By Maija Kivelä
For a very long time, yoga has enjoyed a reputation for its calming and healing benefits and often, yoga-enthusiasts look to press ‘pause’ on their hectic lives. All of that is essential, no doubt; but did you know that yoga is also an amazing way to increase strength and body awareness? Think: Madonna’s lean triceps. Here is a list of my favourite poses to strengthen and restore your body, inside and out!
The Mountain (Tadasana)
Tadasana looks just like a simple standing pose; but it’s the foundational posture for all the other postures and prepares you for the rest of your yoga session. This pose improves posture, increases awareness and helps to create space within the body, allowing internal organs to work more efficiently.
The Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
An amazing pose to stretch out the rear of your body, from your heels to the tips of your fingers. Forward folds also build strength and flexibility in the spine. This is the perfect pose to release tension in the neck, and upper and lower back. It’s extremely calming and helps to relieve anxiety and stress.
Forward folds create space between each vertebra, encouraging circulation and helping to soothe the nervous system. The head is below the heart, which allows blood to rush to your head, giving your cells a rejuvenating boost of oxygen. For women, this pose also increases the circulation in the pelvic floor area, which can help you heal after child birth or even menopause.
The Warrior I & II (Virabhadrasana)
One of the most common poses, but overlooked in terms of how it can strengthen the lower body — from your feet to your hips — and core! The Warrior poses look simple; but you really need to focus on the mind-body connection to be able to maintain good form. For example, in Warrior I, you must square the hips, fully plant the back foot and rotate the back internally. If you do this or Warrior II correctly, you will feel it in every muscle of your body. The Warrior poses develop concentration, stamina and promote healthy digestion.
The Chair (Utkatasana)
The lower body toner and circulation booster!
The Chair pose strengthens the hip flexors and back, and stretches the chest and shoulders, all while increasing stamina and the tone of the hip and thighs.
It also stimulates the circulatory system and boosts metabolism.
The Child (Balasana)
This lovely stress-relieving pose relaxes the front of the body while nicely stretching out the back of the torso. It’s a very therapeutic resting pose that gives you the time to restore energy and balance. It’s a great pose for releasing tension in the lower back, neck, shoulders and chest. One of the most calming poses, in my opinion.
The Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotanasana)
Here is a DEEP pose and, I would say, one of the best glute stretches out there! If you suffer from tight piriform issues or sciatic pain, this pose is for you. To help with piriform pain, try staying in this pose for a minimum of 60 seconds, about ten-deep-breaths-worth. Also, the more you are able to open up the hips, the less you will experience back pain and postural problems. Tight hip flexors can cause an anterior pelvic tilt when your hips are pushed forward. This makes your back feel stiffer.
For athletes, this pose is beneficial for speed, agility and overall health and muscle recovery.