So, today I thought I would share with you my current 10 favourite yoga poses and tell you a little bit about them and why I am enjoying them so much. I love yoga and tuning into my body, feeling through my yoga practice and seeing where my practice takes me. I have noticed that sometimes I seem to gravitate to the same poses for different periods of time. This could be due to what else is going on in my life. Perhaps my weight training, work life, sleep problems or lack of movement. That last one I think has been an issue for a lot of us in the past year. By tuning into my mind and body on my mat, I allow my trust in my body to tell me what it needs. I then can move, breath and go with the flow, excuse the pun Some times I will have an idea of what I may want to include in my practice, for example if I am working on something, such as back bends. Where I may give myself the space and time to rest in specific poses to support this practice. Now to have a look at my current 10 favourite poses (disclaimer – accurate at time of writing, this can change and be quite fluid just like my yoga practice ). So here we go… in no particular order…
1 - Downward dog
Firstly, downward dog. This pose can help me to warm up, rest, sweat and breath. This is the one we see in all the movies. Often as part of a vinyasa flow. Downward dog opens up the backs of the legs, the shoulders, tones the belly and can look different depending on the day I am practicing. Some days my legs are straighter, others I need to peddle through my feet a bit more and I just allow my heels to settle where feels right. I like to rest in my downward dog and take full and deep breaths. This is relaxing and energising. I also love this pose because I can flow into it in so many ways.
2 - Three-legged dog
Like downward dog, but with one leg in the air… this helps to extend the stretch through the hips and lower back, strengthening the upper body, core, back and legs. It helps create space for sweeping the knee through and placing the foot between the hands or bringing the knee to the nose for a bit of core strengthening. I feel three-legged dog also helps to open me up and gives me space to breathe and flow with my breath, whether holding the leg up before placing it back down or flowing through to a lunge. Really lovely way to warm up the body.
3 - Cat pose
Cat pose opens up the shoulders, flexes through the spine and can be great for relieving stress as it moves through these areas (Shoulders and neck) where we can often hold our stress. Also due to people now spending so much time on phones and laptops, posture can become hunched and this can impact on head aches and discomfort. Pushing though the hands in cat to really stretch this area can be just what I need to help me relax. Cat pose goes nicely with cow pose, in the lovely spinal flow of cat cow, using the breath to move this area gently will loosen up the back and get your blood flowing.
4 - Pigeon variation
This is a variation of pigeon. Pigeon can be held in different ways. I like this one because it includes a nice quad stretch. I am doing a lot of weight training at the moment, which yoga is great for. So, to practice this stretch helps relieve the hard work I have put into my legs. This pose can be assisted using blocks to helps square off the hips and depending on how I am feeling I can move my shin to be more parallel to the top of the mat. Remember to ease into this one, your hips are more open at different points in the day or on different days, so be kind and gentle with yourself.
5 - Wide legged forward fold
This is a great hip opener, in yogic tradition it is believed we store emotions in the hips, so this can be a lovely way to release it. Your legs may be further forward than mine are in this picture, you could be higher up, using the hands on the floor to gently stretch into your forward fold, or you may bring your nose to the floor. I often flow into this after stretching to my right and then my left, this helps to stretch through more of the lower back, hips and the thighs. I like to warm up into my wide legged forward fold and then rest here for a while to release tension in my body and my mind.
6 - Standing wide legged forward fold
Standing wide legged forward fold is like wide legged forward fold…. Just standing! This is a nice one to do during my yoga practice but also while I am in the gym, between sets to help release the tension that builds in my body while lifting weights. I also like to do this one before bed, stretching through the legs and the back before getting into bed can help reduce the risk of cramps or restless legs, increasing circulation and helping aid a restful night’s sleep. I sometimes put my hands on my hips, or bring my hands in a mudra at my heart and bend down on my exhale, bringing the crown of my head to the floor and then inhaling, bringing the crown of my head back to the sky. Some nice gentle movement helps to energise me and connect the breath with movement and the mind with the body.
7 - Forward fold with bind
Forward folds are great for balancing the nervous system, this helps get me from that fight/flight mode and move me into rest and digest state. One thing I often say about yoga is that the more you train on your mat and give yourself space to practice the more you can use it off of your mat. Yoga is so much more than the asana practice (Poses) but I feel the asana practice has been key for me to practice the holistic practice of yoga in my daily life. Taking the bind in this picture I enjoy the feel of releasing my shoulders and opening my chest. After breathing into this pose for a few breaths I feel my mind and body release and can feel the physical benefits to my body and my mind.
8 - Lizard
A great hip opener, where you can take different variations. Dropping the knee to work more on flexibility, this pose also helps to build strength by lifting the back knee (like in this picture). I warm up into this one, listening to my body and going to my body’s appropriate edge. Work into this one gently and respect your joints, some days we go further than others and that is ok.
9 - Gate variation
Gate pose is a strength building and full body stretching pose. It helps to build strength throughout the core and increases balance. I feel really uplifted when I hold this pose, opening up my body, holding my body, engaging my muscles and looking up to the sky makes me feel strong, physically and mentally. You can start with your foot on the floor and raise the leg as you feel settled into the pose.
10 - Marichyasana with a twist
You can take many variations of Marichyasana, forward folding or taking a bind. This variation helps to stretch the glutes, gently twist the spine, and massage the internal organs with the twist. Taking nice deep breaths with a twist will help to energise and improve digestion. Keep the extending leg switched on by flexing the foot will help to keep a nice stretch in the legs to further increase the benefits of this pose throughout the body.
I hope you enjoyed looking at these poses and reading to my thoughts on them. If you’d like to give them a try and see if any of my thoughts resonate with you or if you feel any different or additional benefits from them, please do. Yoga is such a personal practice; our bodies are all different and every-body is different and will hold each pose slightly differently. Consider your alignment and holding the pose safely but try not to compare your body to how it looks against someone else who has a different body to you. Our body has its own shape, we hold fat and muscle differently, we are different heights, our joints open differently (Some more flexible or tighter than others), so the pictures I have shared here are just to help you with your alignment and to get an idea of the pose and how I see it. I hope you enjoy trying them or if you have your own yoga practice, I hope you enjoy my perspective of them. Yoga is for each and every one of us. We can all practice yoga and use it to benefit our lives, in mind and body.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Enjoy your practice and take care of you, namaste x x