High 5: Yoga poses to give you a natural high

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I’ve never been a team sports girl. During dreaded hockey lessons, I struggled to coordinate hands, eyes and stick to hit the ball in any useful direction (or at all); simultaneous ‘cradling’ and running on the lacrosse pitch drained me of all my energy; and I found netball boring.  I was far happier as a solo swimmer but it’s been so long since I’ve front-crawled down a lane that I really can’t truthfully say it’s a hobby anymore.  I’ve been doing yoga for a few years now and I can’t see myself ever stopping. Here are five easy therapeutic poses to help clear your head, restore energy and remove fatigue.

This standing forward bending pose helps relieve mental tension and reduces fatigue. It also stimulates the liver and kidneys and stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips.

Stand with hands on hips, feet about hip-width apart. Exhale and bend forward from hip joints, not from the waist. Lengthen the front torso as you descend. If it isn’t possible to place hands on the floor, cross forearms, hold elbows and let your head hang. With each exhalation, relax a little more into the forward bend. Come out of the pose by placing hands on hips, lift the head, raise the torso so that it’s parallel to the floor, inhale and stand up straight.

Another forward bend to soothe anxiety and refresh the brain. It also stretches the spine, shoulders and hamstrings, whilst massaging the abdominal organs.

Sit on the floor with head, neck and back in a line and legs straight out in front of you, knees flat on the ground. Inhale as you stretch both arms over the head, elongate the spine, exhale, bend forward from hip joints, not from the waist, hold the sides of your feet, if possible, as you bring the chest, not the head, towards the knees. Use a strap to loop around the feet if you can’t reach with your hands. With each inhalation, lift slightly, lengthen the front torso a touch and as you exhale, release a little more into the bend.

Viripati karani
An inverted pose. Inversions reverse blood flow in the body allowing the heart to rest. The organs are refreshed and the brain, spine and nervous system receive a rich supply of nutrients. Viripati karani will help to relieve tired legs and calm the mind.

Place a bolster or thick firm cushion a couple of inches from the wall.  Sit on the cushion and walk your legs up the wall until your hips are level and your back is on the floor. Your sitting bones shouldn’t feel as if they’re floating, more like they’re resting down into the space between the support and the wall. The front of your torso should be gently arched. Imagine your legs are a waterfall and your belly is the pool of water at the bottom. Release the belly deep into the torso. Look into your heart. Relax. Come out of the pose by sliding backwards off the support.

This pose stretches belly muscles, increases lung capacity and improves posture. Therapeutic benefits include reducing mental agitation and soothing mild backache.

Lie on your back on the floor. Inhale, lift your pelvis slightly off the floor and slide your hands, palms downwards, beneath the thighs, tucking elbows under the body. Press forearms and elbows into the floor. Inhale and lift the upper torso and head away from the floor. Release your head back onto the floor and arch your back. Depending on how high you arch your back and lift your chest, either the back of your head or its crown will rest on the floor. There should be minimal amount of weight on your head to avoid crunching your neck. Breathe as deeply as possible, expanding the ribcage. To come out, exhale and lower the torso and head to the floor.

Savasana (corpse pose)
A relaxation pose to calm the brain, relieve stress and relax the body.

Lie flat on your back with your arms and legs apart evenly and toes falling out to the sides. Use your hands to lift the base of skull away from the back of the neck. Place arms about 45 degrees to the body, with hands relaxed and palms facing upwards. Let the eyes sink to the back of the head, then turn them downward to gaze at the heart. Breathe through the nose and be conscious of the abdomen rising and falling with each inhalation and exhalation. Relax.

Mika Bishop


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