If you are struggling with lethargy, you may find relief in yoga. Yoga is an ancient practice that has persisted as one of the most popular ways to practice movement. Whether you’re used to more intense workouts or you’re new to exercise altogether, you may be pleasantly surprised by yoga. It has the capacity to rejuvenate, energize, and revitalize you, whilst simultaneously restoring your peace.
In this article we'll cover some of the best energizing yoga poses you can integrate into your practice to help give you a boost of energy to carry you throughout your day. Let’s get started.
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that incorporates a number of poses and breathing techniques to centre the mind and body to the present moment. The practice of yoga is said to have originated during the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in northern India more than 5,000 years ago.
There are different styles of yoga, including: Yin, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Kundalini, Hatha, iyengar, Jivamukti and Bikram, amongst others. Despite varying differences across the different styles, all yoga has the same core essence: combining movement with breathwork. Each yogi is guided through a series of poses that may include different positions, balancing, strength and stretching, all the while focusing on breathing.
What are the benefits of yoga?
The benefits of yoga are two-fold: the benefits of movement, and the benefits of mindfulness.
As you likely know, exercise is beneficial for your general health. Yoga, specifically, is a type of low impact, low intensity exercise that promotes flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular health. During a yoga flow, the poses and holds require body strength; activating your muscle fibers to stay contracted to hold the pose throughout the given amount of time.
Despite the ‘low impact low intensity’ association of yoga, it is still an effective form of exercise for building body strength. Throughout the various movements you will be using your body weight as a resistance, working similarly to weights. This creates micro-tears in the muscle, a sign of muscle damage, which triggers a healing response to strengthen the muscle fibers so they are less prone to damage when exposed to the same stimulus. In short: the more yoga you do, the stronger your body will become.
A study published in the Journal of Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, examined the effects of a 12-week hatha yoga intervention. At the end of the clinical trial, the researchers found that participants significantly improved muscular strength. Other benefits included significant improvements to their VO2max and resting heart rate, two key markers of cardiorespiratory endurance, and flexibility.
One of the most noted health outcomes of yoga is improved flexibility. A study published by the International Journal of Yoga asked college athletes to do yoga for 10 weeks. The researchers discovered that it significantly improved their flexibility and balance compared to the control group.
A lack of physical flexibility is very common in the modern world. We spend most of our day sitting at desks, driving in cars, watching tv… essentially: sitting down. This induces decreases in muscle strength and function, as well as deteriorating spine health and triggering joint pain, as noted in a 2015 study by the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.
Yoga poses stimulate the fascia, the thin layer of connective tissue that covers your muscles and organs, keeping it all together. When the fascia gets tight, it reduces flexibility. Working through poses that stretch and warm the fascia can help to release it.
According to the Yoga Journal, “flexibility is an attitude”. What this means is that during yoga practice, you are encouraged to visualize your tight muscles, and send a conscious signal to them to stretch. While this sounds far-out, in reality, studies support the hypothesis that the mind-to-muscle connection is real, and when utilized properly, it can have profound benefits during stretching for flexibility.
Aside from the physical benefits of yoga, there are a multitude of psychological and cognitive benefits.
The aim of combining movement with breathwork is to slow down the mind and focus on the movement and feelings in the body. A yoga teacher may often prompt the question “what are you feeling in your body right now?”. The answer is different for everyone, but encourages you to mindfully scan your body, tapping into any feelings that may be suppressed in your body - like tension, anxiety, aches etc.
This is a type of mindfulness practice, helping you to find peace and balance in your body and mind. As a result, studies show that yoga shifts you into a parasympathetic state - the rest and digest state. During this state, cortisol and adrenaline decrease, and maximum mental relaxation is achieved.
A parasympathetic state is also associated with cognitive function: better memory, focus, attention span, and managing of stress. This can help you feel mentally sharp and energized. With that being said, what are the best yoga poses for energizing you?
The best energizing yoga poses
Urdhva hastasana - Palm tree pose
From a standing position, with palms facing forward, take a deep breath in and reach arms up and overhead, eyes following. This pose helps to boost your energy by encouraging deep revitalizing breath, to warm up your body at the start of a yoga flow.
This exercise stretches the abdomen, which can help to improve digestion. Stretching overhead can help to release tension in the neck and shoulders - a common location for stress to be held physically.
Anjaneyasana - Low lunge and reach
You can perform this exercise by stepping one foot forward and lowering into a deep lunge. Lower your back knee to the floor and extend into the stretch, opening up your hips. Reach arms upwards, with your eyes following, and reach back.
During the low lunge, you are releasing tension in your hips, which counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting. As a result, your hamstrings and quads are also being stretched, releasing the fascia, improving muscle and joint tightness.
Your core is contracted, and you are breathing deeply. As you reach your hands up and overhead, you are opening up your chest and heart center, stimulating Anahata energy and clearing the heart chakra.
Salab hasana - Locust pose
Lay flat on your stomach with your arms along your torso and your palms facing. Elevate your chest and feet from the floor at the same time, breathing in as you do so. This will activate your glute and back muscles, as it opens up your chest and hips.
This exercise predominantly strengthens the spine, glutes, and triceps, and is used to improve posture and counteract the effects of prolonged sitting. Similarly to the urdhva hastasana, this is a pose associated with stress relief. It may feel unnatural initially, but the more you practice it, you will enjoy a boost of energy afterwards as a result of opening up the body.
Whether you’re struggling with stress, joint pain, tightness, or you just want to move your body for the general health benefits - yoga is a great option. Not only can it be done from the comfort of your home with no equipment, it has a mountain of evidence supporting its efficacy for physical and mental health.
Try these energizing yoga poses today and enjoy a release of pain, tension, and lethargy as you continue about your day in a revitalized state.