Researchers from Japan have found it takes just 12 weeks of yoga practice to see significant improvements in a variety of mental health indicators. Their study suggested that yoga can help fight anger, anxiety, depression and fatigue. These five yoga moves can elevate your spirits as well as tone your body.
1. Wide-legged forward bend with hands in Namaste. This pose helps manage stress, relieves fatigue and eases a mild headache. The pose strengthens your legs and tones your abs, while stretching your spine and shoulders. It also can help relieve a backache.
Beginners: Use a yoga block (or a firm pillow) to support your head. Alternatively, bring your hands forward and place them directly below your shoulders, pressing your thighs back. Bend your elbows and you try to place your head as low down as you can.
Advanced: Rest the crown of your head on the mat for a full minute.
2. Bridge pose. This pose reduces anxiety, calms your central nervous system and relaxes your mind while strengthening your spine, hips and neck. It also eases menstrual cramps. Breathe slowly and deeply as you hold the pose for 30 seconds to a full minute.
Beginners: If the pose is challenging, lift your back halfway.
Advanced: As you inhale and lift your back and knees off the floor, lift your heels and stand on your toes as you hold the pose for a full minute.
3. Upward-facing dog. One of the key asanas in the sun salutation sequence, upward-facing dog improves your posture, strengthens your arms and wrists, and stimulates your abs. Practice the posture when you feel stressed or fatigued.
Beginners: Keep your shoulders away from your ears as you lift your body. It is important to really push yourself to extend and lengthen your whole body as you open up in the posture.
Advanced: Transition to a handstand.
4. Head to knee. This pose stretches your whole body—the shoulders, spine and hamstrings. The head-to-knee helps tame insomnia, making it an ideal posture to add to your evening practice.
Beginners: Use a strap if you can’t reach your foot.
Advanced: Challenge yourself by widening your legs even further.
5. Corpse pose. Often described as the most important pose in yoga, the corpse pose helps you reap major benefits as it relaxes the body and calms the brain. This is an essential pose for ending any yoga sequence.