6 insanely good yoga poses
Yoga is a very versatile form of exercise, which is probably one of the reasons why it’s so popular. It’s something that can be done at home, at the beach, in a park or even in the office. Once you have a certain number of poses down pat, the possibilities are endless.
So which yoga moves should be at the top of your list?
Founder of Ballet Sculpt and Core Integrity with Cat, Cat Woods, talks us through six of the best poses to learn.
YOGA MOVE #1 The forward fold
It’s a big call, but this is the one pose everyone should know. Even if you have no real interest in yoga, do yourself a favour and just learn this move – it will help to relieve the body from stress, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and mild depression. It also has a ton of other benefits, which you can read about here.
To perform this pose, simply let your head hang down to your knees, maintaining a long torso and pressing your heels to the floor. If you’re quite flexible, keep your legs straight and put the palms of your hands on the floor. To modify the pose, bend your knees (without locking them), then place your palms on the ground. Hold the pose for up to one minute.
YOGA POSE #2 Upward facing dog
“This move stretches the chest, triceps and shoulders and helps to open up the hips,” says Cat. “It also has a ‘heart opening’ effect, enabling you to embrace the day and the world.” The simple pose stimulates the organs in the abdomen as well, doubling as a great stretch after crunches.
To do upward facing dog, start by laying face down with your legs spread hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and then lift your torso off the ground, keeping your palms flat on the ground and your arms straight. From here, press the top of the feet down and lift a little further, so the legs aren’t touching the ground. The only body parts that should be left touching the ground are the palms of your hands and the tops of your feet.
YOGA POSE #3 Crow Pose
“This pose requires enormous strength through the arms and abdominals,” explains Cat. Also known as Kakasana, the balancing crow pose works to tone the abdominals, aiding digestion and relieving lower back pain along the way. Once you get it right, the pose can also help to improve concentration and calm the mind.
It’s a good idea to ask an instructor to show you how to perform crow pose, as doing it incorrectly could lead to injury. Generally, you would begin in a squatting position, with your hands placed palms down and shoulder-width apart in front of your feet. Then it’s a matter of bending the elbows and lifting the legs to bring the knees above the elbows. Balance by shifting your weight to your hands, then hold.
YOGA POSE #4 Downward dog
Ask someone to name the first yoga pose that pops into their head, and they’ll probably say “downward dog”. But there’s more to this move than just its catchy name. Downward dog can help to loosen stiffness and back pain, boost circulation and build bone density. If you’re tired, it can also be a great way to wake the body up and lift your energy levels.
To get in the downward dog position, start on your hands and knees. Your knees should be under your hips and your hands under or slightly in front of your shoulders. Then, spread your palms, curl your toes under and lift your knees from the floor. Make an upside down ‘V’ shape with your lower body, you’re your backside as the highest point. Allow your head to sit in between your arms but don’t let it hang.
YOGA POSE #5 Wheel
“This pose is the perfect antidote to the ‘office chair hunchback’ effect,” says Cat. “It opens the chest, lengthens the neck, works the bum and stretches the hips and thighs. I love it at the end of the day or after a workout to counter the resistance work I've been doing.”
To perform the wheel pose, lay down on your back with your feet flat on the ground, close to your bum. Put your arms above your head, bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor, with your fingertips pointing towards your head. Then, lift the entire body from the ground, using your firmly planted hands and feet as support. Slowly walk the hands and feet closer together and then hold for five deep breaths.
YOGA POSE #6 Tiger
“This pose works the core (hips, abs and back) while also making the bum do some hard work to extend the leg out long,” says Cat. Tiger pose stretches and warms the spine and back muscles as well as stimulating the reproductive and nervous system.
To try the tiger pose, begin on your hands and knees. As you inhale, bring the knee and forehead towards each other and as you exhale, stretch the foot upwards towards the ceiling, arch the spine and look up. Complete the move 4-10 times, repeating on each side.
Do you like to practice yoga? What are your favourite poses?