A strong, clear mind helps us build mindfulness, focus, self-awareness, resiliency, and may even help to decrease stress, anxiety, and the need for external validation. Yoga can be a great tool to support us in grounding down & reconnecting with what’s going on internally when we’re feeling disconnected.
Forward bending postures allow gravity to promote oxygen & blood flow to the brain, helping with mental efficacy while balancing yoga postures challenge both body & mind to remain grounded, focused, and centered. In order to remain in the pose successfully, the mind works to clear excess clutter to better focus. Seated postures help to calm the body and downregulate the nervous system. When paired with the breath, the following postures can help to restore mental clarity by giving us a sense of deeper internal connection.
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Big Toe Pose – Padangusthasana
Step 1: Stand with your feet parallel, hip width distance apart. As you inhale, sweep the arms overhead. Exhale to fold forward, bending the knees if needed to bring the hands to the floor.
Step 2: Wrap your peace fingers around each of your big toes. Inhale, lifting your torso to lengthen your spine. Exhale and notice if you can soften your hamstrings as you draw the chest towards your top thighs. Keep the knees bent if you feel like your rounding through your spine.
Step 3: For 5-10 breaths, use your breath to deepen into the posture. With every inhale, lift the torso strong as the quadriceps contract. With each exhale, lift your sitting bones as you consciously relax your hamstrings. To release, bend your knees, release the grip of your toes and vertebrae by vertebrae roll yourself back up to standing.
Lord of the Dance Pose – Natarajasana
Step 1: Stand with your feet parallel, hip width apart. Shift your weight into your right foot and bend into the left knee, drawing your heel towards your buttocks. Reach back with your left hand to grasp the outside of your left foot. Inhale to extend your right arm overhead, palm facing in. Engage your abdominals by drawing your navel in towards your spine.
Step 2: Imagine kicking your left foot away from your torso and into your hand as you work your left thigh parallel to the ground. With every inhale, notice if you can press your left foot into your hand more. With each exhale, try to fold slightly further forward from the hip.
Step 3: Focus on pressing down though the inner edge of your right foot to avoid sinking into the right hip. Stay connected to your breath as you take 5 deep inhales, then slowly release and repeat on the opposite side.
Extended Puppy Pose – Uttana Shishosana
Step 1: Beginning on your hands and knees, curl the toes under and set your shoulders above your wrists, hips above your knees.
Step 2: As you exhale, extend your hands forward as your chest moves towards the floor. Let your forehead rest onto your mat or a block for support. Continue reaching the fingertips forward.
Step 3: Inhale, breathing into your back, lengthen the spine in both directions. Exhale to see where you can invite softness into your body. Notice the gentle pressure that the ground offers your forehead. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then release your buttocks down onto your heels to come out.
Seated Forward Bend – Paschimottanasana
Step 1: Sit on the floor, placing a folded blanket under the buttocks if the hips feel congested. Press actively through your heels. With your hands alongside your body, ground down through the sit bones to lengthen the spine.
Step 2: Inhale as you reach your arms overhead and on your exhale fold forward, moving from the hip joint and not the waist. Try to lengthen your tailbone away from your heels. Wrap your hands around the outer edges of your feet or use a strap around the balls of your feet for support.
Step 3: Inhale to lift and lengthen the front of your torso slightly, on the exhale notice if you can release a little more into the forward bend. Stay in this posture from anywhere from 1-3 minutes. The longer you hold the posture, the deeper you may begin to go physically – but you also have an opportunity to check in with yourself mentally. Where are you holding onto resistance, consciously or unconsciously?
Step 4: To come up, first lift the torso away from the thighs and slowly sit up.
Bound Angle Pose – Baddha Konasana
Step 1: Sitting on the floor, draw the soles of your feet together as your knees open to the edges of your mat. Tight hips? Sit on a folded blanket. Bring your heels as close to your pelvis as you comfortably can.
Step 2: Stay here and focus on your natural breath or try the following pranayama (breathing) exercise below.
Nadi Shodhana – Alternate Nostril Breathing
Step 1: Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face. With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows. You will actively use your thumb and ring finger.
Step 2: Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly.
Step 3: Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.
Step 4: Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
Step 5: Inhale through the right side slowly. Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb). Pause.
Step 6: Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom. Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.