Put down that sugary soda you snagged from the vending machine. If you need a pick-me-up to get you through the day, save the calories and try a few yoga poses. Yoga improves balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength and can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. Yoga poses are included in many workout routines and classes. Programs have been designed for strength, flexibility, better sleep, weight loss and increased energy.
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Tree pose can assist with your physical and mental balance. It strengthens the muscles in your legs and requires great focus. Start with your feet firmly on the ground and your hands on your hips. Slowly lift your right leg off the floor and place your right foot flat against your left leg. You can initiate this pose with your foot against your lower leg. As the pose gets easier and your balance improves, place your foot against your thigh. Once your foot is placed and you are stable, place your hands into prayer position with your palms together and your fingers pointing up. Advance this pose by reaching your arms toward the ceiling and gazing at your fingertips. Hold this position for one minute. Repeat this pose on the left leg.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog strengthens your body and rejuvenates your mind. Begin in table position -- on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Tuck in your toes. As you exhale, straighten your knees and lift your hips. You will be in an inverted V-shaped position. Push with your hands and try to push your heels to the floor. Your gaze should be directed through your legs, and your head should be relaxed. Advance this pose by alternately lifting your legs off the floor. Hold this pose for one minute.
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Warrior I strengthens your back and all major muscle groups in your legs; it also stretches the muscles in the chest and abdomen. Stand with your feet apart and point your right foot forward while turning your left foot toward the top corner of the mat about 45 degrees. Push with your right heel. As you exhale, bend your left knee until it is directly over your ankle; the farther you bend your knee, the more difficult the pose becomes. The goal is to bend your knee 90 degrees. You may need to adjust your standing width to keep your ankle under your knee as you advance this pose. Inhale and reach for the ceiling. Tilt your head to look up through your fingertips. Hold this pose for one minute. Repeat on the other side.
Yoga breathing can also energize you and may be a less noticeable option at work or on the subway. Yoga breathing is often practiced in chair pose on the floor, but you can perform it on any surface. Practice yoga breathing throughout your poses. Sit up straight and inhale deeply, filling your lungs from bottom to top. Slowly breathe out of your mouth while emptying your lungs from top to bottom.
Mary Tolley Rhodes has been a practicing physical therapist since 2000, working in various settings across the southeastern United States. She serves as the chairwoman of the West Virginia Physical Therapy Association's Education Committee. Rhodes holds a master's degree in physical therapy from West Virginia University.