Our busy lives often leave our brains buzzing, and our stress levels high. It is not uncommon to see a gym-goer reading a book, or watching television on the treadmill while working out. The beauty of Yoga is that it gives us the opportunity to turn off all of these distractions and focus inward. Vinyasa Yoga, which connects asanas (Yoga poses) in a flow-like sequence, focuses on connecting body movement with breath.
Practicing Vinyasa yoga has both physical and mental benefits. High intensity poses strengthen muscles, improve balance, and develop flexibility. Restorative poses have the ability to relieve stress, and can even be therapeutic for ailments and illnesses. This ancient practice has been improving peoples wellness for many years, and it can do the same for you.
Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose):
This open hip, standing asana focuses on stability in the lower body in order to open up the side body and spine. It will strengthen muscles of the legs and torso, and develop flexibility in the spine. This is an excellent pose for relieving back and neck aches.
Step by Step:
Start standing. Place your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart. Raise your arms sideways, in line with your shoulders, palms facing down. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the the right. Turn your left foot slightly to the right, at a 45 degree angle. Keep your hips facing forward and press your left hip back, as you stretch your right arm forward. Place the right hand down on your right ankle or a block beside it. If your flexibility allows it, the hand can come to the floor. With the left arm, trace the line of the right arm vertically as you lift it to the sky. Gaze up at your left hand, and hold here for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Vasisthasana (Side Plank):
This strengthening asana is named after, and dedicated to, the sage Vasitha. This core cultivating asana will strengthen the wrists, core abdominals, arms, shoulders, and upper back. This is an excellent pose if you are looking to tone the body and improve balance.
Step by Step:
Start by laying on your belly, arms stretched out in front of you and palms facing down. Slide your hands back on the mat until they are under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under, activate the core, and press up into plank position. Tuck the tummy in, and press back through your heels to create a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Press both heels down and to the right, into the mat. Press down through the right hand. Slowly lift the left arm to the sky, in line with the right arm. Keep lifting your hips to the sky, and hold here for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose):
This asana will strengthen the lower back muscles while stretching the chest, shoulders, and abdomen. This makes it a great asana for improving posture. It also opens the heart and lungs, which will help to improve breathing.
Step by Step:
Start by laying on your belly, arms stretched out in front you and palms facing down. Press the tops of the feet, and the pelvis into the mat. Slide your hands back on the mat until they are under your shoulders. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears, and then roll them down your back. Keep your chin tucked to your chest. Press down through your hands to slowly lift your chest. Release any tension in your butt muscles, and spread the collar bones wide. Hold here for 3-5 breaths.