While we’re spending more time indoors, it’s likely we’re not moving as much as we used to, and anxieties surrounding the current situation might feel overwhelming at times. The good news is, introducing a few of these yoga poses into your daily life could make a real difference to your physical and mental well-being. The even better news is, you don’t need any fancy equipment or clothes to practise yoga, just wear something comfy and grab a towel to use if you haven’t got a mat.
1. Tree pose (Vrksasana)
There is nothing like a balancing posture to bring your mind into the present moment – something that is key for reducing stress.
To practise: Stand with your feet together. Focus your gaze on something not moving in the distance, to help with balance. Root down through your right leg and slowly lift your left foot off the floor. Bring the sole of your left foot either to the inside of your right lower leg or the inside of your thigh (avoid placing your foot on the knee). Bring your palms together at your heart centre – keep them here or take them above your head. Focus on breathing in and out steadily for five breaths. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
Make it easier: This can be done with one hand holding onto the back of a chair or the wall.
2. Standing forward fold (Uttanasana)
Forward folds are soothing for the mind – not only because they bring the head below the heart, which is restful for the heart and the brain, but because we are turning inwards, both physically and emotionally.
To practise: Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Inhale to lengthen through your upper body, then exhale to softly bend your knees and fold forwards from your hips, bringing your chest towards your thighs. You can bend your knees as much as you need to. Allow your head, neck and shoulders to be completely relaxed, and your arms to dangle towards the floor. Take five long breaths here, then slowly curl your upper body back up to standing.
Make it easier: You can do this seated in a chair with your feet on the ground.
3. Alternate nostril breathing
This balances and slows down the breath, and brings a sense of calm to the mind.
To practise: Sit comfortably, and bring your right hand to your face. Place the index and middle fingers between the eyebrows. Inhale through both nostrils, then use your thumb to close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with your ring finger, release your thumb and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, then close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. Repeat this 10 times, then release your hand and allow the breath to flow through both nostrils.
4. Legs-up-the-wall pose (Viparita Karani)
Having your legs higher than your heart helps the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid around the body, but the real joy of this pose is it is super calming for the nervous system.
To practise: Do exactly as the pose name suggests! Lie with the back of your upper body on the ground, and your legs up the wall. You can place a cushion under your head and a rolled up blanket under your hips if you like, just make sure you feel fully supported. Stay in the pose for 5-10 minutes before bed, while keeping your breathing calm and steady.
Ease back pain
5. Cat-cow pose (Chakravakasana)
This creates space along the lower, middle and upper spine, easing pressure on the back.
To practise: Begin on your hands and knees, with your shoulders directly over your wrists and hips directly over your knees. On an inhale, tilt your tailbone up and roll your shoulders back as you soften your belly towards the mat, sending your gaze up. On an exhale, draw your belly up towards your spine and round your back towards the ceiling, tucking your tailbone under and sending your gaze towards your thighs. Repeat 10 times.
6. Low lunge twist (Parivrtta anjaneyasana)
Twists are fantastic for getting the gut moving because they gently compress the abdomen.
To practise: From a standing position, step back with your left leg and release the left knee to the floor, so you are in a low lunge, and your right knee is stacked over your right ankle. On an inhale, lengthen through your upper body, on an exhale, bring your left elbow to the outside edge of your right thigh and bring your palms together at the heart centre. Stay here for five breaths, lengthening with each inhale and softening into the twist on the exhales. Repeat on the other side.
Make it easier: Bring your left hand to the outside of you right thigh, and place your right hand on your right hip.
7. Warrior 2 pose (Virabhadrasana II)
Weight-bearing exercises such as walking and jogging are great for bone health, but during lockdown, standing yoga poses act as a fantastic alternative. As well as being weight-bearing, when this pose is held for at least five breaths, the muscles are lengthened and this pulls on bone, which can boost bone strength.
To practise: Start with your feet together at the top of your mat or towel. Step back with your right leg and place your right foot parallel to the back edge of the mat, then turn your toes slightly in. Your left heel should be in line with your right foot’s inner arch. Bend the left knee, so the knee is stacked on top of the ankle. Lengthen the torso and reach both arms out at shoulder height. Send your gaze over the left finger tips and stay here for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
8. Wind-relieving pose (Pawanmuktasana)
This pose does what it says on the tin!
To practise: Lie on your back with both legs extended. Bring your right knee towards your chest and wrap your arms around your shin. Lift your head, and draw your nose towards your knee. Take three breaths here, then release and repeat on the opposite side.