Feeling low in energy can start an ever decreasing trend of doing less and favouring low energy activities. Simple yoga poses can be the perfect antidote to provide a quick energy boost at that much needed moment in the day. Energising yoga poses focus on backbends to increase the flexibility and strength of the spine and open the chest. Backbends allow our spine to move in a position that is natural but not often used in everyday life. This movement allows the chest cavity to be more open, lungs to be full and at the same time gently stimulate the sympathetic nervous system.
Image by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash.
Learn to love a backbend
You might feel reluctant to include backbends in your yoga session. Take a moment to consider the postures you spend most of your day in and it will become apparent why backbends feel so daunting. We spend a large number of our waking hours hunched forward, whether sitting in a car, at a desk or bending to talk to children or those we care for. To maintain a healthy spine we need to keep the movement of the spine fluid in all directions. Simple yoga poses that include backbends to boost your energy can achieve that. Bending or hunching over is also a protective mechanism, it's easy to want to curl up into a ball when life gets challenging. By moving in the opposite direction we open our heart space and allow ourselves to be open to the world around us, be a little braver and more courageous. The immediate energy boost is guaranteed to make you want to repeat the poses again.
Don't forget to warm-up
Before starting more energising poses it is always a good idea to warm up the body and the spine. Working through a few sets of sun salutations can be a simple way to get your body moving on your yoga mat. You can follow this Zen Ten video to work through all 6 movements of the spine to create warmth and mobility.
A warm up is especially important if you have been sitting for long periods of the day or working in a fixed position. It's vital that your body feels warm and supple. Remember to follow your body's cues and don't push yourself into a position if it doesn't feel comfortable. You can build up strength by repeating these poses over time. If you are not used to backbends then you may find your spinal extension is minimal but you will still be able to benefit from invigorating the front of your body, hips, shoulders and chest.
5 simple yoga poses for energy
1. Easy pose with an arch - sukhasana
Sit tall in a comfortable cross-legged position sitting on a pillow or blanket if needed to ensure your hips are level with your knees. Place your fingertips on the floor behind you with your fingers facing away from your body. Inhale and press down in your fingertips as you bring a small arch into your back and take your gaze up to the sky. Take 5 deep breaths here and on the final exhale return your body back to a neutral position in an easy pose. This is a really simple pose to add to the start of your yoga session or after a sitting meditation to boost your energy levels and awaken your upper body.
2. Low lunge - Anjaneyasana
This is a simple pose that you can transition into from a downward-facing dog or from a tabletop all fours position. Exhale and step your right forward in between your hands keeping your left knee on the mat. Keep a neutral position of your right knee in line with your right ankle. You will feel a gentle stretch in your left groin and can intensify this sensation by sliding your left foot towards the back of the mat. Inhale and take your arms out to the side and over your head. To come into the backbend take your gaze up to your hands and allow your torso to lean backwards slightly avoiding undue pressure in your lower back. Take 5 deep breaths and on the final exhalation, release your hands to the floor and step back into a downward-facing dog or tabletop pose. This is a fantastic pose for all yogis as it allows variations within the pose depending on strength and comfort.
3. Extended mountain pose
Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart on the mat and arms resting naturally by your sides. Inhale and take your arms sidewards and over the head with the palms facing each other. With your arms raised take your gaze up to the sky and allow your spine to extend gently backwards. Keep your focus on supporting the pose with your abdominals and not moving further than is comfortable. This is a simple pose that can be added to the start of any yoga session or done on its own at any time of the day to boost energy levels.
4. Low Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Lie flat on your stomach and place your hands underneath your shoulders at the side of your rib cage. Keep your elbows at the side of your body and extend through the toes at the same time as gently pushing the tops of your feet into the mat. Inhale and lift your chest off the mat allowing your shoulder bones to relax on your upper back. Lift up only to a point that is comfortable avoiding any discomfort in your lower back. Keep your gaze forward and chin slightly tucked. Keep the pressure moving downwards through your palms and the tops of your toes as your take 5 deep breaths before slowly returning your body to the mat on the final exhalation. Throughout the pose keep your core engaged and connected with the mat.
This is a great pose for strengthening the back and opening the chest and shoulders. This gentle backbend can help to energise and release tension in the upper body and lower back.
5. Bridge pose - setu bandha sarvangasana
This is a great pose for energising and has so many variations to try. Lie on your back and bend your legs at the knees, keeping the feet flat on the mat, hip-width distance apart. Relax your arms down by your sides. As you inhale press your shoulders into the mat and lift your hips in to air. Keep pressing firmly into the mat through your feet, taking care not to let the knees fall out to the side. If comfortable you can clasp your hands under your pelvis and slide your shoulders under your torso. Take 5 deep breaths and on the final exhalation slowly untuck your arms and lower your pelvis to the ground. A great way to warm up into this pose is to practice some dynamic bridge poses, inhaling and exhaling as your raise and lower your hips. You can also use a block under your sacrum to add the restorative aspect of the pose. At all times keep your gaze soft and neck neutral, avoid any sudden movement of the neck. This is the perfect pose to stretch out the front body and strengthen the back.
Next time you feel an energy dip try reaching for your mat and walking through some energising yoga poses instead of grabbing that coffee. You will feel alive, awake and refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead with a little sunshine in your step.
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