We all lead busy lives, and sometimes that means we skimp on our self-care. We’re also conditioned to think that getting a workout in at home can’t possibly deliver the same, or as many, benefits as a studio class does. Spoiler: That’s not true, especially when it comes to practicing yoga.
In fact, practicing in a class and practicing at home are supposed to be different. Taking a class is about having a group experience, being one part of a whole. A home practice is about listening to what your body needs and doing what you can with the time you have. And believe it or not, even doing one or two poses a day can make a huge difference in how you feel—and has anyone ever said no to an endorphin boost? Probably not.
So whether you’re in a time crunch or are looking for some poses to kick off your at-home yoga practice, here are three go-to postures you can choose from that are simple, easy to execute, and extremely effective.
If you need a physical or mental reset, the forward fold will be your best friend. This posture strengthens your legs while stimulating the hip joints, opening the backs of the legs, and releasing tension through the entire spine and into your neck. If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, the act of folding forward into yourself and making contact between your torso and legs will help soothe your nervous system.
- Start standing and position your feet so they’re hip-width apart (you can measure this distance by dropping your two fists in between the arches of your feet).
- Find a nice tall stance with a slight bend in your knees.
- Feel the entire circumference of each foot on the ground.
- Inhale and reach your arms up above your head.
- Exhale and fold yourself down over your legs.
- Keep a good bend in your knees, relax the neck completely, and let the skull of the head be heavy.
- Arms can hang, you can grab for opposite elbows to make a frame around your face, or you can interlace your fingers and place them behind the nape of the neck.
- Use big exhales to release tension, heat, discomfort in this pose.
- Stay here for 1-2 minutes. For an extra powerful reset, repeat 3x.
This simple series of movements will help you wake up, find your breath, and get new energy coursing through your body. I love this pose because it can be as active or restorative as you choose to make it. Cat-cows are great for warming up the muscles from the inside out, creating space in the hips and spine, stretching the abdomen, and clearing your mind of unwanted thoughts.
- Get onto all fours (hands and knees) on a yoga mat or a rug.
- Knees should be directly underneath your hips, hand directly underneath your shoulders.
- Ground down through the tops of the feet, especially the pinkie toe edge.
- Ground down through the centers of the palm and all 10 finger knuckle joints.
- As you inhale, drop your belly, tilt your pelvis forward, and gaze up.
- As you exhale, round your spine like a cat and draw your gaze in toward your belly button.
- Move faster if you want to create a little heat in the body.
- Move slower to really feel the articulation in the spine as you move in and out.
Legs Up the Wall
If you spend all day on your feet or just want to be extra kind to yourself before bed, this legs up the wall is for you. This restorative posture helps everything in the body slow down and go into healing mode. It relaxes the muscles of the pelvic floor and gently opens the hamstrings while increasing circulation in the legs and feet. This posture will instantly put your whole body and mind at ease.
- Find an open wall in your home with space for you to lie in front of it.
- Lie a blanket or yoga mat down so your back is comfortable.
- Facing the wall, shimmy your hips as close to the wall as you can.
- Start moving your legs up the wall and come to lie on your back.
- Wiggle your hips a little closer to the wall until you feel supported in an L-shape.
- Put a slight bend in the knees to release through the low back.
- Hands can rest off to the side, overhead in opposite elbow grip, or on the body.
- Stay here as long as you please, and let the pose do its magic.
In yoga, sometimes the best solutions come in the most simple practices. Listening to your body, and exploring one of these postures for two to three minutes at home can have a largely positive impact on your day or night. And to me, that’s reason enough to give them a try.
—Kristin Mitchell at mindbodygreen.com