Yoga Positions For Strength and Relaxation

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced yogi, these poses will help you relax and strengthen your body. These yoga positions also encourage mindfulness, so you can practice being present.

Generally done at the end of a class, this pose is great for warming up the body and strengthening the core. It also stretches the shoulders and hips.

Downward-Facing Dog

One of the most recognized poses in yoga, Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) builds strength in the hands, feet and upper body, helps stretch the hamstrings and calves, and creates a neutralising counterpoint for the spine between strong forward folds or backbends. But when it’s not well executed, Downward-Facing Dog can become a pain in the wrists, shoulders or neck.

A few common misalignments in this pose include rolling the shoulders and upper arms inward toward the ears, hyperextending the elbows, and not supporting the lower back. To prevent these problems, Denis recommends working to strengthen the core and legs, as well as to cultivate space in the shoulders by resolving internal rotation, forming an externally rotated arm-hand shape, and pulling the shoulder blades down and back.

To help with this, try “walking” your dog by starting from Child’s Pose and walking the hands forward, keeping the weight-bearing of the feet firmly in contact with the floor and the inner edges of both outer and middle toes tracking toward each other.

Child’s Pose

The child’s pose, or Balasana, is a restful posture that offers numerous benefits to body, mind and spirit. It relaxes the lower back, stimulates and massages the abdominal organs, soothes the spine and can even reduce headaches and migraines. It’s a great pose to use right before bed or in the morning as a way to calm the body and slow the mind.

The main reason why this is such a healing and relaxing pose is that it teaches us to breath correctly. Because your chest is pressed into your thighs, it forces you to breathe around the ribs and to slow down your breathing. This also helps to regulate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, bringing down the heart rate.

This is a great posture for people with knee injuries or pregnancy, as it avoids knee flexion and compression. It’s easy to modify by placing a blanket or block in the crease of your knees.

Tree Pose

Tree Pose is a balancing pose that also strengthens the legs and core. It opens and stretches the inner thigh and groin muscles, and improves balance and coordination in daily life.

To find stability and ease in this balancing posture, work on grounding down through the inner ankles, outer ankles, big toes and baby toes. You can also add a challenge to this pose by practicing it a few inches from a wall on the side of your standing leg, which helps you stay grounded and safe.

In this posture, it’s important to honor your truth, which might mean lowering the lifted foot to a position that doesn’t force the hip out to the side. You may even need to lower the foot completely to the floor if it doesn’t touch the standing leg knee at all. In any case, you can reap the health benefits of this calming posture by staying relaxed and concentrating on a steady breath.

Warrior II

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana 2) is a foundation yoga pose that strengthens and stretches the muscles of the body. This wide stance posture challenges balance and requires the front leg to externally rotate and extend forward. The upper body also gains strength as the arms extend straight out from the shoulders and gaze over the front hand.

As with other standing poses, it is important to be mindful of your body and stay within your physical limits. For students with knee or hip issues, consider a modified version of the pose with the back leg pushing down the outer edge of the mat for stability and balancing weight evenly between both feet.

Named after Virabhadra, a warrior from Hindu mythology who was born from a lock of Shiva’s hair, this empowering pose improves balance and stability and increases concentration by eliminating distractions. It also stretches the legs, hips, and groin, and opens the chest and shoulders, improving breathing capacity. This pose is also effective in reducing backaches, sciatica, and osteoporosis.