5 Simple Yoga Poses to Boost Your Energy
The Look: Crystal tank from garbella (the tank isn’t listed anymore, but you can grab the t-shirt [$28.00] or pullover [$36.00]!) // Better Than Everything Legging in Navy ($92.00) from GRACEDBYGRIT // Gemstones Yoga Mat ($68.00) from Free Thirty Three Yoga Design Co.
They (whoever “they” are) say that time is our most precious resource, but I’d like to make a case that it might be energy instead. I mean, we can schedule time. We can map it out and use it wisely. But energy? It’s a lot harder to plan our energy. It can be quite the guessing game to try to figure out when it’s going to show up.
The other day, I had a 16 oz iced coffee and I waited FOREVERRRRR for it to kick in, only for my caffeine to stand me up (what a jerk!). And then we have naps… Naps are great. I love a mid afternoon 30 minute cat nap, but sometimes that takes a lot of self-control to only set that alarm for a half hour. There’s got to be a better way, right?!
I know that when you’re tired, moving seems like the worst idea you’ve ever head, but getting your blood pumping and your lunges breathing will do wonders for how energized you feel. So, next time you’re feeling a little sleepy – whether it’s morning, noon, or night – give a few of these yoga poses a try. AND if you’re ever in Pittsburgh, you can come take my classes at Yoga Innovations in Bethel Park! I’d love to see you =).
Before we jump into these poses, I have to tell you about two things! 1) this mat and 2) these pants!
This Free Thirty Three Yoga Design Co. mat and I were lovers at first site because it fits just so perfectly with our entire Gem theme around here! Looks aside, I’m so impressed with how this mat has held up over the past couple months, and with the micro-suede top layer, I don’t need to use one of those big yoga towels when I practice (they are such a distraction because they never stay in place!). And like most of the products I feature, there’s quite a story behind the brand. Shawna, the founder of Free Thirty Three, left her successful, 10 year corporate career to leave everything behind and move to Japan. This was the first time she hear herself for the first time in her life. After checking becoming a yoga instructor off her bucket list and finding her heartbeat, she started Free Thirty Three to spread the sensation of what it means to truly be living. The full story is beautiful. Read it here.
These GRACEDBYGRIT leggings? They are so much more than your average activewear. Founders Kimberly Caccavo and Kate Nowlan met when they were training for a triathlon being held in honor of a teen that was running a trail by herself and was abducted, raped, and murdered. This inspired them to incorporate safety into every one of their products. GRACEDBYGRIT pants include a pocket for your cell phone, and every order comes with a safety whistle that you can loop onto any of their items. Did I mention they also fit great (they are a tad small, so if you’re in between sizes, go up instead of down!) and hug your body in all the right places? Read more about GRACEDBYGRIT here!
Alright, let’s get to it! Throughout all these poses, practice taking deep, full breaths in and out through your nose. Listen to your body, but a good rule of thumb is staying for about 5-10 breaths.
How to Do it: Soften your knees and hinge forward from your hips. Separate your feet so that they are at least as wide as your hips. Bring your hands to opposite elbow creases and let gravity pull the crown of your head closer to the floor. This is less about a hamstring stretch and way more about making space in your spine, so don’t be afraid to bend your knees a lot. If you need less intensity, bend your knees more and let your elbows rest at the bottom of your thighs. It can also feel lovely here to shake your head out yes and no or sway your arms side to side.
Why it Works: We spend all day with our heads stacked above our hearts. Gravity goes down, right? Anything where your head gets to hang out below your heart is great for recirculating your blood. More blood to your brain = more energy.
Seated Twist (I just learned this is called Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, so that’s fun)
How to Do it: Sit down. Place your feet on the floor and bend your knees. Slide your left foot under your right leg and over towards your right hip (the outside of your left leg will end up being on the ground). Gently inch your right foot closer to your left hip (this leg will not be on the floor since your left leg is under it). Aim for getting your right foot on the ground. Then, take a big inhale in to lengthen the spine and on the exhale twist towards your right from your lower back. Use the right hand on the floor behind you for balance, but don’t dump your weight into it. Keep lifting your torso up and away from your hips. Bring your left arm to the outside of your right thigh. Don’t forget to do the other side!
Why it Works: Twisting poses help to maintain the spine’s range of motion while stretching the back muscles and making space between the vertebrae. The “wringing out the organs or spine” phrase you may have heard is just a metaphor, not a scientific occurrence. Instead, think of poses like this as stimulating circulation, which allows the body to work more effectively.
Legs up the Wall Pose
How to Do it: Lay on your back. Lift your legs up. That’s it! Simple, right? Keep the belly muscles tight so that your heels stay on top of your hips instead of letting your toes fall towards your face. Doing this pose with your legs rested up a wall also feels amazing.
Why it Works: All day long, we’re in an upright position – either sitting or standing. Thanks to gravity, our body has to do a lot of work to keep our blood flowing upward. Letting your body rest in the opposite direction, helps with circulation and gets more blood into your heart and brain. I recently spent 8 days in Disney World with my family. When I did this pose in our hotel room after a long day on my feet, I noticed a lot less muscle fatigue and swelling in my legs the next day.
How to Do it: Stand with your feet as close together as they’ll go and reach your hands up (elbow pits facing one another and make sure you’re not trying to wear your shoulders as earrings – I promise that’s not a style trend right now, so slide those down). Bend your knees and get low. Make sure your weight lands in your heels – you should be able to both see and wiggle your toes! Also, don’t let your booty stick out; let your tailbone point more down than back.
Why it Works: For many of us, this pose is near the top of our “least favorites” list (at least that is what is always written on my students’ faces when I cue this one!), but it’s worth it, promise! The Sanskrit name of this pose is Utkatasana, which is worth mentioning because “utkata” means fierce. Here, your whole body is working, from your toes to your fingertips, which is sure to wake you up and ignite your fierceness. It also stimulates your diaphragm, heart, and abdominal organs.
Why it Works: This isn’t so much a pose, but it’s the best trick for a quick energy boost because you can literally breathe anywhere. If you think about it, we go through all our days practically hyperventilating because our breath is rather shallow. In order to use our lungs to their full capacity, we have to make a conscious effort to do it. So, being preoccupied with never-ending to-do lists doesn’t exactly set us up for success in the breathing department. Inside our lungs there are capillaries that exchange oxygen with the blood that flows throughout the body. The more of these capillaries that you can get oxygen to, the more efficient your breath becomes. Shallow breathing forces you to work harder and consumes more of your energy.
How to Do it: Slowly inhale and think about expanding your stomach (rather than your chest) outwards to the sides of your body. You’re not actually breathing into your stomach, obviously, but you are activating your diaphragm, which allows more of the space in your lungs to be utilized.
What do you think? Are you willing to give these poses a try to perhaps stop overworking your Keurig?
Also, I want to know your thoughts on yoga below! Is it something you do regularly, something you wouldn’t be caught dead doing, or something that sounds appealing but you haven’t had the time or motivation to try? Tell me in the comments!
Photos: Kate Stutz