Yoga isn’t only about the poses, but the poses (asanas, as they are known in Sanskrit), practiced with care, along with yogic breathing, can be beneficial for unifying mind, body and spirit.
According to Yoga International, “In the contemporary world where many of us are perpetually on the go, practice can slow us down and help us bridge disconnections between the body, mind, and breath. It can also be practiced to increase strength and flexibility, improve balance and core strength, and bring a sense of mindfulness into our everyday lives.”
Asana yoga is just one of the eight limbs of Yoga which are the following:
- YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows.
- NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances.
- ASANA – Posture.
- PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques.
- PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal.
- DHARANA – Focused concentration.
- DHYANA – Meditative absorption.
- SAMADHI – Bliss or enlightenment.
My yoga practice includes learning and practicing these eight limbs, but of course the most visual limb is asana. Here are three asanas I love and that, at 55, help me boost my energy as needed. I would definitely not practice these in the evening or right before bed. Also, always make sure you have warmed up before getting into the full expression of any yoga pose.
Wheel pose / Urdhva Dhanurasana
Please make sure you are warmed up to do try this pose, and keep in mind that you can modify it to meet your ability and needs. If you want the benefits of a backbend but aren’t ready for Wheel Pose, simply lift your hips off of the floor, slide a yoga block under your sacrum, to get into resting bridge, which is just as beneficial.
To get into Wheel, lie down and bend your knees, placing your feet on the floor as close to your glutes as possible. Bend your elbows and set your hands on the floor on both sides of your head. Fingers point to your shoulders and feet and knees should be parallel, not splayed out.
Press upward as if some invisible force were lifting your hips, and finally lift the crown of your head and open your chest and keep pushing up gently but firmly.
Most of the flexibility here comes from having an open chest, so once again, if you aren’t ready for this just yet, don’t force it.
Take a few breaths and slowly come down one vertebra at a time, exhaling as you do so. Once you are all the way down, make sure to neutralize your spine by gently twisting your bent legs to one side and then to the other. Never bring your legs into your chest right after a deep backbend.
Goddess pose / Utkata Konasana
This pose is also known as Fiery Angle Pose. The most common way to practice it is with your torso upright, legs bent as in plie in second position. This pose can be a bit tough on those of us who don’t have very open hips, but it’s great to boost your energy as you engage your core, your glutes and your arms. Arms will usually be open in “cactus position,” bent at the elbows in a right angle.
In every yoga pose there should be a balance between strength and softness, where you can breathe deeply and feel how you are getting stronger.
I like to do this variation of Goddess, where I’m pushing my knees open while pressing down on the floor with my fingers. I didn’t realize that my fingers could also get so strong!
My back is hollow, and I’m engaging my core and shoulders. Once again, breathing in and out deeply and focusing on your breath is crucial.
Firefly pose / Tittibhasana
Any arm balance, really, will give you a boost of energy. I was so excited when I first got into Firefly, I couldn’t stop doing it over and over. It may seem like you need a lot of arm strength to get into this pose, but you’re also using your core here.
You can start out in a position similar to the Goddess Pose variation above, and then place your hands on the floor, bending your arms as if you were getting into chaturanga. Snuggle your arms under your body, closely enough that you feel like they are creating a shelf for you to rest on.
I usually start by wrapping my legs around my arms and holding them up in front of me, and once I’ve managed to balance, I engage my core and spread my legs out and keep my back upright.
I’ve fallen on my butt more than once, but when I manage to stay up for a bit, it’s a thrilling feeling! As usual, breathe in and out deeply, and focus on the breath.