Everyone usually thinks of dancers as bendable, limber people, but what they don’t know is that it doesn’t come easily. From a young age, dancers have to work for their flexibility by stretching daily. If you’re in need of a stretching and strengthening guide, while wanting to keep calm and relaxed, here are five yoga poses to promote your body’s elasticity and vitality. If you don’t own a yoga mat, a comfy towel or blanket will do just fine, as long as it won’t slip around underneath you. Be sure to throw on some soothing instrumental music while you’re at it, and sitting outside in a peaceful environment wouldn’t hurt either- if weather permits.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog)
Target area: calves, hamstrings, shoulders
This stretch looks like an upside-down “V”, and is encouraged for beginners and advanced yogis alike. According to DoYouYoga.com, it brings blood flow to your brain, tones your core and waist, and is a great stretch for your spine and back, which coincidentally brings more oxygen into your body. If you’re a little stiff, you can slightly bend your knees until you feel the stretch.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Target area: hips, ankles, back, shoulders
Often used as a transition between more difficult poses in a flow, this is a great one for yoga beginners. It is commonly practiced to reduce stress and fatigue, and stretch the hip, shoulders and back muscles. YogaOutlet.com says it restores balance and equanimity to the body, so after a long day, it is perfect for releasing stress and worries, and calming your mood.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
Target area: hips, shoulders, lower back
If you need to stretch out stiff hips from excessively sitting at your day job, give this one a try. The hips and hip flexors are rotated and organs are even stimulated in this pose, which can help with digestion. Additionally, the chest and lungs are expanded, helping you breathe better. Try to keep your hips straight and squared off when practicing the pigeon pose.
Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Target area: hips, knees, ankles, spine
A more advanced pose, the lotus pose, is usually used in meditation. It encourages circulation in the spine and pelvis. Only practice this pose after you’ve done other hip-opening exercises, because it requires flexibility and you don’t want to hurt yourself! Ancient yoga manuals state that this pose is the “destroyer of all diseases“, so it may be a good idea to practice it if you know the start of flu season is around the corner.
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Target area: back, upper thighs, shoulders
Aptly named for its similarity to the appearance of the archer’s bow, this pose is said to encourage power and fearlessness. If you have asthma or respiratory problems, this one‘s for you. The bow pose expands the chest and strengthens the lungs, meaning you’ll be able to breathe better after doing it. It also stretches the core and arm muscles. Try to keep your head and neck upright while doing this stretch.