Getting a home yoga practice going can be challenging, but sometimes keeping it going can be even more difficult. Some mornings a serious lack of inspiration can strike you as you step onto your mat.
Whether you think “I’m too tired,” “I’m too sore,” or even “I don’t have time for this today!” there are some yoga poses that help you settle into your body and sensations in just a couple of minutes. Watch out though—once you land in your body, you might not want your practice session to end!
1. Ankle Bending (Gulpa Naman)
This posture looks so incredibly simple, but its effect on your whole body is huge! Sitting on your yoga mat with your legs straight out in front of you, place your palms on the floor next to your hips. Sit with your low back tall and straight.
If this is difficult, sit up on a blanket or a cushion so that your back and your legs can be straight. Relax your belly and take a few deep breaths, inflating your belly like a balloon as you inhale, and relaxing your navel toward your spine as you exhale.
Flex your ankles, and then on the next deep inhalation, point your toes away from you as hard as you can. As you breathe, imagine filling your low body from your navel to your toes with golden prana (life-force energy).
Exhaling, draw the toes back again, flexing the ankles, and imagine the prana traveling back to your navel center. Repeat this movement slowly for 10 times, and then pause to feel the sensations in your legs. Then, repeat it again quickly for 10 times, then pause again to feel the sensations.
2. Knee Bending (Janu Naman)
This pose opens the hips and strengthens the shoulders and biceps. Sitting tall, interlace your fingers under your right knee. Inhaling, draw your knee toward your chest and pause here, breathing 5 deep breaths into your low back.
Exhaling, lengthen the leg toward the floor, and inhaling, pull the knee toward your chest again. Keep your torso vertical, but draw the chest toward the knee as you are pulling the knee toward your chest. Try to relax your leg as much as possible and just use your arms.
Repeat 10 times and then pause for a few moments to feel your sensations before switching sides.
3. Knee Bending With Kick
This variation on the previous pose opens the backs of the legs where an “earth nadi” (channel) connects you to the earth. Opening this channel helps you feel more grounded.
Begin the pose as in the previous description. After inhaling and bending the knee toward the chest, hold your breath for a moment as you kick your leg straight. Exhale as you lower the leg toward your mat. After 10 repetitions, take a few moments’ pause to check in with your sensations.
For more challenge and to build abdominal strength here, you can perform both of these postures with both legs at once, keeping the palms resting on the floor next to the hips.
4. Swinging Bridge Pose
This pose opens the energy channels of the front of the body and strengthens and opens the chest and shoulders.
Sitting as for the above poses, press your palms down into the floor just in front of your hips, lifting your hips off of the floor. Inhaling, press your feet into the floor and swing your hips forward and up, bringing your body parallel to the floor from the knees to the shoulders.
Allow your head to come back as far as feels safe and comfortable. Exhaling, lift your head towards your chest and sink your hips back between your hands. You can sit back down on the mat to rest for a breath, or you can keep your hips lifted and swing them forward and up again on the next inhalation.
Repeat up to 20 times and then pause, breathing naturally and checking your sensations. For a fun and challenging end to the pose, you can try lifting your heels away from the floor and floating for a few moments in Brahmacharyasana.
5. Tiger Pose (Vyaghrasana)
This pose strengthens the back and opens the hips and low belly. Starting on the hands and knees, bring your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Inhale and arch your back, lifting your head and tail, then exhale, lifting the center of your back towards the ceiling.
On your next exhalation, bring your right knee toward your nose. As you inhale, lift the same leg—keeping the knee bent—behind you and reach your toes toward the ceiling.
After a few repetitions, if your low back feels no pain or discomfort, start to aim your toes towards your head with each inhalation. Imagine you could touch your toes to the top or back of your head and create a circuit. Repeat up to 20 times on one side, pausing to check your sensations before switching sides.
These 5 yoga poses are one great way to start your day or get ready to sit for meditation. What are some of your favorite postures to get the juices flowing when you begin your yoga practice?