Written by Ashley Sondergaard, guest writer.
Did you know that the word “yoga” means “to connect”? You may practice yoga to connect the world around you. Or perhaps you practice yoga to connect deeper to your soul or inner self. Or it might be about connection to your friends and loved ones that you practice with!
But most often, yoga is about connecting your brain to your physical body. When you’re feeling under the weather due to illness, fatigue, or stress, connecting to the body can be challenging; however, a few simple yoga poses with a designated purpose can encourage you to feel like yourself again and bring the brain-body connection back in alignment. Check out these gentle and effective poses below.
To Relax: Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This is a great pose to take before bed on any night. Start by sitting on your seat. Extend your legs long out in front of you and lie on your back. Bring your legs straight up into the air by bending at the waist. Keep your upper body relaxed on the ground.
Straighten your legs as much as feels comfortable. For more support, place a blanket or small pillow underneath your sacrum.
You might also find a nearby wall and climb your legs up the wall to rest. Your seat will need to be very close to the wall to allow for straight legs.
Stay here for several minutes to allow the benefits of relaxation and restoration.
To Detoxify: Supine Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana)
Twists aid in digestion, stretch the muscles in the back and support the natural range of motion in the spine.
Start by lying on your back. Inhale and draw your right leg into your chest. Exhale and gently cross your right leg across your left side body while your left leg remains extended long.
Reach your right arm out to the right and bring your gaze to the right. Allow for natural ease into this pose rather than forcing yourself into a deep twist. Stay here for a few minutes and then switch to the other side.
For a gentler version, keep your knees bent and together. Skip this pose altogether if you’re pregnant.
To Open Your Heart to Healing: Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose benefits include opening of the heart, chest and hip flexors; stress alleviation; and stimulation of the lungs and thyroid.
Start by lying on your back. On an inhale, bend your knees and place your heels close to your seat. Rest your hands at your side and bring your gaze up to the sky.
On an exhale, lift your hips off the mat and track your knees in line with your hips. Open your chest, throat, and heart space up towards the sky.
For a deeper opening, interlace your hands underneath your back. For a restorative option, place a yoga block or stack of pillows underneath your pelvis to rest on. Hold as long as you feel comfortable.
Avoid this pose immediately before bed, as it can be stimulating.
To Calm Your Nervous System: Seated Forward Fold (Pashchimottanasana)
Have a seat with your legs extended long out in front of you. On an inhale, reach your arms over your head. On the exhale, bend at your waist and grasp your feet. Gently bend your knees to allow for a straight spine. Rest your gaze down and release any tension from your neck.
Pregnant mamas can open their legs wider to allow for the belly to rest forward.
Remain here for several breath cycles to reap the benefits of stress reduction; spine, shoulders, and hamstring stretch; and stimulation of the digestive system.
To Cultivate Energy: Crouch and Curl (Pictured in First Image)
Benefits of this pose include back and feet muscle stretch and strengthening, increased breath capacity, and energy stimulation.
Start by standing with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Bend your knees until your seat hovers over the ground. Tent your fingers on the ground in front of you to hold you steady. Lift your heels off the ground toward your seat.
Take a deep breath and fill up your lungs so that your back muscles stretch. Exhale and repeat.
Challenge yourself to take bigger breaths than you’re used to to stretch your back and allow for extra oxygen to fill your body.
Ashley Sondergaard is a yoga teacher, an entrepreneur and host of the Yoga Magic podcast. For 8 years, she has studied yoga, meditation, astrology and mindfulness practices that prioritize self-care and self-discovery. After having her two girls, Ashley discovered the hard way that taking care of yourself first is the only way to take care of others. Today, she supports her students & clients in up leveling their everyday routines into magical self-care rituals. Learn more about Ashley at www.ashleysondergaard.com or on Instagram @ashleysondergaard.yoga and @yogamagicpodcast.