10 Electrifying Yoga Poses for When You Need a Mental Break
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2016
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Caucasian woman practicing yoga at seashore
The coffee machine isn’t your only power source. While you wait for it to brew your next caffeine fix, consider doing some yoga to boost your energy, increase focus and fight fatigue -- all while simultaneously reducing the stress that coffee can sometimes trigger. Caffeine has been linked to increasing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. However, this effect may be counteracted by focusing on your breath and movement. The Center for Integrative Medicine of Thomas Jefferson University found that yoga helps to reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels. Time to de-stress and wake up by practicing any of the following poses while you wait for your coffee to brew.
Caucasian woman practicing yoga at seashore
STANDING PIGEON POSE WITH TABLE (EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA)
Release your tight hips with this hip-opening favorite. Standing Pigeon lengthens the hip flexor, stretches the thighs, buttocks and piriformis muscles and extends the psoas and groin. Though Single Pigeon is most commonly practiced on the ground, this version might be better suited to waiting for your coffee to finish brewing. HOW TO DO IT: Stand close to a desk, table or counter and draw your right knee in toward your chest. Place your right knee and ankle parallel to and on the edge of the desk so your right knee is just outside of your hip. Keep the right foot flexed and hip bones facing your desk. Rest here for five to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Related: 12 Powerful Yoga Poses for Every Athlete
women meditating on high mountain in sunset background
STANDING HALF FIRE LOG POSE (ARDHA AGNISTAMBHASANA)
This hip opener is similar to the Standing Pigeon variation, but you use your body as your ankle prop instead of a table. This pose lengthens the hip flexor, stretches the thighs, buttocks and piriformis muscles and extends the psoas and groin. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Bend your knees, balance on your right leg, grab your left ankle and place it on top of your right thigh just above your knee. Press the left knee toward the ground. When you find your balance, bring both palms to touch at the center of the chest. Lower the hips toward the ground more to feel the stretch in the outer right hip. Hold for five to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Related: 11 Stretches Almost Everyone Can Do
Beautiful young woman yoga workout
INTENSE SIDE STRETCH (PARSVOTTANASANA)
This single-leg forward bend provides a strong stretch in the back of the leg and spine while simultaneously opening up the hip and shoulder joints. HOW TO DO IT: Stand and step the left foot back three to four feet. Keep the left foot in line with the left heel. Square the hips by drawing your left hip slightly forward and your right hip slightly back. Inhale and, on your exhale, hinge at the hips into a forward fold. Keep the neck long and the chin slightly tucked in. Draw your forehead toward your right knee. Inhale and place your fingertips on each side of your right foot. Hold for three or more breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Related: The 8 Best Stretches to Do Before Running
GARLAND POSE (MALASANA)
Take squatting a step deeper. Garland pose is beneficial for opening the hips and targets the muscles, organs and soft tissue of the pelvic abdomen. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with feet a bit wider than hip-width apart. Turn your toes out and bend the knees, lowering your buttocks toward the floor. Take the knees wide apart so they are over your toes. If your heels lift, roll a towel or blanket underneath them. Draw your torso forward and place your elbows on the insides of your knees. Bring your palms into prayer position. Hold for five to 10 breaths. To release, bring your fingers to the floor. Inhale, and, as you exhale, slowly straighten the legs to come back to standing.
Related: 11 Essential Yoga Poses Everyone Should Practice
TREE POSE (VRKSASANA)
Find your balance with Tree pose. “Standing poses are entirely based in the heels,” yogi Vanda Scaravelli says. “Keep the heel solidly grounded on the floor and the other parts loose and light.” HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and draw your awareness to your heels. Shift your weight into your right foot, keeping the right leg strong. Bend the left knee and place the sole of the foot against your shin or upper inner thigh. (Do not place your foot on your knee.) Draw your left knee back to open the left hip. Bring the palms together in front of your chest. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Repeat on the other leg.
Related: 13 Yoga Poses to Help You Be Less Klutzy
TREE POSE WITH HALF LOTUS VARIATION (VRKSASANA VARIATION)
Looking to move beyond Tree pose? Challenge your balance and flexibility further with this Tree variation. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip width-apart, shift your weight into your right foot and place your left foot in the crease of your right inner thigh. The sole of your left foot should face outward and your knee should point to the ground. Draw your left knee back to open the left hip. Bring the palms together in front of your chest, hold them overhead and shoulder-width apart or wrap one arm around your back to grab your left foot while keeping the right hand center. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Release your arms and repeat on the other side.
Related: Re-Energize With These 8 Heart-Opening Yoga Poses
STANDING CRESCENT MOON (INDUDALASANA)
Get energized with this deep stretch to open up the sides of your body and improve circulation. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Inhale and reach your arms overhead, keeping your palms together or interlacing the fingers into a steeple grip (your index fingers point up and thumbs point back). Relax the shoulders down and back. Exhale and arch to the right while pressing the left hip to the left side but maintaining weight in both feet. With every inhalation, reach through the fingertips and crown of your head. Lower the upper body toward the ground a little bit farther with each exhale. Do this for up to six breaths. Repeat on other side.
Related: Broga: Why Guys Should Add Yoga to Their Fitness Routines
CHAIR POSE (UTKATASANA)
Squatting is one of the most powerful poses you can do to awaken your body and strengthen your willpower. Chair pose targets your leg and arm muscles and stimulates the heart and diaphragm. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with feet together (or, for beginners, hip-width apart). Inhale and extend the arms overhead while lengthening the spine. Exhale and bend your knees to bring your thighs parallel to the floor. Shift your weight into your heels. Lift the chest and extend through the fingers. Do not shrug your shoulders. Tilt your pelvis so the tailbone points toward the ground. Hold for up to four breaths.
Related: 10 Yoga Positions to Strengthen Your Core Muscles
STANDING FORWARD FOLD (UTTANASANA)
Give the hamstrings, calves, hips and lumbar spine an intense stretch and hang upside down for a bit. Standing Forward Fold brings fresh blood to the brain, improves digestion and stimulates the liver and kidneys. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet together, big toes touching. Inhale and raise your arms overhead. As you exhale, hinge at the hips with arms lengthening forward to fold. Keep the legs straight if your back is strong. Bring the hands to the floor beside your feet. If you can’t reach, then touch your fingertips to the ground with your knees slightly bent. Stay here for five deep breaths.
Related: 7 Simple Yoga Poses to Prep You for Handstands
STANDING FORWARD FOLD WITH SHOULDER OPENER (UTTANASANA VARIATION)
This variation of Standing Forward Fold also brings blood to the brain while stretching the hamstrings, calves, hips and lumbar spine. However, this version involves interlacing your hands behind you to open up the shoulders and chest. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet together and big toes touching. Clasp your hands behind your back. Inhale and open up your chest while squeezing the shoulder blades together. As you exhale, hinge at the hips and draw the navel in toward the spine. Keep the legs straight if your back is strong. Move the head toward your thighs as you reach your arms up overhead (or as far as they can go without strain). Stay here for five deep breaths.
Related: 11 Yoga Poses to Eliminate Stress From Your Day
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
How do you like to keep moving throughout the day? What poses do you think you’ll try while waiting for the coffee to brew? How many poses were you able to squeeze in during this time? What other poses do you think would be a good fit for this list? Wasn’t the smell of fresh coffee while you focus on your breath delightful? Share your thoughts, experiences and favorite poses with the Livestrong.com community in the comments below!
Related: 11 Yoga Poses to Detoxify Your Body
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