Yoga is a great way to improve focus, promote relaxation, and center yourself for a few hours out of the week. It's also a great way to promote realignment in your body and build strength. Proper alignment is an important part of avoiding injuries and pain in your back and neck for other activities such as walking, running, weight lifting, or just living.
Whether you're a beginner or an expert yogi, here are a few poses that will you build strength and improve your alignment.
A staple of any Yoga practice, downward dog is considered both an inversion and extension and it builds strength in the arms, core, and back of the legs.
To get into downward dog, start in child's pose. From here, make sure your feet are a hips-width distance apart, curl your toes under, and as you exhale, straighten both your legs, shift your hips back and left your armpits and your belly. Try to make your rib cage touch your thighs. Stay here for a few breaths.
While plank pose is traditionally used as a transition between postures, you can hold the pose to work on building strength in your core and upper body. It's important to make sure you have proper form in plank so try it in front of a mirror or with a friend. Your hips shouldn't be too high or sagging too low. You should be able to make a diagonal line from the crown of your head to your heels.
To get into plank pose, come to your hands and knees with your shoulders directly over your wrists. Tuck your toes under and straighten your legs.
If you're a beginner, you can drop your knees to the floor as you build strength. Hold the pose for as long as you can while breathing evenly.
This is a great pose to strengthen the underused muscles in your back which can help you improve your posture and alignment through the rest of your body.
To get into cobra, lie on your stomach with your forehead on the mat. Line up your hands under your shoulders, with your elbows hugged into your sides. Press your pelvis into the mat and when you breathe in, lift your shoulders and upper chest off the mat, trying not to support yourself with your hands. Pull your shoulders away from your ears and keep your gaze on the floor. Breathing out, lower your forehead back to your mat. Repeat this movement with your breath three to five times.
This standing pose strengthens the legs, core, arms, and back and works best when you have the best possible alignment. This Warrior 2 requires balance and core strength to stay steady and avoid wobbling.
To get set up, place your right foot at the front of your mat and your left foot at the back. Your left foot should turn 90 degrees and your point should face the left side of your mat. Line up your front heel and your back arch. Bend the right knee until it's directly over your right ankle and it forms a 90-degree angle. Stack your shoulders over your hips and extend your right arm and left arm back, parallel to the floor. Face the front of your mat. To build strength, hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths while maintaining your alignment.
Any standing balance helps strengthen your legs, back, and core. Tree pose is great for beginners. To start, stand in Mountain Pose with your feet a hips’ distance apart and your knees slightly soft.
Stand in Mountain Pose with your feet about hips’ distance apart and your knees slightly soft. Shift most of your weight onto your right foot and lift the left off the floor. Bend your knee and open your left hip to the left. Place the sole of the left foot on the inside of your right leg. You can use your hands to place the foot if you need to. You can go for the thigh or calf depending on your mobility, but avoid placing the foot on the inside of the knee. Remember to press your thigh into your foot as much as your foot into your thigh. Using your hands, draw your hips back into alignment if you need to.
This pose will end most yoga practices and is a great way to build mental strength. Lie on your back, arms resting gently by your sides, palms face up. Let go of tension and thoughts and turn your focus inward. Let yourself breathe normally and draw attention to the natural rhythm of the inhale and exhale. Notice if it has changed from the beginning of this practice. Rest here for several minutes.
Yoga can help build strength and improve your alignment over the course of your every day, but when you're off the mat, it's important not to undo the progress you've made. When you're walking, running, or just living life, wear Orange Insoles in your shoes to support healthy alignment and even out your weight distribution.