Today, more and more people are using yoga as a form of exercise. In addition to its mindfulness benefits, the practice can strengthen and tone the muscles, increase flexibility and even improve your physical fitness. But which yoga poses are best to achieve this? In this article, we go through a step by step yoga workout sequence so that you’re ready to get started. All you’ll need to do is put on your yoga top and you’ll be good to go!
Chair Pose is ideal for those hoping to strengthen the leg muscles and tone the abs. To practice the asana, stand up straight with your big toes together. Take a deep breath in and raise both arms above your head and stretch your fingers towards the ceiling. Lengthen your neck and draw both shoulders back. As you exhale, bend your knees and begin to lower your bottom down and back, much like you would when sitting on a chair. At this point, try not to let your knees extend past your toes. With each breath in, lengthen your spine a little more. With each breath out, deepen the stretch by lowering your bottom further toward the floor. You are in Chair Pose. For best results, keep your abs engaged throughout the asana. Hold the posture for 30 seconds before returning to a standing position.
Forward fold stretches the calves, hamstrings, hips, and upper body to improve flexibility. The stretch also helps to release tension in the back, neck, and shoulders. Over time, this can reduce the risk of headaches, poor circulation, and insomnia. To practice the asana, stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge forward at the waist and begin to lower your upper body toward the floor. To minimize pressure on the lower back, bend your knees generously throughout the posture. Next, take hold of your ankles and let your body hang naturally toward the floor. You are in Forward Fold. Hold the posture for 1 minute whilst breathing deeply. To increase the stretch, gently sway your torso from side to side.
Downward Dog is one of the most popular yoga poses – and for good reason! The asana releases tension from the legs and back and helps to build upper body strength. To practice the asana, stand tall with your feet directly under your hips. Bending at the waist, lower your torso towards the floor until your body forms a triangle. Your hands and feet should now be securely on the ground. If your shoulders or hamstrings feel too tight for the pose, try bending your knees slightly to make the posture easier. Spread your fingers for additional balance and move your head forward until it is in-between your upper arms. You are in Downward Dog. For best results, breathe deeply whilst practicing the pose and hang your head gently between your shoulders.
Half Tiger Pose works the ankles, calves, and feet. This makes the posture ideal for relieving tension at the end of the day. To practice the asana, begin in a plank position. Your shoulders should sit directly above your wrists and your hips should remain in line with your shoulders. Spread your fingers apart and press your hands into the mat. Engaging your abdominal muscles, raise your right foot off the ground and bring your knee into your chest. Tense your quadriceps and lift your stomach before dropping your left heel closer to the floor. You are in Half Tiger Pose. Hold the asana for around 30 seconds before switching sides.
Tree Pose is great to incorporate into the yoga workout sequence as it strengthens the muscles and ligaments around the ankles. To practice the asana, begin by standing tall with your feet together. Move your heels apart until there is half an inch of space between them. Next, bring your palms together in front of your chest and engage your abs. Shifting your weight onto your right foot, root down by pressing through the ball of your heel and your big toe. Raise your left foot off the mat and bend your right knee slightly. Once you’ve found your balance, place your left foot on the inside of your right thigh. You are in Tree Pose. Hold the asana for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
To practice Pigeon Pose, begin by standing tall. Next, hinge at the waist and lower your torso towards the mat until your body forms a triangle. From this position, extend your right leg back behind you. Bring your right knee to your right wrist and move your foot to touch your left wrist. At this stage, your shin can be perpendicular to the front edge of your mat. You are in Pigeon Pose. Hold the asana for around 30 seconds before switching sides.
Cat/Cow Pose stretches the back and releases built-up tension. To practice the asana, start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees aligned with your hips. Next, dome your back and raise your belly button towards the ceiling. You are in Cat Pose. Hold the position for a few seconds before drawing your belly button towards the mat, bending your back in the opposite direction. You are in Cow Pose. Switch between the two for a couple of minutes, holding each one for just a few seconds.
Whether you’re hoping to strengthen the muscles or you’re more interested in better flexibility, practice the yoga workout sequence above to achieve your goal. To stay supported, pick up some good quality yoga bras before getting started.