Flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance—all these things are already known physical benefits of practicing yoga. But everyone knows that the health rewards of yoga don't stop at the physical level. In fact, yoga is one of the most holistic exercises that you can do, as it also benefits you psychologically and emotionally.
Indeed, many people consider yoga as synonymous with meditation, as it allows you to cultivate mindfulness and awareness of the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that your body experiences with each given pose. But even if you practice your own meditation technique that does not involve yoga, it helps to practice some yoga poses prior to your meditation session, as it could help improve your concentration and breathing.
Here are easy yoga poses that can help you achieve serenity even when your body is being physically challenged, thus helping you enter the state of meditation a lot more easily.
The Salutation Seal is a simple breathing exercise that's a great way to jumpstart your meditation practice. Bring your hands into a prayer position while sitting cross-legged on the floor. Don't think of anything, and simply focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply, all the while keeping your spine straight.
To make sure that you're breathing deeply, count up to four while inhaling through your nose. Hold your breath for another four counts, and then exhale through your nose for four counts. Hold it again for four counts to complete one cycle. Repeat the cycle 10 times before proceeding to the next pose.
The Balasana or Child's Pose is a great way to stretch your whole body—back, thighs, ankles, shoulders, spine, and neck—allowing you to relax completely.
Sit on the floor with your hips resting on your heels, and then allow your body to fall forward away from your hips so that your tummy rests between your thighs and your forehead is resting on the mat. Bring your hands forward and allow your palms to rest on the mat. Stay in this position as you focus on your breathing. Afterward, take a deep breath and go back to your starting position while slowly exhaling.
The Mountain Pose, also known as Tadasana, improves posture, relieves back pain, and strengthens the thighs, knees, ankles, abdomen, and buttocks. It also helps you relax by increasing your awareness and steadying your breathing.
To do this, stand with your back erect and your feet in contact. Inhaling deeply, lift your hands overhead and let your palms touch. Stretch your body as far as you can while looking straight at your fingertips. Alternatively, you can close your eyes and keep your head straight. Hold this pose for 30 seconds while concentrating on your breathing. Slowly go back to starting position as you exhale deeply.
The Anjaneyasana or Low Lunge Pose is popular for athletes, because it stretches the hamstrings, quads, and groin, as well as releases tension in the hips. However, it also helps build mental focus necessary for meditation.
Start from the Downward-Facing Dog position, exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands, making sure that your front knee is stacked above the ankle. Slide the left leg back until you feel a stretch in your front thigh and groin.
Inhale and lift your torso upright while sweeping your arms straight overhead. Hold the position for about a minute while breathing deeply for five inhales and exhales.
The Tree Pose or Vrikshasana challenges your sense of balance, making it excellent for improving your concentration.
Stand up straight with your feet at hip distance apart. Bend your right knee and place its sole on the upper inner thigh, just above your knee cap. Make sure that your left leg is straight while you find your balance. Take a deep breath in and raise your arms over your head, bringing your palms together in a hands-folded position. It would help to look straight at a steady object in order to keep your balance. Hold the position for 30 seconds before gently releasing your pose. Repeat it on the other side.
The Garudasana or Eagle Pose helps improve circulation to all joints while also improving balance and focus. It also keeps your arms, legs, knees, and ankles strong.
To do this, shift your weight to your left foot while looking at a steady object in front of you to help you with your balance. Cross your right leg over your left twice while sinking your hips low.
As for your arms, wrap one elbow and forearm over the other, and then press your palms together, pointing your fingertips upward. Make sure that you engage your core as you do the Eagle Pose. Hold the position for five deep breaths.
Also known as Natarajasana, the Dancer's Pose improves balance and concentration, stretches your shoulders, chest, thighs, groin, and abdomen, and strengthens your legs and ankles.
Shifting your weight to your left foot, extend your right leg long behind you while grabbing the inside of the foot with your right hand. Extend the opposite arm forward and tilt the body slowly forward to maintain your balance. This will create a deep backbend for your spine. If you want a deeper backbend, press your lifted foot into your hand. Hold the position while breathing deeply for three to five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
The Virabhadrasana III or Warrior III Pose tones the entire body, encourages better posture, and strengthens the legs, ankles, shoulders, and back. This invigorating pose also helps improve memory and concentration.
To do the Warrior III Pose, step your right foot forward and put all of your weight on your right leg. Inhale and raise your arms above your head with palms facing each other. Afterward, exhale and lift your left leg up and out. Hinge at your hips while you lower the upper half of your body parallel to the floor. To maintain your balance, contract your abs and gaze at a still point on the floor. Your body should be making a T-pose by now. Hold the position for five deep breaths, release, and repeat with the other leg.
The Camel Pose, also known as Ustrasana, helps reduce fat on the thighs while also opening up and stretching the hips, shoulders, back, chest, and abdominal region. The backward bending involved in this position also helps quiet down distracting thoughts in your head.
To do this, start by sitting on your knees. Raise your buttocks off your feet so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Placing your hands on your lower back, inhale and arch your back slowly while letting your head hang gently backward. You can also increase the level of difficulty by placing your hands on your feet instead of your back. Hold for 10-12 breaths, and then support your lower back as you come up slowly.
Also known as Ardha Matsyendrasana, the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose opens the rib cage and chest while also energizing the spine. The deep stillness of the pose also allows you to improve your concentration and focus.
Start by sitting cross-legged on the floor. Plant your right foot outside of your left knee, and then place your right hand behind your back on the floor close to your spine. Hook your left elbow to the outside of your bent right knee. You will feel a stretch in your right hip and thigh as you do this. You can also press your elbow into your knee more to have a deeper twist. Hold the position for five deep breaths.
The Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend not only stretches your spine, shoulders, and hamstring muscles, but also calms your brain, relieving stress and mild depression. It also helps soothe headaches and reduce fatigue.
To do this pose, sit on the floor with your feet stretched in front of you and your back straight. Inhale and lift your arms above your head to stretch your spine. Gently fold forward at your hips as you exhale and reach toward your feet. You don't have to touch your feet if you can't; just grab whatever you can reach, like your knees or shins. Relax and breathe while holding this position for 30 seconds.
The Reclining Hero Pose, also known as Supta Virasana, is an intermediate pose that stretches the abdomen, thighs, deep hip flexors, knees, and ankles. Aside from being helpful in relieving menstrual pain, it also helps you focus in a similar way to those of breathing exercises.
Sit on your knees and gradually move your feet apart until your buttocks are sitting on the floor. Inhale and straighten your spine, then lean backward as you exhale. You should be able to relax your back on the floor. Place your arms at your sides with palms facing upward. Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
The Savasana or Corpse Pose is one of the easiest yoga poses to do, yet it yields a multitude of physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. It allows your mind and body to experience complete peace and relaxation, giving your body a chance to regroup and revitalize. It is usually done at the end of a vigorous practice session.
Lie down on your back with feet apart at a comfortable distance and arms resting on your sides, palms facing the ceiling. Just let your body relax completely as you close your eyes and focus on your breathing. For beginners, you can place a cushion or blanket beneath your head for added relaxation.