Find yourself with some extra time on your hands, plus a whole lot of anxiety? It’s time to try out yoga. And although you may not know the difference between a downward dog and a sun salutation, you know those pose names just had to be made with all of a cottagers’ favourite things in mind.
Yoga is a great way to get out of your head, calm your mind, and focus on your breath—three incredibly important steps when it comes to managing your anxiety. And, added bonus, it’s a great form of exercise, increases your flexibility, can be adapted for any age or physical fitness level, and requires minimal equipment.
Ready to (swan) dive in and become a master yogi? Here are five essential yoga poses you can start practicing today. Try them out on the dock during sunset for extra-zen vibes.
Do it: Start with your hands planted underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Spread your fingers wide and press into your index finger and thumb, lift your hips up and straighten your legs as much as you can. Focus on making sure your spine is straight, with the crown of your head pointed towards the ground while you look at your knees.
Make it easier: Bend your knees.
Make it harder: Lift your weight onto your toes, and slowly lower your heels until they touch the ground.
Benefits: Downward-facing dog is one of the most well-known yoga poses for a reason. It stretches your shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and back, plus it can help relieve headaches and back pain while energizing the entire body.
Do it: From a downward-facing dog, bend your knees and hop or step your feet towards your hands. Slowly roll your spine up so you are standing up straight. Take a large step back with your left leg, keeping your leg straight with your back foot parallel with the mat. Bend your right knee until it reaches a 90-degree angle. Windmill your arms so your left arm is behind you, with your right arm in front with palms facing down. Look forward over your right arm.
Make it easier: Slightly straighten your front leg.
Make it harder: Draw your shoulder blades down and back and flip your palms to face the ceiling (or sky), then rotate them to face the ground again. Deepen the bend in your front leg.
Benefits: Stretch and strengthen your legs—they will be shaky as you hold this pose. A strong Warrior || also keeps your core engaged.
Do it: After holding your Warrior || for a few breaths continue through your yoga flow by flipping your palms up. Hinge forward at your hips so it feels like you are reaching towards the front of the room. Circle your front arm up so it points towards the ceiling. Let your gaze follow. Lower your back arm until it lightly rests on your back leg. Keep your front knee at a 90-degree bend, making sure your knee does not go over your front toes.
Make it easier: Look down at your front foot if you’re having a hard time keeping your balance.
Make it harder: Wrap your back arm behind your back and reach for your front thigh.
Benefits: You’ll feel a big stretch in your side body, as well as your hips and chest.
Do it: Bend deeper into your front leg. Windmill your arms so one hand is on each side of your front leg. Place palms on the mat. Your torso will be leaning forward and you will look like you are runner about to start a race. Putting your weight into your palms and fingers spread wide, step your front leg back to meet your other leg. Your shoulders should be directly over your wrists, your spine straight, and your down and slightly forward.
Make it easier: Come down to your knees.
Make it harder: Pull your shoulder blades apart and down. Shift your weight back so your heels are reaching towards the back of the room.
Benefits: It’s all about core strength here. Make sure your back is not concave and you don’t want your backside pointed up into the air. You’ll also feel it in your arms and shoulders.
Do it: From plank pose, lower your body so it hovers above the mat. Your elbows should not bend past 90 degrees. Hold for a count of two before lowering all the way down to the mat. The tops of your feet should be resting on the mat. Slightly swoop your weight forward as your push your torso up and lift your legs a few inches off of the ground. Keep your shoulder blades engaged, shoulders away from your ears, and your gaze forward or slightly up.
Make it easier: Keep your legs on the ground.
Make it harder: Puff your chest, press your energy through your calves and heels towards the back of the room, and focus on lifting your sternum.
Benefits: Stretch out your back, chest, arms, and shoulders—the ultimate pose after a day sitting hunched over a computer. You’ll train yourself to improve your posture, as well as alleviate fatigue and muscle aches.