Eight Yoga Poses to Create Balance and Zen

Whenever I feel my brain going at 100 mph and anxiety creep in, I use a calming flow like this to help ground me and create some zen.  The prime focus is moving mindfully with your breath.  Try and breathe slowly and deeply, in and out through the nose, and hold each pose for three to five breaths.

Tadasana/mountain pose

 Benefits: improves posture and strengthens the hips and thighs, meditation promotes stress and anxiety reduction, enhances self-awareness and increases concentration 

  • Standing at the top of your mat, feet hip-distance and grounding down, legs active and find length through the crown of the head.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath.  Inhale for a count of four and exhale to a count of eight.  Repeating for ten rounds.
  • When your mind wanders bring it back to the breath and your attention back to the present.

 Uttanasana / forward fold

  Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings and back, quietens the mind and reduces anxiety

  • Standing at the top of your mat, feet hip distance.  Exhale and slowly bend forwards, hinging from the hips with a gentle bend in the knee to help send the sit bones upwards.  
  • Hold onto the back of the legs or bring the hands onto a block or the ground, wherever is comfortable. Hug the lower belly up and in, find length in the spine, grounding down through the feet.
  • Take 5 deep breaths here, then slowly inhale and return back to the upright position.

Adho Much Svanasana / downward facing dog

  Benefits: Energises the body, strengthening the arms and legs and stretching the shoulders, hamstrings and calves.  Calms the brain and helps relieve stress.

  • Starting on hands and knees, wrists underneath your shoulders, knees hip width apart.
  • Exhale and curl your toes under, lifting the knees away from the floor and hips up and back. Lengthen the tailbone and move the chest towards the thighs as you lift the sit bones towards the ceiling. Keep the spine long and extend the legs as much as possible.
  • Actively press the whole hand into the floor and engage the core by pulling navel to spine. Keep the ribs drawing in.
  • Hold for five deep breaths.

Trikonasana / Triangle pose

 Benefits: Strengthens the legs and core, stretches the hips, backs of the legs, shoulders, chest and spine.  Helps relieve stress and stimulates the abdominal organs.

  • From downward-facing dog step the right foot towards the front of the mat coming up to stand (feet around three feet apart). Have the outer edge of the left foot parallel to the back of the mat and the right foot facing forwards. Line up the arch of the back foot with the front heel. Press through the edges of both feet to activate the legs and lift the arches.
  • Raise your arms to parallel with the floor with palms down.  Inhale and extend forward, lengthening the torso from the hip joint, directly over the right leg.
  • Exhale and keeping the waist long, rotate the torso to the left opening your body to the side.  Bring the right hand down to rest on the floor, shin or a block (without compromising the length in the side of the torso) and the left hand to the sky, in line with the shoulders. Keep the tailbone long and roll the left shoulder and left hip back to keep the sides long and body open to the side.
  • Keep the head neutral gazing at the left thumb or if more comfortable look to  the floor.
  • Stay in this pose for five deep breaths then inhale back upright and move onto the next pose

Virabhadrasana II / Warrior II

  Benefits: Strengthens and tone the legs and glutes, stretches the hips, groin and shoulders and builds stamina and concentration.

  • Step the feet slightly wider (about four feet apart) with the right foot still facing forward and the left foot parallel to the back of the mat.  Raise  the arms so they are parallel to the floor and energise them in opposite directions as you gaze over the middle right finger. 
  • Exhale and bend into the right knee bringing it over the ankle, trying to bring the thigh as parallel to the floor as possible. Press the inner knee outwards so your knee isn’t collapsing in. 
  • Take five deep breaths, then inhale bringing the arms up, hips facing forwards and coming onto the back toe ready for the next pose.

Virabhadrasana III / Warrior III

  Benefits: Strengthens the back body and core, improves balance and posture

  • Starting in high lunge with the right foot forwards, exhale slowly bringing the left leg back up behind you extending the leg as much as possible, pointing the toes and squeezing the glutes.
  • Engage the core throughout the movement to help with balance and control and ground down through the left foot to engage the stabilising muscles in your hip. 
  • Hold for five breaths. 
  • Inhale to return to high lunge.  Exhale plant the hands to the mat, framing the front foot and stepping back to downward facing down.  Repeat trikonasana, virabhadrasana II and III on the left side.

Repeat the standing flow three times.  Each time the movement will become more familiar allowing you to focus on your breath and sensations in your body.

 Restorative Matsyasana

 Benefits: relieves tension in your neck, throat, and shoulders, helps calm the nervous system, and opens the heart and chest reducing tightness on the mid and upper back.

  • Place a pillow, bolster or block horizontal to the short edge of your mat about a foot and a half away from the back of the mat.
  • Option to place another pillow or block for your head at the back of the mat. Gently lie back over  the prop(s) bringing the bottom edge just below the tips of the shoulder blades (approximately level with where the bottom of your bra strap sits) and the other under your head (if desired).
  • Melt the body over the prop and place the arms to the side or overhead – whatever is most comfortable. Stay for 1-2 minutes or more. When exiting the pose gently roll to one side and remove the prop(s). 

  Savasana

  Benefits: Relaxes and calms the mind, reduces anxiety and blood pressure.

  • Lying on your back, bring the heels mat distance apart and let the feet drop open.
  • Bring the hands out about 45 degrees from the body, palms facing up and fingers curling in naturally. Relax the shoulder blades evenly onto the mat.
  • Close the eyes and allow the whole body to become heavy, softening into the floor.
  • Stay here for five minutes or more if you have time

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