One of the most famous yoga positions, downward facing dog offers a full body stretch and awakening. Beginners can enter this pose from the plank position or by bending their knees a little to ease the movement.
This beginner yoga posture is good for counteracting hours spent parked at the desk. It strengthens the hips, quads, hamstrings, and ankles while stretching the chest and shoulders.
Downward Facing Dog
Often referred to as the “Sunshine Pose,” Downward Facing Dog strengthens the arms and wrists while stretching the shoulders, back, hips, and legs. The pose also stimulates blood flow to the head, which enhances concentration and improves focus.
To achieve the pose, begin on hands and knees in Tabletop Pose with a blanket under your knees to support your joints as you stretch into Downward Facing Dog. Spread your fingers to create a wrist crease parallel to the front of the mat, and press down into them with particular emphasis on rooting through the index finger and thumb.
Firm your shoulder blades and broaden across your back to provide space in the neck. Avoid crunching your neck up towards the ears or pulling down through the lower ribs to keep the core active.
Child’s Pose, or Balasana (ba-LAH-suh-sa-na), is a restorative forward-bending pose that gently stretches the back muscles and inner thighs and ankles while calming the mind and relieving stress. It can also help alleviate back and neck pain and fatigue.
To begin Child’s Pose, kneel on the floor and touch your big toes together with most of the weight bearing down on the heels. If it feels comfortable, separate your knees hip-width apart for a deeper stretch of the hips.
A common variation on this pose is to keep the knees together but to place a rolled towel or bolster under your shins for added support if you have trouble bending forward or are sensitive to the back of the legs. This can also help to prevent strain in the knees and ankles.
Seated Forward Bend
Seated forward bend, also known as Paschimottanasana in Sanskrit, stretches the back side of the body, including the calf muscles and the muscles that run along the back of the thighs and spine. It also calms the nervous system and brings awareness inward.
The pose is believed to relieve stress, anxiety and fatigue. It also stimulates digestion and is therapeutic for high blood pressure, sinusitis and insomnia.
To get into the position, begin seated with legs long in front of you, flexing the feet and pressing them away from the hips as you hinge forward at the hip creases. The key is to keep the spine long and not round it — try to go only as far as feels comfortable on your low back, shoulders and neck.
Extended Side Angle
This balancing, strengthening pose helps relieve stiffness in the back and shoulders. It also lengthens the side of the body and encourages concentration on the breath to mind connection.
Stand with the feet a foot’s length apart, or slightly wider for stability. Turn the right leg out so that the knee, shin, and ankle are all aligned. If the front leg feels uncomfortable, a slight inward bend is fine.
The top arm can be extended over the bent leg to form a T-shape or rest on the knee area. The arms shouldn’t be fully locked out, as this creates too much stress on the elbow joint. If this is too challenging, try bringing the bottom hand or forearm to the top of the bent leg instead.
Triangle (or utthita trikonasana, meaning extended triangle pose) is a challenge that requires you to engage many different muscles. It creates a side-bending stretch for the spine and strengthens the legs and torso. It also challenges your balance and encourages you to stay in the moment.
The most important thing in triangle is to keep the supporting leg strong and engaged. It’s easy to over-extend the back knee or hip in this posture, so be mindful of your alignment. It’s also common to compress the neck, so be aware of that as well. If you have any injuries or are unsure about your ability to do the posture, try using a block for support. This will enable you to get a deeper stretch without straining.