I thought today would be a good day to list seven of my favorite yoga poses and flows, in the spirit of Wellness Wednesday. Please bear in mind that I am, by no means, a yoga expert! I do not know all of the sanskrit names, and I do not know all of the muscle groups that are targeted by each pose. I enjoy the muscle stretching and strengthening it offers.
When I first began doing yoga, I anticipated meditation and twisting into a pretzel. However, the yoga instructor really pushed our bodies to make us stronger. I enjoy yoga poses that stretch out tight muscles, but I enjoy poses that make me feel strong equally as much.
I asked a good friend of mine to help film videos to demonstrate each of these poses. She was kind enough to narrate the poses, and she even got on camera a few times! I encourage you to watch our videos on my YouTube channel (Her Rural Highness), as we provide a full demonstration of each pose. I will provide a link in the description of each pose.
1. Sun Salutation
Sun Salutations are a flow through various poses. This set of poses is good for warming up cold muscles and raising heart rate. (Yes, I am using the phrase “raised heart rate” and yoga in the same post!)
There are different variations of sun salutations, but the flow I demonstrate in the video goes through poses like Downward Dog, Plank, Crocodile, Upward Dog, High Lunge, and Chair pose. I am not going to describe each of these poses in this post, because you would be reading for days! I demonstrate all of these poses in my YouTube video.
I enjoy sun salutations partly for the breathing aspect it brings to fitness. When moving into each pose, it requires either an inhale or an exhale. This really helped me with running. One problem I find myself falling into is erratic breathing, and applying yoga breathing focus skills really helps me keep my lungs under control.
2. Warrior Flow
There are a few different Warrior poses, and flowing through them, as well as a few other poses (Extended Side Angle and Triangle pose) provides a great workout for the quad muscle of the front leg. (Again, not going to type all about each of these poses. You can find my YouTube video here.) Going through an entire warrior flow without straightening my front leg feels like such an accomplishment some days!
These poses can be held for as long as desired, really. When holding Warrior II for a long period of time, it is amazing how difficult it is to just hold my arms out straight! (Add weights in each hand for a real challenge!)
Interestingly enough, Warrior II is helpful when shooting archery. As a National Archery in the Schools Program coach, I tell my team members to push their front shoulder down when shooting. It is exactly the same when holding Warrior II pose: shoulders should be rolled down and back!
3. Crow Pose
Arm balances are some of my favorite yoga poses ever! The first time I got up into Crow pose and held it, I felt so strong! I balanced my entire body weight on my hands! And each time I would hold a new arm balance, I would get this overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
To get into Crow pose, start in a standing position and squat down. Next, put your hands on the mat in front of you, press your knees onto the back of your arms, lean forward, and pick your toes up off the floor, one foot at a time. In my video, I could balance for a little while, but then I had to put a toe down to steady myself. There is nothing wrong with that!
In fact, if you would like a little laugh, watch this video to see what happens when crow pose goes awry!
4. Straddle Split
Straddle Split pose is a great stretch for various leg muscles and hips. There are different variations for depth of the stretch. I find that, in this pose, the longer I stay in it, the deeper I can get down into the stretch.
The most important thing to remember about this pose is to hinge forward at the hips. I like to put my hands on my hip joints to make it easier to feel where I should be bending.
Once in the pose, you can walk your feet out wider as it feel comfortable, and go from fingertips on the floor, to forearms, and even reaching back through your legs and putting palms on the mat.
5. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose is a hip-opening stretch. This is another pose that allows my muscles to release the longer I stay in the pose. However, I would not recommend going into this pose cold. I like to do some Sun Salutations, Warrior flows, and Straddle Splits before trying to get into Pigeon pose.
To get into Pigeon pose, begin in Downward Dog. Take a leg, (does not matter which one) pull it up toward your chest, and lay it on the mat right behind your hands. Your shin should be parallel to the top of the mat. Lower your back knee, and point your toe straight backwards. As my friend was filming yesterday, she noticed that my feet naturally fall inward. I have to really concentrate on getting my feet straight, interestingly enough!
As my muscles begin to release, I like to sink deeper into this pose. I begin on fingertips, and when I feel ready, go down to my forearms. If my muscles cooperate, I can lay my arms out flat in front of me, but that is only on a good day, and not always on both sides of my body!
6. Dolphin Pose
Dolphin is a challenging pose to hold. I remember one specific time at yoga when our instructor made us stay in Dolphin pose for what seemed like an eternity! It was the summer before my wedding, and all I remember thinking was “My shoulders and back are going to look amazing in my strapless dress if I can just stay in this pose!”
There are a few different ways to get into Dolphin pose, but the one I find the easiest is to begin on hands and knees, place my elbows on the mat in the place of my hands, and then push up like I am going into Downward Dog. The part I find the most difficult is pushing my shoulders back and trying to keep my back flat!
7. Child’s Pose
Our yoga instructor has a way of making Child’s pose feel like the best thing in the world after a difficult series of poses!
Child’s pose is simple to do. Start on hands and knees, and push your hips back to rest on your ankles (or as close as you can get). I have trouble getting my hips to rest on my ankles, but I just do what I can. Rest your forehead on the floor and stretch your arms out in front of you.
There are a few different variations (fists stacked under forehead, hands reaching around to grab heels). My favorite variation is a simple one. Start in regular child’s pose, but instead of laying palms flat on the floor, go up onto fingertips. In the picture, I look a little like a skeleton trying to type or play the piano. But, it stretches out the shoulders, which feels amazing after poses like Dolphin!
For a little extra fun, my friend and I filmed some acroyoga poses. For us, acroyoga is doing poses together to make really neat looking combined poses. You can find the videos here and here. We began doing acroyoga a few years ago, and even though we haven’t done it much lately, once in a while we still like to give it a try!
So, if you have never tried yoga, I encourage you to try one of these poses along with my video. And, if you already enjoy practicing yoga, please feel free to comment with your own personal favorite poses!
You can also follow me on Instagram (@herruralhighness) and Twitter (@RuralHighness) and use #7favs7days and post a picture of you doing your favorite yoga pose! Or, you can like my page on Facebook and post a picture of you in your favorite pose!
Make sure to come back tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. EST for Thursday’s Seven Favorites, Seven Days post! Thanks for reading!