrior

Reverse Warrior is a variation of the warrior II pose that provide a great stretch in the side body.

Intermediate Level.

NEEDS MOVING TO INTERMEDIATE

Performing the Reverse Warrior Pose:

  • Begin in the Warrior II Pose.
  • Tuck your tail bone under and engage your abdomen.
  • Your back hand should be placed on the thigh of your back leg.
  • As you inhale, the front arm now reaches straight up past the head and if you can, turn your gaze to up towards the raised arm.
  • The front knee should be kept bent and press into the feet keeping the legs strong.
  • The shoulders should be relaxed and sink your hips down.
  • Hold this pose for up to six breathes.
  • To release this pose, as you inhale bring your arms parallel to the floor and come back onto Warrior II.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

yoga chair pose

The Chair Pose mainly strengthens your arms and thighs but it is also toning your buttocks, hips, abdomen, back and shoulders.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Chair Pose:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • On inhalation reach your arms up so they are perpendicular with the floor, bring your hands either to face each other or if you can you could bring them together.
  • As you exhale, bend your knees and press your buttocks out as if you were about to sit on a chair (keep the tailbone tucked towards the floor and keeping the back straight and long.
  • Press and engage the legs towards each other and spread the weight evenly.
  • Bring the torso on an right angle to hug in towards the tops of the thighs.
  • Pull your shoulder blades back towards each other.
  • Hold the pose for up to 8 breaths.
  • To release the pose, on exhalation firmly press into the feet and straighten your legs, bring your arms down to your sides and end in Mountain Pose.

 

Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

Upward Salute

The Upward Salute strengthens the arms and shoulders, aswell as lengthens the side waist.

Beginner’ Level.

Performing the Upward Salute:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Inhale and raise your arms out and above your head, bringing the fingertips together reaching up. (Keep the crown of your head upright).
  • Shoulders should be back and down.
  • Press the feet firmly into the floor.
  • Bring the thumbs towards the back of your crown and gaze up slightly.
  • You can stay here or if it feels comfortable on exhalation you can,  press the left hip out to the side and arch into the right side.
  • Engage your legs and buttocks.
  • Stay in the pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release the pose on inhalation press into the feet into the ground and and reach the arms back up towards the sky, then dropping them back down in prayer position and finally into Mountain Pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)

Extended side angle

The Extended Side Angle Pose strengthens the legs whilst opening the side of the body and stimulates the abdominal organs.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Extended Side Angle:

  • Begin in Warrior I or Warrior II Pose.
  • Bend the front knee and bend the same elbow and place it down to the knee.
  • Inhale the opposite arm up towards the sky, reaching through the finger tips.
  • On exhalation, bring the arm to the ear making a straight line through the side of the body.
  • Press the hips down to the floor, keeping the front knee bent over the ankle. (If you want to go a bit further bring the hand from your knee down to the floor next to the outside of your foot and press the knee into the side of your arm).
  • The tail bone should be tucked under.
  • Hold the pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release the pose, push the feet into the floor and inhaling reaching up through the arm and back into an upright position.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Then finally come back into Mountain Pose.

 

High Lunge (Utthita Ashwa Sanchalansana)

High Lunge

The High Lunge stretches the groin and legs whilst strengthening the lower body. It also opens the chest and hips and lengthens the spine.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the High Lunge Pose:

  • Begin in Downward Facing Dog.
  • As you inhale lift the right leg up behind you and as you exhale bring it through to the front placing the foot flat to the ground between your hands, (the knee should be aligned above the ankle).
  • The left leg should be strong.
  • Engage the abdominal muscles up and in, lifting your torso upright and arms should come up at the same time bringing them out to the side and above your head, palms should be facing towards each other.
  • Shoulders should be back and down and open the chest.
  • Keep the tail bone tucked under and reach through your back heel.
  • Bring your gaze up to your fingertips.
  • Hold the pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release the pose, exhale and bring your hands back down to the floor.
  • On the next exhalation, bring your right foot back into Downward Facing Dog Pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

Pyramid (Parsvottanasana)

Pyramid

The Pyramid Pose invigorates the brain, heart and thyroid. It strengthens the hamstrings and the lower back.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Pyramid Pose:

  • Begin from High Lunge Pose.
  • Keep the left foot forward and step the right foot back (heels down and facing forward) enough to straighten both legs.
  • Interlace your fingers behind your back and gently round the spine bringing your forehead towards the left knee. (You may be able to lift your arms away from your back to deepen the stretch).
  • Keep the legs strong and firmly press your feet into the ground.
  • Hold this pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release the pose unlock your fingers and as you inhale, lift your torso, step the right foot back and bend the left knee into the High Lunge Pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

Goddess Squat (Utkata Konasana)

Goddess Squat

The Goddess Squat stimulates the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It opens the chest and hips whilst toning and strengthening the lower body.

Beginner’s level.

Performing the Goddess Squat:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Bring your feet so they are about 3 feet apart on a 45 degree angle.
  • Bring your arms to shoulder height and bend your elbows up onto a 90 degree angle with your palms facing each other.
  • On exhalation bend your knees in to a squatting position, (make sure your knees are above the ankles and pressing back).
  • The hips should be forward.
  • Drop the shoulders back and down whilst drawing your shoulder blades back.
  • Keep the chest lifted.
  • Feel strong in your arms with your fingers spread but imagine you are holding a block .
  • Keep the gaze forward.
  • Hold the pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release the pose as you inhale straighten the legs and extend your arms up to the sky and then back down to your sides ending in Mountain Pose.

 

Standing Back Bend (Anuvittasana)

 The Standing Pose

The Standing Back Bend opens the front of the body whilst strengthening the respiratory and cardiovascular system.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Standing Back Bend:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Bring the palms of your hands to your lower back (fingertips facing down and elbows tucked in).
  • Press the feet firmly into the ground and pull up the knee caps up.
  • Engage your thighs and buttocks.
  • Pushing your hips forward and start to arch the torso back, either keep the head looking forward or gently drop it backwards if it feels safe to do so.
  • Your arms should be supporting the weight.
  • Hold the pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release the pose keep the arms and legs strong and as you inhale slowly bring your torso back up (letting your neck and head be the last to come up). Finally come back into Mountain Pose.

 

Wide Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)

wide legged forward bend

The Wide Legged Forward Bend stretches and strengthens the ankles, inner and outer legs. It stretches the spine and it can help relieve headaches and fatigue as it stimulates the circulation to the brain.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Wide Legged Forward Bend Pose:

  • Begin from Mountain Pose.
  • Step your legs wide apart (as wide as feels comfortable), make sure your feet are parallel to each other.
  • Press into the outer edges of the feet and ground down the big toes.
  • Engage your thighs and bring your hands to your hips.
  • As you inhale lengthen through the upper body and as you exhale, from the hips your are folding forward (keeping the hips over the heels).
  • The back should be straight and the chest open.
  • Press your hands in to floor directly under the shoulders (keeping the arms straight).
  • Bring your gaze to the front.
  • If you want to go a little further then you can bend your elbows above the hands (the elbows should be angled back) and bend from the hips further. The neck should be long and the head down, maybe even resting the crown on the floor.
  • Stay in the pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release from the pose, inhale and walk the hands forward (under the shoulders again)keep the legs straight and pressing into the ground. As you exhale bring the hand to the hips, keeping the back straight. The next inhalation press in to the feet and gently bring your back up right.
  • Finally come back into Mountain Pose.

 

Tiptoe Pose (Prapadasana)

tiptoe yoga

The Tiptoe Pose strengthens the core stability, improves balance and keeps the reproductive system healthy.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Tiptoe Pose:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Bend you knees and lift your heels off the floor as you lower your hips towards the heels.
  • Place your fingertips to the floor.
  • Bring the knees towards each other and down.
  • Keep your gaze focused on the same spot to help you balance .
  • As you inhale bring your hand to your heart in prayer position.
  • The chest should be pressed forwards and the shoulders back and down.
  • You can stay here or if you want a little bit more on inhalation you can gently twist to one side (remember to alternate side once your have finished the first side) or you can raise your arms above the head.
  • Hold the position for upto eight breaths.
  • To release the pose slowly lower the hands to the floor and bring your feet back into Downward facing Dog pose.

 

Shiva Twist (Parivrtta Natarajasana)

shiva twist

The Shiva Twist stretches and strengthens the chest, shoulders, core muscles, groin, thighs, knees and ankles. It improves your mood and concentration.

Beginner’ s Level.

Performing the Shiva Twist Pose:

  • Begin in Mountains Pose.
  • Place your hands on your hips and slightly bend your right knee, (bring all the weight to the left leg).
  • As you inhale lift your right knee up as high as feels right.
  • Focus your eyes on one spot to help with balancing.
  • Bring your arms up with your elbows bent and palms should be facing towards the front.
  • Engage your legs and on exhalation twist your torso to the right and focus your gaze on a new spot.
  • Keep the left leg strong and bring your left elbow to your right knee.
  • Hold this pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release from the pose slowly exhale rotate your torso back to the front, bringing your arms down and hands to the hips. Dropping the Right leg back to the ground and coming into Mountain Pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

NEEDS PICTURE

 

Tree (Vrikshasana)

yoga standing tree pose

The Tree Pose strengthens the ankles, knees and thigh muscles. It helps to improve posture and balance.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Tree Pose:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Keeping the spine long, reach for your left ankle and place the sole of the foot either above the inner right ankle, above the inner knee or nice and high up the thigh.
  • Tuck the tailbone towards the floor, standing nice and tall, find a focus point to help maintain your balance.
  • Press the sole of the left foot into your right leg engaging where they have contact.
  • Make sure both hips are aligned and facing forwards, keeping the left knee pushing out to the left.
  • If it feels comfortable you can raise your hands above your head keeping the palms pushed together, the shoulders should be back and down.
  • Engage the abdominal muscles and lift the chest.
  • Hold the pose for up to eight breaths, on each breath grounding the right foot into the ground and reaching up through the fingers.
  • To release the pose as you exhale, release the left leg back down and come into mountain pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

yoga standing half moon pose

The Half  Moon Pose stretches the thighs and ankles whilst improving balance.

Beginners Level.

Performing the Half Moon Pose:

  • Begin in Warrior II Pose, with the right foot at the front of the mat.
  • Keeping the right arm parallel to floor, bring your left hand to the hip.
  • Bring you weight into your right leg.
  • As you exhale reach out with your right arm and the torso will follow as the left foot begins to feel light.
  • Keeping  a bend in the front knee, bring your right hand to the floor on the outer side of the right foot (right hand should be directly under the shoulder).
  • Engaging the abdominal muscles and find a focal point on the ground to maintain your balance.
  • As you inhale straighten the right leg and simultaneously raise the left leg parallel to the floor.
  • Pressing into the ground through your right foot (knee cap should be facing forward and not locked) and push out through the left heel.
  • Roll the right buttock under by externally rotating the top of the right thigh, keeping the legs engaged.
  • Feel the length through both sides of the waist.
  • As you inhale lift the left arm and reach out through the fingertips.
  • Keep the left hip slightly forward.
  • Keep your gaze focused on the floor or if it feels comfortable you can turn it to look up towards the raised left hand.
  • Hold this pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release from this pose, on exhalation bring your gaze back to the floor (if its not already), lower the left leg back down to the floor and return to Warrior II.
  • Repeat the pose on the opposite side.

Standing Spinal Twist Pose (Katichakrasana)

yoga standing spinal twist pose

The Standing Spinal Twist Pose helps to lose weight and burns waist fat. It strengthens the spine and relieves constipation.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Standing Spinal Twist:

  • Begin with your feet together and standing straight.
  • As you inhale reach your arms out in front out you with your palms at shoulder width and facing each other (arms should be parallel with the floor).
  • As you exhale, slowly twist your torso to the right from the waist and look over your right shoulder.
  • Keeping your feet pressing firmly into the ground (make sure they are staying forward).
  • Keep your arms strong and apart (imagine you have a block between them).
  • As you inhale, gently bring your arms and torso back to the centre.
  • As you exhale, take the twist gently to the left side.
  • Repeat this up to eight times on each side.
  • To release from the pose, inhale come back to the centre and as you exhale, release your arms back down to your sides and come into Mountain Pose.

 

Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)

yoga standing half forward bend

The Standing Half Forward Bend improves and strengthens the posture and ankles. It also improves the digestive system.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Standing Half Forward Bend:

  • Begin in Mountains Pose.
  • As you exhale, bring the hands to the hips and hinge forward  to half way, keeping your back flat, the crown of your head should be towards the front.
  • As you inhale, draw your abdominal muscles in and ground down through your feet, keeping the legs strong.
  • Reach your finger tips forward, and draw your shoulders blades away from your ears.
  • If it feels comfortable lift your head slightly to look forward but keeping the neck long. You can even reach your arms forward to the front of the room.
  • Opening the chest and hold this pose for up to eight breaths.
  • To release from the pose, as you inhale slowly come back up into Mountains Pose, restacking one vertebrae at a time and the head should come up last.

Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

yoga standing downward dog pose

The Downward Facing Dog Pose deeply strengthens and stretches the whole body. It can relieve headaches and depression. It improves the memory and stimulates the digestive system.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Downward Facing Dog Pose:

  • Begin on the floor on your hands and knees, hands should be slightly forward of the shoulders and knees should be aligned directly under the hips.
  • Spread your fingers wide and the middle fingers should be pointing towards the front.
  • Rotate your forearms in and the upper arms and shoulders rotate outwards.
  • As you exhale engage your stomach muscles, pressing the hands firmly into the ground and tuck your toes under and lift your knees away from the floor (the feet should be hip width apart, heels lifted and a bend in the knees).
  • On exhalation, lengthen the Tailbone, lifting your hips back and away from you, pressing the body back into an upside down v.
  • If you can, straighten your legs (keeping the back straight), pushing the thighs and knees back, stretching your heels back down towards the floor.
  • Lift the Sitting bones towards the ceiling. Draw your inner legs up from the ankles.
  • Pushing your hands into the ground, the upper arms should be pressing towards each other. Keeping the shoulder blades down the spine and the head is an extension of the body (do not let it hang).
  • Hold this pose for 1-2 minutes.
  • To release from the pose, on exhalation bend your knees and come down to the floor into Childs Pose.

 

Plank (Kumbhakasana)

yoga standing plank pose

The Plank Pose strengthens the arms and spine while toning the abdominal muscles. Its improves stability.

Beginners Level.

Performing the Plank Pose:

  • Begin on your hands and knees with your hands directly underneath your shoulders (spreading your fingers). The Torso should be parallel to the floor.
  • Pressing down into the ground through your forearms and hands, keeping the outer arms inwards.
  • Gaze down to lengthen the neck, draw the shoulder blades back and keep the chest lifted, engage the abdominal muscles.
  • Tuck your toes under, and bring your feet back to bring the body into a straight line. (make sure your hips are lifted and the Tailbone down, lengthening down towards the heels).
  •  Hold the pose for up to 1 minute.
  • To release from the pose, slowly bring your knees back to the ground and come into Child Pose.

 

Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)

yoga standing dolphin pose

The Dolphin Pose builds upper body strength and strengthens the core. It opens the shoulders, upper back and lengthens the spine whilst stretching the hamstrings. It also stimulates the nervous system.

Beginners Level.

Performing the Dolphin Pose:

  • Begin on the floor on your hands and knees with your knees directly under your hips and your forearms flat on the floor directly under your shoulders. (spread your fingers widely and point the middle finger to the front of the room).
  • Tuck your toes under (keep the feet hip width apart and pointing forwards with heels lifted) and as you exhale lift the knees away from the floor (keeping a slight bend) lengthen your Tailbone bringing your sitting bones up towards the ceiling.
  • Reaching through the Tailbone, keeping the spine straight, stretching through the inner legs from the ankles up.
  • Grounding down through the forearms and drawing the shoulder blades down. Keep the head lifted straight in a line with your neck and spine or if you can you can rest your forehead gently on the ground.
  • If it feels comfortable to do so then your can straighten your knees but keeping the spine straight.
  • Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.
  • To release from the pose, as you exhale slowly lower the knees to the floor and come into Child Pose.

 

Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

standing extended triangle pose

The Extended Triangle Pose stimulates the abdominal muscles and stretches the chest, shoulders, spine and legs whilst opening the hips. It is good for stress and the digestive system.

Beginner’s Level.

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Step your feet so they are about 3-4 feet width apart. Turn the right foot onto a 90 degree and the left foot slightly in to the right, align the heels.
  • Engage the thighs and turn the right thigh outwards, keeping the legs straight and the knee cap in line with the first two toes.
  • Spread the weight evenly across the four corners of the feet.
  • As you inhale engage your stomach muscles up, feel long through the sides of the waist and lift your arms so the are parallel to the floor, then as you exhale reach through the fingertips.
  • On inhalation reach the right side of the body over the right leg, press the hips backwards and as you exhale bring the right hand down to the ground so it is on the outside of the foot (if you can’t reach the ground you can place the hand on a block or the thigh)
  • Reach the left arm straight up towards the ceiling with the palm facing forwards and in line with the shoulder.
  • Rotate the ribcage up towards the ceiling and lengthening evenly through both sides of the waist.
  • Your neck should be in line with the spine and your head facing straight unless it feels comfortable then you can tuck the chin slightly and turn your gaze up towards the left hand.
  • Keep pressing through the feet and reaching through the fingertips, feeling the stretch through the sides of the waist.
  • Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.
  • To release the pose, inhale push the feet into the ground and stretch through the left arm to come into an upright position. Rotate the feet into the opposite direction and repeat the pose on the other side.

Intermediate Level Yoga Poses

Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)

yoga standing Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose

The Extended Hand-To-Big Toe Pose challenges your sense of balance and improves concentration. It is a deep stretch for the hamstrings and also strengthens the ankles.

Intermediate Level.

Performing the Extended Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose:

  • To begin the pose start in Mountain pose.
  • Bring your weight into your right foot, grounding it down and lift your left knee up towards the armpit. Interlace your hands around the shin.
  • Keep the right thigh back, keep the leg strong and straight.
  • Keep the shoulders back and down with the chest lifted.
  • Find a focus point on the ground to bring your gaze to for balance.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles and the spine should be straight and long.
  • Loop grab the big toe of the left foot with the index and middle fingers of the left hand, bring the right hand to meet the right hip.
  • On exhalations stretch the left leg out in front as much as you can and keep the hips forward and square. Drop the left hip slightly to be inline with the right hip.
  • The neck and shoulders should be relaxed.
  • If it feels comfortable you can also open your left leg out to the side for an externally rotated variation and even reach the right arm out to the side (palm facing the front).
  • Hold the pose for up to 1 minute.
  • To release the pose, on inhalation bring the knee back into the chest then as you exhale release the foot back down to the floor.
  • Repeat the pose on the opposite side.

Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

yoga standing eagle pose

The Eagle Pose improves concentration and balance, as well as strengthening and stretching the ankles,calves, thighs, hips, upper back and shoulders.

Intermediate Level.

Performing the Eagle Pose:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Slightly bend your knees and bring your weight into the four corners of the right foot as you bring your left thigh to cross over your right.
  • Wrap the top of your left foot behind your right calve whilst you bring your gaze onto a focus point for balance (if this is too much them just gently rest the toes on the floor).
  • Extend your arms straight out in front of you so they are parallel to the floor, then cross your arms in front of the torso (so your left arm under the right with the backs of the hands facing each other) and bend your elbows.
  • Lift your arms and fingertips towards the ceiling (shoulder should be kept back and down). You may be able to make your palms meet.
  • Engage your stomach muscles and keep the hips and chest aligned.
  • If it is comfortable take your gaze to the tip of your thumbs.
  • Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds.
  • To release the pose unwind your arms and legs and come in Mountain Pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

Garland Pose (Malasana)

yoga standing garland pose

MOVE TO BEGINNERS LEVEL

The Garland Pose is increases circulation and balance. It stretches the torso, hips, thighs, groin and ankles. It also tones the abdominal muscles.

Beginner’s Level.

Performing the Garland Pose:

  • To begin the pose, standing in Mountain Pose at the top of your mat.
  • Step your feet so they are mat width apart.
  • Bend the knees coming into a squat, keeping the feet where they are seperate the thighs out wide.
  • Press the elbows into the inner sides of your thighs with your hands in a prayer position at your hearts centre.
  • As you exhale, bend the torso so it should be slightly forward and lengthened, keeping the spine straight and the shoulders kept down.
  • Bring your weight into the heels of your feet.
  • Hold the pose for up to 1 minute.
  • To release from the pose, bring your fingertips to the ground and as you inhale, gently straighten the legs and stack each vertebrae of the back one by one and the head should be the last part of you to come up. Finally coming back into Mountain Pose.

 

Gate Pose (Parighasana)

yoga standing gate pose

MOVE TO BEGINNERS

The Gate Pose stretches the sides of the torso and spine improving flexibility and core strength. It improves circulation and digestion.

Beginners Level.

Performing the Gate Pose:

  • Begin in a kneeling position with the knees hip width apart.
  • Stretch the right leg out to the side with the foot flat on the floor and the left knee directly under the left hip. (The right foot should be aligned with the left knee).
  • The pelvis should be turned slightly towards the left and the upper torso should be back and left.
  • As you inhale raise your arms out to the sides with the palm facing down, as you exhale bend to the right and reach the arm toward the shin and placing the hand on the shin or the ground.
  • Pressing your pelvis towards the floor, on inhalation bring your left arm up over to the back of the ear. (Turn the upper torso away from the floor but do not push the left hip back).
  • Keep the shoulders back down and the chest open. (If it feels comfortable turn your gaze up to the left).
  • Reach out through the fingers and the crown of your head.
  • Hold the pose for up to 1 minute.
  • To release the pose as you inhale  reach through the left arm bringing your torso back upright and bend the right knee back to the mat to meet the left knee.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

High Lunge Prayer Twist (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana)

High Lunge Prayer Twist

The High Lunge Prayer Twist improves lung capacity as well as improving balance and awareness. It stretches all the leg muscles and the chest and shoulders. It Tones the body and improves digestion.

Intermediate Level.

Performing the High Lunge Prayer Twist Pose:

  • Begin in High Lunge with the right foot forward.
  • Bring your hand into prayer position in front of the chest.
  • On inhalations press your thumbs into the heart and raise the chest.
  • As you exhale engage the abdominal muscles and twist the torso to the right.
  • Press your left elbow into the outside of your right thigh.
  • Turn your gaze up to the right if it feels comfortable. (Find a focus point for balance).
  • Hold the pose for up to 1 minute.
  • To release the pose, untwist the body coming back to the front and bring your hands to the floor. Release from the lunge into a squat.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Dancer (Natarajasana)

yoga standing pose dancer

Dancers pose builds full body strength, improves flexibility and balance. It stretches the front of the body, thighs and ankles. It improves posture.

Intermediate Level.

Performing the Dancers Pose:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • As you inhale, shift your weight evenly onto your right foot and bend your left knee so your heel comes to your left buttock.
  • Draw your right thigh back and pull the knee cap up and pointing forward with your toes.
  • Reach your left hand back and grab hold of the outside of the left foot of ankle.
  • Keep the torso up right, press the tailbone towards the floor and knees together.
  • Reach your right arm up, with the fingertips towards the ceiling and the palm facing towards the left.
  • Bring your gaze to a focus spot to help with your balance.
  • Start to press the left foot away from the body, bringing the thigh parallel to the floor, lifting the leg as high as you can
  • Keep the chest lifted and lean the torso forwards, stretch the right arm forward in front of the torso so it is parallel to the floor.
  • You can either stay here or if you want to go further then you can sweep the right arm behind your back grabbing the inner left foot and raise the thigh.
  • Hold the pose for 30 seconds.
  • To release the pose, gently release the left foot and slowly bringing the foot back down to the ground an come into Mountain Pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Standing Head to Knee (Dandayamana Janushirasana)

yoga standing head to knee pose

The Standing head to knee pose stretches and improves flexibility to the hamstrings. It strengthens the upper arms, hamstrings and the abdominal muscles. It improves digestion and the reproductive organs.

Intermediate Level.

Performing the Standing Head to Knee Pose:

  • Begin in Mountain Pose.
  • Shift your weight evenly in to your left foot.
  • Bend forward from your waist and lift the right knee in towards your chest.
  • Interlace you fingers and bringing them under the arch of the right foot (placing the right foot onto the interlaced hands as a platform).
  • Now straighten the right leg so it becomes parallel with the floor (don’t worry if you can’t fully straighten it just go as far as feels comfortable).
  • You may want to stay here or if you can go further you can lower your elbows towards the calfs and the front of your torso comes closer to the leg bringing the forehead even closer to the leg.
  • Grounding down through the left leg and the weight shifted slightly forwards but not locking the knee. Engage the thigh muscles and making sure the pelvis is level.
  • Hold the pose for for 30 seconds.
  • To release the pose bring the torso back up, break away the hands and gently bring the foot back to the ground coming into Mountains Pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Chair Twist (Parivritta Utkatasana)

yoga standing pose chair twist

The Chair Twist Pose strengthens the back and improves flexibility through the spine. It tones your hips, buttocks and thighs. It improves balance and posture.

Intermediate Level.

Performing the Chair Twist Pose:

  • Begin in Mountains pose.
  • As you inhale, lift your arms up above the head with the palms facing inwards and the shoulders back and down.
  • On exhalation bend your knees so they are as parallel to the floor as can be. The knees will come slightly over your feet.
  • Keeping the chest lifted and the torso angled over the thighs (you should now be in chair pose).
  • Lower your arms and come into prayer position at your chest.
  • As you exhale twist your torso to the right and place your left elbow on the outer edge of the right thigh.
  • Align your hips and press the knees together, also keeping them aligned.
  • Pressing the upper left arm into the top of the right thigh and drawing the right shoulder blade into the back to enable the chest to turn more to the right.
  • You can stay here or if you want more them you can extend your arms so the left fingertips are reaching down on the mat and the right finger tips are reaching up towards the sky.
  • Bring your gaze up to the sky, (if you have your arm extended then gaze up towards the thumb).
  • Stack the top shoulder on top of the bottom one and sink your hips lower, keeping the spine lengthened.
  • Pressing the thumbs into the heart.
  • Grounding the feet firmly with the weight spread evenly, hold this pose for up to 1 minute.
  • To release the pose, as you inhale return to the centre in to Chair Pose, lifting through the arms and straighten the legs. As your exhale release back down in to Mountain Pose.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

 

 

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Samatva Yogalaya - Rishikesh

    March 3, 2018 at 5:29 am

    Great article, Kyran. Nice explanation of all the poses with relevant pics.

    • Kyran Doyle

      Kyran Doyle

      April 10, 2018 at 11:14 pm

      Thanks Samatva, we tried to be as detailed as possible 🙂

  2. Avatar

    vedic yoga rishikesh

    August 30, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Best Article ever 🙂

    thnx for sharing with us.

  3. Avatar

    NEIL

    September 7, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Hey Kyran
    This is a Great & Unique Article | Thanks For Sharing Great Information.

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Wellness

5 Reasons Everyone With Tight Muscles Should Do Yoga

Polly Stevens

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5 Reasons All With Tight Muscles Should Do Yoga

Fitness is important. You can be a runner with tight muscles or hitting the gym. Either way, you have one goal, you want your body to be fit and healthy. It is great to do workouts. There are so many ways to keep your body fit and one of these is Yoga. Yoga includes meditating and proper breathing. If you have tight muscles from your workout routine, you also need yoga for your total wellness. Here are some reasons why people with tight muscles also need yoga.

Yoga has more going for it than just the comfy pants. Here’s why, if you’re a runner, you should be doing yoga:

1. You’ll build flexibility for your tight muscles.

This one’s kind of obvious, but your goal isn’t to look like the bendy model in a Lululemon catalog. Yoga can mitigate excessive tightness that affects your gait or range of motion and increases injury risk, especially if it’s more pronounced on one side of your body.

2. You’ll breathe better.

In yoga, you learn to breathe from your diaphragm, which oxygenates your blood better than shallow breaths. Carry that over to running for an extra boost with every inhalation.

3. You’ll train your brain.

The ability to remain present and avoid dwelling on discomfort can help you avoid panicking or tensing up when a run gets tough.

4. You’ll learn about your body.

Doing every pose on both sides helps you reveal potential injury-causing imbalances in strength or flexibility you might not have noticed while running.

 

5 reasons all with tight muscles should do yoga

 

5. You’ll get strong all over.

Yoga requires upper-body strength that running does not. Additionally, poses that require balance strengthen hip and core muscles that protect the lower body from misalignment and injury.

So now that you know why you should do it, here’s how to make your yoga habit actually happen.

Start slowly.

If you’re a total noob, begin by trying out a few key poses like pigeon, revolved low lunge, and legs up the wall at home. Supplement with a five-minute meditation to build focus and mindfulness—several apps offer guided options.

Sample the offerings. 

You can take an in-person class—if you’re starting out, choose one marked for beginners—or try one of the many routines offered online. If you don’t love a style or instructor, keep searching until you find your match.

Chill out. 

Yoga isn’t a race, so don’t try to compete with your classmates. Focus on what you’re doing, and ignore everyone else—except the instructor, who can ensure you’re doing the poses correctly. When in doubt, opt for a shallower stretch—you don’t want to hurt yourself.

Avoid overdoing it. 

You can do restorative yoga pretty much whenever you want, but avoid power or advanced varieties the day before a hard or long running workout or race.

 

5 reasons all with tight muscles should do yoga

 

Takeaway:

Yoga is indeed an important exercise. If you have tight muscles, you need yoga for flexibility. when you are flexible, your body tend to relax more. Doing exercise does not only stop when you already have tight muscles, but you also need to train yourself on the proper breathing.

It takes practice to master the art of breathing. doing the proper yoga poses will help ease your tight muscles. The tips here are worth keeping especially if you are a runner with tight muscles. Keep moving and be healthy all the time. Having a daily exercise for your tight muscles will make your body fit. You’ll feel healthier than before. Keep practising and keep exercising. Loosen up those tight muscles.

Original article by Meghan Kita. She is a writer, editor, and runner who has finished 17 marathons in 10 states. She once held the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon dressed as a fast food item…

Get more great Yoga posts:

Yoga Poses to Boost Your Confidence With a Strong Core

Unexpected Benefits of Yoga For Athletes 

201 Yoga Quotes to Inspire your Daily Rituals

Strength Training Bible – Your Guide To Getting Stronger

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Yoga Poses to Boost Your Confidence With a Strong Core

Tara Christie

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yoga poses for strong core

Yoga originated in ancient India. It is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines. To practice yoga, you need to know yoga poses. This is a discipline that helps boost your confidence. Learn more about this unique way of exercising your body and mind here.

The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be  – Bruce Lee

From Patanjali’s yoga sutras, we receive the concepts of sthira (effort) and sukha (surrender). Sutra 2.46, sthira sukham asanam, can be translated as “posture (asana) should be steady (sthira) and comfortable (sukha).” Originally transcribed in reference to a formal seated meditation, the theory can be expanded to all contemporary asana. Distilled, the hope is to cultivate a physical practice that is free of aches, pains, and restlessness so that the practitioner can focus on the mind and breath.

There are countless paths and methods that will aid each of us uniquely in dealing with and releasing our aches, pains, and anxieties. As the central part of your body, the physical core is one area of focus that may help many of us become stronger and thus alleviate our aches, pains, and anxieties. Core strength can help boost your confidence (sthira) and ease (sukha) especially working on what you find challenging yoga poses.

What is the physical core?

While there is a general consensus that a strong core is preferable to a weak core, the exact definition of what constitutes the physical core is unclear. In some definitions, the core is comprised of the muscles in the front of the body, which include the rectus abdominis, internal obliques, and external obliques. Other definitions expand to include muscles in the front, back, and sides of the midsection of the body; these muscles include the pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, and latissimus dorsi. In asana practice, cultivating a strong physical core improves posture and balance which assists in boosting a practitioners confidence and ease into whatever pose they may find challenging.

yoga poses for strong core

How would you go about strengthening your core with yoga poses?

Luckily, every asana requires you to work your “core” because every asana invites full body awareness and engagement. However, some asana require more physical core strength to perform. For instance, vasisthasana (side plank pose) is best performed with a strong core to lift the body up and lengthen the spine. Otherwise in side plank pose, weight will be dumped into the supporting should, arm, and wrist, which is painful and can lead to injury. In addition, a strong core is associated with easier breathing and decreased lower back pain.

What are specific asana that are “core strengtheners?”

Core focused asana include navasana (boat pose), chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed staff pose), and bakasana (crane pose). While this article focused on the physical core, it is important to remember that yoga is a practice of the mind and body. And having a strong mental core is also essential for boosting confidence and easing into challenging yoga poses. For instance, it may feel more sensational in the physical core to practice utkatasana (chair pose), but be more mental work to sit still in sukhasana (easy pose).

Fostering a strong core contributes to ease in every single asana. In time, building the strength to find stillness and comfort throughout your practice on and off the mat will revolutionize the way you can practice yoga. Wishing you all the core strength as you work to focus on your mind and breath.

Having a good body posture can boost your confidence. To gain the ideal posture you need to know what yoga poses to apply. It does not only give you a good body, but it also boosts your confidence.

Some other great yoga posts: 

201 Yoga Quotes to Inspire your Daily Rituals

 

7 Yoga poses For Back & Neck Pain

Yoga Standing Poses To Improve Your Practice

Yin Yoga Sequence To Calm You Down

 

Chakra Poses and Affirmations to Reassess Your Life

 

Original article by Ling Beiseker. She is a relational therapist, yoga teacher, and overall wellness advocate

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Wellness

How to Get Over a Bad Mood by Mindful Breathing

Tara Christie

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get over a bad mood - mindful breathing

When you are in a bad mood, all your emotions follow. It is an uneasy feeling. But you can get rid of a bad mood with mindful breathing. Learn more about how our breathing is connected with our emotions.

Yoga is the dance of every cell with the music of every breath that creates inner serenity and harmony.”  – Debashish Mirdha, MD., neurosurgeon & philosopher 

So you’re in a mood.

What do you do?

What are your go-to ways to get over it?

Whatever way you choose to work through your moods, here’s one thing to know:

Moodiness isn’t “good” or “bad.”

It’s neutral.

It provides us with clues about what’s going on underneath the surface of our awareness.

They’re like the tip of the iceberg of our inner world – the world of our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, perceptions, fears, etc.

A particularly bad mood can be like a tape caught on loop and overdrive.

Except the tape is our mind and we tend to loop hard when we’re bothered/ pissed/ annoyed/ disappointed/ overwhelmed/ irritated… you get the idea.

So what do we do?

We start breathing.

We do mindful breathing.

We tune into the breath and use it to help us navigate the waters of mind and emotions.

Yogic sages have known for thousands of years that the breath is the portal through which we can transform stress and anxiety while accessing a state of inner calm and grounded balance.

Our breathing patterns are intimately tied to our emotions.

Influence one, and you also impact the other.

Read on to get to learn more about mindful breathing and how it influences our mood…

They form what’s called the Breath-Emotion Loop:

 

get rid of bad mood-mindful breathing

 

1- Our emotions, thoughts, and moods influence our breathing patterns. 

Next time you’re in a mood pay attention to your breathing pattern. You’ll probably notice it’s short, shallow, erratic and/or quick.

Then notice your breathing next time you feel calm, safe, deep in concentration, or at ease. Notice it’ll probably be slower, longer, even-paced, and/or deeper.

2- Our breathing patterns can influence our mood. 

If you were to start breathing rapidly taking short and shallow breaths you’ll likely start feeling either awake and alert, or anxious and on guard.

And so, if you begin breathing slowly and deeply you will most probably begin to feel less uneasy and more relaxed.

Paying attention to our breathing patterns can tell us a lot about our mood.

Often times we’re not even aware we’re in a mood until something or someone on the outside reflects it back to us and it’s only then that we realize.

We can become more still and present by consciously controlling our inhales and exhales, and that’s how mindful breathing is born. 

And this is also yoga.

You don’t need to use your body or a mat to practice yoga.

You can use only your breath and this is yogic practice (sadhana) too.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a 500-year-old authoritative yogic text states that:

“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life.


Learn about the vagal tone in this post: Vagal Tone: Breathing Into Balance


Achieve how to get over a bad mood through mindful breathing…

Cultivating the habit of daily breath awareness is so effective at stilling the ripples of the mind that even Buddha himself taught this practice to monks.

In particular, the Buddhist Anapanasati Sutta, also known as the “Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing,” details Buddha’s instructions on how to use the breath to cultivate calm focus and mindfulness (aka Anapana breathing):

“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. 

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. 

Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. 

Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body. 

Breathing in, I calm my whole body. 

Breathing out, I calm my whole body” 

Mindfully paying attention to our breath means noticing and observing it without judging it and without having the need to change it in any way.

Just noticing the inhales and exhales.

Becoming so awake, aware, and present that we can actually start to feel the inner waves our breath creates.

Bringing full awareness to the sensation and feeling of the breath coming into the nostrils and coming out of the nostrils.

If a thought comes, (which it will, especially if you’re in a mood!) simply bring your attention back to the breath. 

Each time the mind wanders, just bring it back to the present moment – the moment where you’re breathing just as you are. Right here, right now.

By cultivating this simple daily habit, we can start to shift the way we feel right now, so we can eventually also shift the way we perceive our reality and our experiences. 

This inevitably creates empowering changes in our mood and temperament.

This is how we use our breath and our awareness to get over emotional humps and hurdles more quickly, more efficiently, and more productively.

mindful breathing exercises

Remember:

“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still.”

You can calm your breath by just starting to pay attention to it.

This simple practice can have powerful exponential effects if it becomes a daily habit.

May you find peace and refuge in your breath.

Sat name.

 

Original article by Osmara Aryal, MBA, the founder of CalmWithYoga.com, a site dedicated to using yogic philosophy, mindfulness, and meditation to increase inner calm, mental focus, vital energy, and quality rest. She’s a Certified Functional Nutrition Practitioner and a Certified Yoga Teacher, specializing in Yoga Nidra, Yin Yoga, and Meditation. Her work has been featured multiple times on CNN and the Miami Herald.  When she’s not exploring corners of the world with her husband, or when her eyes aren’t glued to the computer researching, you’ll find her concocting gut-healing dishes in her kitchen, or cuddling with fur-babies Yodha and Molly. 

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Wellness

Vagal Tone: Breathing into Balance

Tara Christie

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high vagal tone

Learn to regulate your vagal tone. Discover the importance of the vagus nerve…

We’ve discovered that breathing more deeply helps us center ourselves, but did you know why? A friend recently emailed me an article by Dr. Shawna Darou, ND in the 11/30/15 issue of UPLIFT magazine, on the mechanics of how it works. Included are exercises that can help us reduce inflammation in the body, as well as jack up a flagging immune system. The secret is to activate the Vagus nerve, which travels all the way from the brain to the digestive system, operating via the parasympathetic nervous system.  So if you or someone you know complains of digestive disturbances, high blood pressure, depression or some inflammatory condition, don’t miss the following information I’ve copied from her article.

What is the vagus nerve?

First of all, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body, which originates in the brain as cranial nerve ten, travels down from the neck and then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs. This nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest and digest’ part (opposite to the sympathetic nervous system which is ‘fight or flight’).

Vagal Tone

The tone of the vagus nerve is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart-rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart-rate speeds up a little when you breathe in, and slows down a little when you breathe out. The bigger the difference between your inhalation heart-rate and your exhalation heart-rate, the higher your vagal tone. Higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress.

What is high vagal tone associated with?

High vagal tone improves the function of many body systems, causing better blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. Higher vagal tone is also associated with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience.

One of the most interesting roles of the vagus nerve is that it essentially reads the gut microbiome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. In this way, the gut microbiome can have an affect on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation.

What is low vagal tone associated with?

Low vagal tone is associated with cardiovascular conditions and strokes, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and much higher rates of inflammatory conditions. Inflammatory conditions include all autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus and more).

Breathing exercises are a great way to tone your vagus nerve.

how to improve vagal tone

How do we increase vagal tone?

In the article above, vagal tone was increased through a device that stimulated the vagus nerve. The good news is that you have access to this on your own, but it does require regular practice. To some degree, you are genetically predisposed to varying levels of vagal tone, but this still doesn’t mean that you can’t change it. Here are some ways to tone the vagus nerve:

  • Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
  • Humming. Since the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or even better repeat the sound ‘OM.’
  • Speaking. Similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
  • Washing your face with cold water. The mechanism here is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.
  • Meditation, especially loving kindness meditation, which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others. A 2010 study by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kik found that increasing positive emotions led to increased social closeness, and an improvement in vagal tone.
  • Balancing the gut microbiome. The presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.

Managing the body’s inflammatory response

The implications of such simple and basic practise on your overall health, and in particular on inflammation are far-reaching. If you suffer from an inflammatory condition, digestive upset, high blood pressure or depression, a closer look at vagal tone is highly recommended. We’ve known for years that breathing exercises and meditation are helpful for our health, but it is so fascinating to learn the mechanism by which they work.

 


This article is syndicated from Finding Time for Yourself which invites busy women and men to connect with deeper longings for self-fulfilment as they navigate the stressful demands of daily life.

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Wellness

Tips for Moms to Stay Fit

Sheila J. Highland

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yoga poses

Stay Fit

Motherhood involves a lot of care: care for babies, care for toddlers, care for scheduling–but it not always self-care. Juggling to-do lists, maintaining work-life balance and caring for tiny humans keeps you on your toes but not always on your fitness game. The tips below can help you stay fit and active. Moms have enough pressure in their lives, so take these tips and make them work for your life, schedule, and family.

1. Find a Tribe.

yoga poses women

Finding a community that supports you and helps you grow can be key to stay fit. Whether you are a new mom or an experienced mom with multiple toddlers, the support of friends is great for your physical and mental health. Plan on getting active outside with friends and the kids, or work with one another to watch each other’s children while you take time to work out. Getting social means getting active!

2. Join a Gym with Childcare Services.

yoga poses women

If finding a tribe seems too daunting or adds stress, try joining a pre-made one: the gym! Many gyms now offer childcare services, which allow you get your workout in while a professional watches your child, often in a cool room with toys. This not only allows you to get your workout in but also provides an opportunity for your child to socialize.

3. Set Goals and Make Moving a Habit.

Setting goals can help guide you on the path to success. Make short-term goals that are accessible and allow you to see results. This will keep you motivated to keep going, and before you know it, you may be exercising without even thinking.

Once you lose the mindset of “having” to workout, and rather work out by staying active in life, your workouts will morph from something on your to-do list to something you are already doing. For example, start walking instead of driving. Make moving a priority, and don’t guilt yourself for missing a workout.

4. Value Your Time.

Time management can be the key to getting a workout in. Be mindful of your schedule, and remember that your time is extremely valuable. Find workouts you can do from your home (many exist on YouTube) that are effective yet only 30 minutes long. Try to stay fit this time in every day, and remember that the work you put in will add up over time.

5. Send the Kids to One Class and Yourself to Another.

yoga poses

Getting the kids out to try new things is great for their social and mental development. Sign your children up for a fun class, like arts and crafts or gymnastics, and use the time they are away having fun to get your own class in!

Related Articles:

6. Create a Space at Home for You, and Only You.

Children can quickly take over the space in a home, so find a room or even a corner that you can dedicate just to yourself. No toys, and no entry without permission. Let that space be your area, where you decompress and find your fitness or wellness routine.

7. Get Outside.

Getting outside is great for everyone, and can be a simple and fun way to get active. Walk the kids to a local park, explore the neighborhood, or head out to a family-friendly attraction like the zoo.

8. Split It into Mini Workouts.

We often think of workouts as occurring all at once, in solid blocks of time. However, small workouts throughout the day can add up to a full workout by evening. While your child is occupied by a toy or television show, stay nearby and slip in a few sun salutations, sit-ups or squats. A few movements scattered throughout the day can add up to big results.

9. Get the Kids Involved.

Exercising does not have to mean getting away from the kids. Love a workout video? Invite the kids to join in! This keeps them occupied while teaching them the value of exercise.  You may be able to find “Mommy and me” classes, where you bring your child into the class with you.

A busy family schedule can often throw self-care out the window. Do your best and practice one or more of the tips above to find what works best for you. Always keep self-care on your radar–your time is valuable and you are worth it.

Source: www.doyouyoga.com

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Wellness

Unexpected Benefits of Yoga For Athletes

Polly Stevens

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yoga poses

Yoga For Athletes

Most people who’ve been practicing yoga for athletes for a while have a yoga origin story. Mine began when I was only eight years old. At the time, I was a competitive swimmer, training several days a week, and competing in regular races.

Our coach was an intense man with the goal of getting his swimmers into the Olympics. As such, we didn’t just swim. We studied the mechanics of our strokes. We lifted weights and cross-trained. We did team cheers before each race for motivation. And yes, he introduced us to yoga and meditation, not to attain enlightenment, but to help us become stronger swimmers, both physically and mentally.

I often tell this story as an example of how people enter the practice of yoga with different goals. For many, it’s a spiritual practice. For others, it’s a tool to achieve exceptional physical conditioning. Yoga for athletes has been found to improve athletic performance in adults. In fact, many professional sports programs now incorporate yoga into their training programs.

If you are an athlete looking to integrate yoga into your regimen with the primary goal of increased physical prowess, you might discover some other, unexpected benefits. Read on to learn how yoga might surprise you.

Improved Breathing

 

yoga poses

Yoga for athletes includes the practice of pranayama, also known as breath regulation. Most yoga classes begin with a focus on breath and will typically include cues throughout to help students deepen their breath. A recent study found that yoga increases what is known as the vital capacity of the lungs, which is the amount of air a person can take into their lungs on their inhale breath.

One simple type of pranayama is known as belly breathing. To try it, close your eyes and draw your attention to your breath. Inhale through your nose and draw your breath down, feeling your belly expand like a balloon. Exhale through your nose and feel your belly contract.

Try practicing this for a few minutes each day, alone or as part of your mat-based asana (yoga postures) routine. When you return to your sport of choice, begin to notice how your breathing has changed.

2. Body Awareness

 

 

yoga poses

I was an avid runner when I first started practicing yoga daily. Only a few weeks into this daily practice, I started to become deeply attuned to the needs of my body. What before had just been a collection of parts became a finely calibrated system.

Yoga helped me to realize that everything is connected. If my gait was off, for example, that wasn’t just an issue for my feet, because my feet are the base of support for my knees and hips, which in turn affect my spine, leading all the way up to my neck and brain. Taking care of one part of my body was good for the entire system.

As I continue to age and my body changes, my yoga practice has helped me to have a firm foundation of body awareness, and a deep, powerful, and positive relationship with my body. Lately, I’ve been doing more strength training and I credit my progress there to first understanding my body through yoga.

Read about 10 Free Amazing Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home

3. Acceptance of Injuries

 

yoga for injuries

A few weeks ago, I overdid it with squats and began to notice some pain in my outer left hip that I attributed to a mild bursitis. Having just hit my groove in my strength training, I was a little frustrated at first. However, yoga has taught me how to ride the waves of life. In the past, I might’ve let that frustration derail my progress. Instead, I accepted this injury as just a part of life.

Yoga teaches me that change is inevitable. That means that injuries, pain, and illness might come, but that also means they’ll leave as well. I accepted my injury, looked at it objectively, continued to train the parts of my body that were feeling well, and soon felt much better. I returned to the exercises that targeted my hip flexor with a more moderate approach.

As an athlete, you probably have experience with injuries since you are training at the upper limits of your body. Incorporating yoga into your routine can help you to keep a positive and flexible mindset when you are in the stages of recovery.

4. Nutritional Balance

 

yoga balanced diet

True story: I used to be really addicted to Diet Coke. I’d started drinking it as a teenager and up until a few years ago, I would drink about three or four sodas each day. Every time I’d read news articles about research showing how bad diet soda is for our bodies, I would decide that I’m done drinking it. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t quit.

Then came yoga. After a decade of trying to quit, with many unsuccessful attempts under my belt, my craving for soda faded away with seemingly no effort on my part. I stopped buying it and drinking it. It was the strangest thing.

I attribute this to my yoga practice which taught me how to develop stronger self-regulation of my behaviors and habits. As an athlete, you probably understand the importance of healthy eating to your athletic success. You might be surprised to find that yoga helps you to eat healthier and to drop any remaining bad health habits.

5. Mental Clarity

yoga for clarity

 

Read about 100 Positive Thinking Exercises

Another aspect of yoga for athletes is the practice of meditation. Remember how pranayama is about breath awareness? Meditation is about thought awareness. It trains people to become more aware of their thoughts and to develop a greater control over the content and flow of their mental energy.

I can remember, as a young swimmer, I performed worse in the races where I allowed doubts to enter my mind. So I trained myself to replace those thoughts with positive affirmations and saw an immediate improvement in my speed and capacity. No matter your sport of choice, learning how to notice your thought processes can be a powerful tool to help improve performance, motivation, and endurance.

A person’s yoga for athletes practice is a bit like a snowflake: each one is unique. While improved physical performance in your sport is a very likely outcome of integrating yoga into your routine, you’ll also experience other mental, physical, or spiritual benefits. Start slowly, listen to your body, and enjoy whatever comes.

Source: www.doyouyoga.com

 

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