By Jacob Johnson
July 6, 2020
With an ongoing pandemic, protests, riots, and mass unemployment, our daily lives are filled with stressors. It can be hard to find peace, especially with our favorite yoga studios being closed due to the quarantine. Fortunately, you can still center yourself and clear your mind from the comfort of your own home.
To ease the pain of being separated from our studios, we’ve cultivated a list of yoga exercises that require very little space. These positions can all be done from home — all you need is a yoga mat. For more visual demonstrations, join our livestream, where our expert yoga instructors like Sonya Matejko (pictured below) guide you through energizing yoga routines.
It’s important that we keep up with your practice, even from home. Yoga helps to revitalize your mind and spirit, fortifying your ability to deal with stress. It also improves your concentration, which is great for those of us working remotely, and its cardiorespiratory benefits combat the downsides of our more sedentary lifestyles.
The Cat-Cow Pose is a nice, gentle combination to begin your yoga routine with. These exercises stretch your back, neck and upper torso, and help to warm up your muscles before moving on to more intense positions.
Let’s start with the Cow Pose. Settle into the tabletop position, on all fours with your shoulders over your hands and your hips over your knees. Relax your head and neck with your eyes cast downward. Then, take a deep breath, and as you inhale, arch your back. Lower your stomach while lifting your chest and shoulders until your head looks straight ahead. Hold the position for a moment, then, as you exhale, return to the tabletop pose.
Now, stretch in the opposite direction. Lift your spine upwards as you exhale, arching your back like — well, like a cat. Let your head hang forward naturally, without forcing it. Hold the position, then return to the Cow Pose. Alternate between the two positions until you feel loose and limber. Remember to breathe. Inhale into Cow, exhale into Cat. Get comfortable. Feel free to get creative with your stretches; go as fast or slow as you’d like.
This next yoga exercise is a little more challenging. The Chair Pose utilizes the entire body — stretching your upper body while strengthening your lower body.
The Chair Pose is one of our favorites, and after trying it you’ll see why. Like planking, it’s quick, but intense. Not only does this yoga position stretch and strengthen your limbs, it’s also good for your heart and diaphragm.
Starting from a neutral standing position, lift your arms above your shoulders. Do whatever feels comfortable with your hands: keep them parallel or pressed together. Take a deep breath as you raise your arms, then, as you exhale, bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Lower your shoulders and keep your back straight as you lean slightly forward. Hold the position for thirty seconds. Make sure you don’t forget to breathe. If this pose is too difficult, you can brace yourself against the wall for extra support.
3. Warrior I
The Warrior Poses are a set of exercises rooted in Hindu mythology. The poses are named after the manifestation of Shiva’s wrath, who rose from the ground to slay his immolated wife’s oppressors. The first pose, Warrior I, illustrates how the warrior god rose from the earth with a blade in each hand. In it, we mirror his strength and tenacity as we lift ourselves out of chaos and confusion.
Starting from a neutral standing position, broaden your stance until your feet are wide apart. Bring your hands together, then lift them toward the ceiling until they’re perpendicular to the ground.
Turn your left foot to face the end of your yoga mat while turning your right foot toward its side. Keep your back straight and your heels aligned as you turn your torso to the left.
Bend your left knee until it’s directly above your ankle while extending your right leg until your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Plant your feet firmly and arch your back slightly as you reach toward the ceiling. Lift your head until it’s aligned with your arms.
Hold the pose for thirty seconds. Remember to breathe. Then, slowly invert the positions of your feet. Turn your right foot toward the end of your yoga mat while turning your left foot toward its side. Keep your arms up as you shift your weight, extending your left leg while bending your right. Turn your torso to the right, plant your feet, and stretch.
The Warrior I pose targets your neck, shoulders, chest, back, thighs, calves, and ankles — effectively stimulating and energizing your body at the beginning or end of a long day. It also strengthens your muscles and both your respiratory and cardiovascular systems, which is great if you’ve been stuck in the house all day.
4. Downward-Facing Dog
The last two exercises are a bit strenuous, so let’s give ourselves a break with the next pose, The Downward-Facing Dog, which is all about rejuvenation.
Return to the tabletop position, with your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your wrists. Slide your hands forward until they’re just past your shoulders, then lift yourself off of your knees and onto your toes. When you’re firmly planted, lift your hips toward the ceiling. Breathe deeply. As you exhale, lower your heels to the ground. Keep your head between your outstretched arms.
This pose gently stretches your limbs, and there’s evidence to suggest that it can help with headaches and back pain. Hold the position for a minute or two before moving on to the next yoga exercise.
5. Easy Pose/Meditation
Like Downward-Facing Dog, our last exercise is meant to help rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Its benefits have been scientifically proven, and it’s a great way to center yourself amidst the hassles of daily life. With our minds constantly bouncing between work, parenting and other responsibilities, it can be helpful to take a second to ground ourselves in the moment.
Sit with your legs crossed. Do whatever feels comfortable with your hands. Place them on your thighs or clasp them together. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you turn your attention inward. Focus on filling your lungs (comfortably, without straining) with each breath. Allow your thoughts to come and go without fixating on any of them.
Meditation helps to alleviate both stress and anxiety. Spend five to ten minutes (or longer) calming and centering yourself at the end of your yoga session to set the mood for the rest of the day.
The yoga exercises outlined above can be completed in as little as twenty minutes. Together, they provide a stimulating, full-body routine that requires very little space. All you need is the length and width of a yoga mat.
Our yoga studios may be closed, but that’s no reason to stop practicing. The exercises we’ve outlined above are simple, yet effective, and they can fit into any schedule. Take twenty minutes before clocking into work (or after clocking out) to revitalize your body and spirit.