There are times when we're feeling a little sluggish, often at mid-day when our coffee has worn off and our bodies are expending energy to digest lunch. Getting up and adding a bit of movement to get our blood flowing often helps to renew that energy and keep us going for the rest of the day. Rather than pausing to reach for another cup of coffee, take a pause on your mat and try out some of these simple movements below.
* Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga instructor, always consult a physician or qualified health professional for medical advice if you have any injuries (previous or current) or any other physical concerns before starting or changing any exercise regimen.
Downward Facing Dog
A great pose to start off with is Downward Facing Dog. It helps lengthen through your hamstrings and spine, as well as create space in your upper back, all of which should feel nice after sitting for hours at a desk or in a car.
Create a triangle shape with your body by planting your hands and feet firmly onto your mat about hips-width distance apart and lifting your hips up and back. Gaze back towards your toes to relieve pressure from your neck. Your heels do not need to touch your mat. The more you press your heels further down, the more length you will create in your hamstrings. Rather than dipping into your shoulders, press firmly into your palms as if you're trying to push yourself away from your mat. This spreads your shoulder blades apart and creates space in your upper back.
Add some movement into your Downward Facing Dog by bending into one knee, then the other, back and forth, as fast or slowly as you like. This gets the blood flowing in your legs and works to stretch your hamstrings out even more. You can lift each leg up and take some knee circles to bring movement to your hips, which should also feel nice after sitting for a while. You can gaze under one shoulder, then the other, to relieve tension in your neck and upper back.
Downward Dog to Upward Dog Waves
Energize your spine and arms by slowly rolling between Downward Facing Dog and Upward Facing Dog. Prepare your hands by gripping your mat firmly. Lift your heels up, tuck your chin into your chest and arch your back like a cat as you pull your torso forward. Once your shoulders are stacked over your wrists, dip your hips low and squeeze your shoulder blades together to expand your chest forward, keeping your knees lifted off your mat for Upward Dog. Finally, push your hips and chest back to Downward Dog. Move back and forth between these two poses a few times to increase circulation in your spine.
Vinyasa Chaturanga Flow
This next movement simply adds extra work in the arms to encourage more blood flow into those muscles. It is the standard vinyasa flow from High to Low Plank, through Upward Facing Dog and back to Downward Facing Dog.
Move from Downward Dog to High Plank by shifting your hips and torso forward, so that your shoulders are stacked directly over your wrists. Lower your hips until you create one straight line from your heels to the crown of your head. To move into Low Plank, shift forward slightly onto your toes and bend your elbows to about 90 degrees, squeezing your elbows into your sides. Straighten your arms to move into Upward Dog, then flow back to Downward Dog. For further details on the Chaturanga flow and variations of each pose, check out my focused posture clinic on that here.
High Boat to Low Boat
A really effective way to energize your body is any sort of core exercise. While they often require a bit more exertion, they help increase your heart and breath rate, which increases overall blood circulation throughout your body. High to Low Boat looks deceptively simple but works out the whole front line of your torso and also gets your arms and legs moving at the same time.
To start in a modified High Boat, have a seat on your mat and bring your knees towards your chest. Reach your arms out long and lift your feet up. You may move into full Boat pose if you wish by straightening out your legs, but it is not necessary. Keep your chest lifted and open to lengthen through your spine. To move into Low Boat, lean your torso back as far as you can and lengthen your legs out long until your shoulders and feet are barely hovering above your mat. You can also reach your arms up overhead. Again, keep your chest open and your spine as long as possible. Use your core muscles to pull your torso and legs back up to High Boat. Move between these two poses, holding each one for at least 5 seconds each time to start off, for a few rounds to energize your core.
Goddess/Horse to Star Pose
Now that we've re-awoken the hamstrings, spine, arms and core, the final movement in this list is focused on the hips and quadriceps, though it also helps create more space in the rest of the body as well. Plant your feet wider than your hips and point your toes just slightly outward. Bend your knees and sink your hips down to the same level as your knees. Keep your torso lifted up so that your shoulders are stacked over your hips, and bring your palms together at heart center. For this Goddess/Horse pose, concentrate on collecting your energy inward, perhaps even closing your eyes. Hold this for a few seconds, then burst up and outward into Star pose by straightening out your legs, lifting your arms out wide and expanding your chest open. Imagine stretching your arms and legs out to take up as much space as possible. Move back and forth a few times between these two poses to facilitate the flow of energy inward and outward.
It is often difficult to find time in the day to re-energize yourself. If you have the time grab yourself another cup of coffee, you can probably find the time to move around a bit instead. Remember that even doing just 2 minutes of these movements is still doing yoga, and any amount of movement is still more beneficial than not moving at all. As always, it ultimately does not matter what your shapes look like as long as you are being safe with your practice. Yoga is not about how the poses look, but rather how they make you feel. I hope these examples can help re-charge your battery and keep you going for the rest of your day!