8 Yoga Moves That Promise to Boost Your Energy
Our tailored yoga workout is an amazing way to gain strength and look toned. But the real bonus? These 8 yoga poses will boost your energy.
How morning yoga can energize you
With errands to run, family to visit and parties to go to in the coming weeks, in addition to wanting to look your best you'll need all the oomph you can muster. A great solution? Yoga. Yes, it's known for its soothing effects, but it can also help tone and energize. So we asked Vancouverite Wade Imre Morissette, the author of Transformative Yoga, to design a routine especially for Best Health readers that will tone muscles and boost energy.
Yoga's uplifting benefits start with doing gentle back bends, such as Extended Mountain, Upward Dog and Bridge, says Morissette (fact: he's the twin brother of the iconic pop singer Alanis Morissette). "Extending the spine opens, or stretches, tight chest muscles. When your chest opens up, you breathe more freely to optimally fill your lungs." This deep breathing fosters mental alertness and physical energy.
Let's get started
Sequence basics: Aim to do the eight moves in the order given, three times in a row, working up to five times. Move briskly from one pose to the next in order to maximize energy-boosting benefits. Hold poses 1 to 6 for one breath (an inhalation plus exhalation). Hold poses 7 and 8 for 10 breaths each.
Equipment: Go barefoot and use a sticky yoga mat for traction and safety.
Cool down: After completing the entire sequence three to five times, lie quietly on your back-breathing normally and with arms and legs outstretched for three to five minutes.
How often: Practice this morning yoga routine two to three times a week, or when you need an energy kick.
Morning yoga pose #1: Mountain Pose
A. Stand still with your arms at your sides and your feet hip width apart, toes facing forward and feet parallel. Distribute your weight evenly on both feet; avoid leaning forward or backwards.
B. Adjust your posture so your shoulders, hips, hands, knees and ankles are in one line.
C. Roll your shoulders back and down to open your chest, tuck your chin in slightly so your ears align over your shoulders, and breathe deeply through your nose. Hold for one breath.
Best Health tip: This pose goes beyond simply standing in place. Use it as an opportunity for you to focus inward and fine-tune your posture.
Morning yoga pose #2: Extended Mountain
A. From Mountain Pose, breathe in and raise your arms outward from your sides to above your head. Your palms should be facing each other with your hands shoulder width apart and arms straight.
B. With your arms still raised, gently extend your spine until your back is curved slightly inward and you're reaching your arms slightly behind you. Hold for one breath.
C. Still keeping your abs tight, release, and transition right away into Standing Forward Bend (on next slide).
Best Health tip: Keep your abs contracted throughout this exercise to help protect your back.
Morning yoga pose #3: Standing Forward Bend
A. Exhale and bend forward from your waist, keeping your spine as long as possible while reaching your arms straight down toward the floor.
B. Place your hands on the floor or on your shins or thighs, depending on what is most comfortable. Gaze at the front of your legs; hold for one breath.
C. Inhale and bend your knees so you can comfortably place your fingertips or palms on the floor, shoulder width apart. Your hands should be in front of your feet, pointing forward. Transition into Modified Long Staff for your next move (on next slide).
Best Health tip: Relax the back of your neck, allowing the crown of your head to point downward. If bending forward isn't comfortable, rest your forearms on the seat of a sturdy chair.
Morning yoga pose #4: Modified Long Staff
A. As you breathe out, tighten your abs, step feet one at a time behind you and lower your body toward the floor until legs are straight behind you, you're balancing on hands and toes, and your body is parallel to the floor.
B. Bend legs to rest knees, shins and top of feet on the floor. Bend your arms, keeping elbows pointing behind you and close to your sides. Lower yourself to four to eight inches (10 to 20 cm) off the floor; keep ab and thigh muscles contracted.
C. Gaze forward slightly. Hold for one breath before slowly lowering hips to the floor. Straighten legs to prep for Upward Dog.
Best Health tip: To make this move more intense, try it with your legs straight so you're balancing on hands and toes; tighten your ab muscles to support your back.
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Morning yoga pose #5: Upward Dog
A. With hands, hips, thighs and feet on the floor, point your toes so the soles of your feet face the ceiling. Your hands should still be aligned under your shoulders.
B. Inhale and straighten your arms, pressing through your hands and lifting hips off the floor. As you lift your hips, slide them slightly forward toward your hands. Open your chest and gently slide shoulder blades downward. Your feet and knees should still be on the floor.
C. Hold for one breath as you look slightly upward. To release, slowly raise your hips and get onto your hands and knees before transitioning to Downward Dog (on next slide).
Best Health tip: Lengthen upward through the spine and roll your shoulders back and down to encourage deep breathing and a good stretch in the chest and front of the shoulders.
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Morning yoga pose #6: Downward Dog
A. With palms on the floor, curl your toes under and exhale, lifting your hips toward the ceiling, straightening your legs and pressing your heels toward the floor (it's okay if heels don't touch the floor).
B. Draw your abs in as you spread your fingers and toes. Gaze through your feet with the crown of your head pointing downward. Your ears should be next to your upper arms.
C. Hold for one breath, then bend your legs and get back onto your hands and knees with spine straight.
Best Health tip: Emphasize lifting your hips toward the ceiling to stretch your back and legs and to protect your shoulders. You may bend your knees if it's more comfortable than holding your legs straight.
Morning yoga pose #7: Knees to Chest
A. From being on your hands and knees, slowly lower your right hip to the floor until you're sitting. Then gently roll over onto your back with feet on floor and knees bent.
B. Exhale as you lift your feet off the floor to "hug" your knees into your chest, tucking chin in slightly. Gently place your hands on your knees or shins. Relax your lower back as you gently press your sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of your spine just above your tailbone) toward the floor.
C. Hold for 10 breaths. Then slowly lower your feet back to the floor and place your arms on the floor at your sides with palms facing down.
Best Health tip: Focus on lengthening the spine to avoid tugging at your knees.
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Morning yoga pose #8: Bridge
A. Adjust footing so your ankles are under your knees, toes pointing away from you.
B. Inhale and contract your abs, lifting your hips off the floor. Lift your spine upward, arching it to open the chest as you roll your shoulders under and in. (If that's difficult, keep spine straight instead.) Keep your arms on the floor or place palms on your low back for support.
C. Hold for 10 breaths. To release, lift your heels off the floor, tighten your abs and slowly lower your spine to the floor, starting from the top of your back. Repeat pose 7 for another 10 breaths before repeating the full sequence two to four more times.
Best Health tip: Gently raise your hips a little higher with each deep breath, pressing your feet into the floor as you arch your spine.