My Favorite Yoga Poses to Increase Energy and Reduce Stress / Anxiety

Well hey there! πŸ‘‹πŸ»

If you've been with me for a while, you know that yoga is a huge part of my life. I work part time at a yoga studio and when I'm not practicing there, chances are you can find me flowing on my mat in my home office. Yoga is beneficial for so many reasons (improved flexibility, muscle strength, improved posture, increased blood flow, lowers blood pressure, helps us focus...to name a few) and while many of us appreciate our practice while on our mats (duh), how often are we actually taking our practice with us off of the mat, too?

Today, I wanted to share five of my favorite yoga poses to turn to when I need to reduce stress / anxiety and kick my inner confidence up a notch.

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MOUNTAIN POSE

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Mountain pose (Tadasana) is one of my favorite poses because it's the foundation of most of our practice on our mats.

BENEFITS: This pose is grounding. It strengthens our ankles, knees, thighs, glutes and abdomen. It helps to improve our posture, can help relieve sciatica, reduces flat feet, increases awareness, improves stability / groundedness and confidence. When I worked in my corporate job, I used to do this pose behind closed doors of a conference room in our office before an important meeting or phone call. It helped bring me into the space of the conversations that were going to be had and give me the boost of confidence that I needed if I was feeling a little low in energy that day.

HOW TO (as explained by Yoga Journal): 

Step 1: Stand with the bases of your big toes touching, heels slightly apart (so that your second toes are parallel). Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them softly down on the floor. Rock back and forth and side to side. Gradually reduce this swaying to a standstill, with your weight balanced evenly on the feet.

Step 2: Firm your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps, without hardening your lower belly. Lift the inner ankles to strengthen the inner arches, then imagine a line of energy all the way up along your inner thighs to your groins, and from there through the core of your torso, neck, and head, and out through the crown of your head. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor and lift the pubis toward the navel.

Step 3: Press your shoulder blades into your back, then widen them across and release them down your back. Without pushing your lower front ribs forward, lift the top of your sternum straight toward the ceiling. Widen your collarbones. Hang your arms beside the torso.

Step 4: Balance the crown of your head directly over the center of your pelvis, with the underside of your chin parallel to the floor, throat soft, and the tongue wide and flat on the floor of your mouth. Soften your eyes.

Step 5: Tadasana is usually the starting position for all the standing poses. But it's useful to practice Tadasana as a pose in itself. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing easily.

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TREE POSE

Our second pose is tree pose or vrksasana. One of the things I love most about this pose is how easy or difficult it can be depending on your mood. Tree pose requires concentration, thoughtfulness and patience and can be one of the most powerful poses that we practice. 

BENEFITS: I've always appreciated the symbolism in the name of this pose. We're rooting to the ground with our base foot and then extending high to the sky with arms outstretched tall / energetically pointing up just as a tree does. This pose is great for building self-esteem as we stand tall and proud feeling the ground beneath us and our shoulders and hearts open. 

HOW TO (as explained by Yoga Journal):

Step 1: Stand with your feet together, inner ankles and inner knees touching. Find a straight line of energy through the center of the body, from the inner arches up through the crown of the head. Bring the hands together at the center of the chest to your heart center (as seen in the first photo above).. Exhale, root down through your feet, and feel steadiness, firmness, and grounding in Tadasana, or Mountain Pose.

Step 2: Shift your weight onto your right foot. Bend your left knee, and move it toward the chest. Keeping a long spine, reach down and clasp your left ankle. Place the sole of the left foot on the inner right thigh (or at the right ankle as shown in the third photo above. Your foot that is not grounded should always be placed above or below the knee and never on the side of the knee directly).

Step 3: Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor to stand tall and bring your drishti (your spot of focus...you can either look directly out in front of you and concentrate on something that isn't moving or look on the floor to a spot a couple of feet in front of you), or gaze, to the wall directly in front of you to help you balance.

Step 4: Press your left foot into the inner right thigh and your right thigh into your foot in an effort to maintain your midline (or your foot can remain at the ankle if that feels more comfortable / stable).

Step 5: Square both hips to the front of the room, keeping your left knee moving out to the left.

Step 6: Firm your outer right thigh by contracting the quadriceps muscles, or the front of the thighs. Zip your belly in and your lower ribs together. Lift the chest and bring the shoulder blades down.

Step 7: Take 5–10 deep breaths, finding length on each inhale and rooting down with each exhale.

Step 8: Exhale and release the left leg back to Tadasana or Mountain Pose.. Repeat on the other side.

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WARRIOR II

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Our third pose is Warrior II or virabhadra and this pose ALWAYS makes me feel super focused, powerful and driven. I mean the sanskrit name of this pose is literally the name of a fierce warrior so it's no surprise that this pose conjures up those feelings!

BENEFITS: Warrior II is always a pose that kind of snaps me back into reality during a flow. Outside of increasing your focus and awareness, Warrior II is a full body pose that works your legs, hips, core, chest, arms and shoulders.

HOW TO (as explained by Yoga Journal): 

Step 1: Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.

Step 2: Turn your right foot slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. Firm your thighs and turn your left thigh outward so that the center of the left knee cap is in line with the center of the left ankle.

Step 3: Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the left thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor.

Step 4: Stretch the arms away from the space between the shoulder blades, parallel to the floor. Don't lean the torso over the left thigh: Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers.

Step 5: Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.

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GODDESS POSE

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Goddess Pose or Utkata Konasana is one of the most interesting poses in yoga to me because whenever I'm in it I feel so vulnerable yet so powerful all at the very same time. You're facing this pose head-on, opening up your entire body to be exposed and yet you're also drawing in such powerful feminine energy.

BENEFITS: This pose is great for strengthening our calves, quadriceps, inner thighs, core, shoulders, arms and upper back. It also opens up the groin, hips and chest, roping in both upper and lower energy centers of our body.

HOW TO (as explained by Do You Yoga):

Step 1: From Mountain pose (Tadasana), turn to face the long edge of your yoga mat and step your feet wide and parallel, approximately 3 feet apart.


Step 2: Turn your toes out and your heels in, creating a 45 degree angle with each foot.

Step 3: On an exhale, take a deep bend in your knees, moving toward bringing your thighs parallel to the ground and your hips in line with your knees. The knees have a tendency to bow inwards as they bend, so ensure that your knees remain stacked directly over your ankles. Ensure that your knees are pointing in the same direction as your toes to help protect your joints. If necessary, adjust the placement of your feet.

Step 4: Extend your arms out at shoulder height and bend your elbows to 90 degrees with your palms facing away from you. Spread your fingers wide and draw your shoulder blades into your back.


Step 5: Keep your core engaged and draw your low ribs into your body. Lengthen your tailbone down toward the ground and keep your shoulders stacked directly over your hips.


Step 6: Press down evenly through the soles of both feet and remain in the pose for up to 5 deep breaths.


Step 7: To come out of the pose, extend your legs, lower your arms and step back to Mountain pose.

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SEATED MEDITATION POSE

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Last but certainly not least is our fifth and final pose, seated meditation or "easy pose." This is a pose I do every single day of my life, whether I have time to flow on my mat or not. 

BENEFITS: This pose gently opens our hips, helps lengthen our spine by promoting good posture and promotes calm + groundedness. It also induces a state of relaxation, alleviates feelings of stress and improves our mood. I ALWAYS turn to this pose when I find myself out of alignment or needed to turn inward quickly. 

HOW TO (as explained by Yoga Journal):

Step 1: Fold a thick blanket or two into a firm support about six inches high. Sit close to one edge of this support and stretch your legs out in front of your torso on the floor in Dandasana (Staff Pose).

Step 2: Cross your shins, widen your knees, and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you bend your knees and fold the legs in toward your torso.

Step 3: Relax the feet so their outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin.

Step 4: As always, you should sit with your pelvis in a relatively neutral position. To find neutral, press your hands against the floor and lift your sitting bones slightly off the support. As you hang there for a few breaths, make your thigh bones heavy, then slowly lower your sit bones lightly back to the support. Try to balance your pubic bone and tail bone so they're equidistant from the floor.

Step 5: Either stack your hands in your lap, palms up, or lay your hands on your knees, palms down. Lengthen your tail bone toward the floor, firm your shoulder blades against your back to you're your upper torso, but don't over arch your lower back and poke your lower front ribs forward.

Step 6: You can sit in this position for any length of time, but if you practice this pose regularly, be sure to alternate the cross of the legs. A good rule of thumb: On even-numbered days, cross the right shin in front of the left, and on odd-numbered days, do the opposite. Alternately, you can divide the practice time in half, and spend the first half with your right leg forward, and the second half with the left leg forward.

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And that's it for today's post! Do you have any favorite poses to share? Leave them in the comments below!

Mary Beth ManninoComment