Ali Kamen, a corporate wellness enthusiast at Nurish by Nature Made® and a yoga instructor at Equinox, shares 5 yoga moves we can do for free from anywhere to stay strong and healthy!
I’ve got a four-letter word you should be calling out for each day. It’s addicting, gives you a drug-free high, is calorie-free, and available any time you need it at no cost. Are you ready for it? It’s called “yoga!” If you haven’t jumped on the yoga bandwagon yet, I’m here to tell you it’s time to jump on board and get ready to go on a journey of a lifetime!
I’m going to share 5 yoga poses you can do just about anywhere. Seriously! You don’t even need a yoga mat, although having one is a nice addition.
1. CAT AND COW POSE
Let’s start with cat and cow pose. This one is awesome for the spine and gives you a little energy boost as it wakes up your central nervous system and can also release stress. This one is great to do when you wake up or any time during the day you need a little energy boost or if your back is bothering you and needs a little yoga love. Got kids? Add cat and cow animal sounds while you do the poses!
How to do it: Start on all fours on your hands and knees. Your shoulders should be right over your wrists, which should be facing the front of your yoga mat. Knees are right under the hips. Start with a neutral spine where your head and neck are in line with your spine. Inhale into cow pose and gaze up and think of creating a smile shape in your spine (moo!). Exhale into cat pose and think of a rounding or rainbow shape in your spine (meow!). I prefer that analogy to an angry cat. Repeat 5-10 times or more. It should feel really good.
2. DOWNWARD-FACING DOG
Yup, you guessed it. There are a lot of animal poses in yoga! Let’s move on to one of the more famous of all poses, the good old downward-facing dog. This is an excellent all-over body stretch as it literally helps you let loose and lengthen from your head to your toes. Down dogs help strengthen the upper back and shoulders which are weak areas for us women, so ladies get your down dog on! This pose puts you in an inverted position (think of an inverted V-shape), so it literally and figuratively gives you a different perspective, not to mention some serious blood flow to the brain to give you a little restart boost. This pose is great for calming the nervous system, promoting flexibility on the entire back body, strengthens shoulders and upper back, and just feels pretty darn good.
How to do it: Start on all fours on your hands and knees. As you exhale, lift your knees off the floor and send your butt up toward the sky. You may need to walk your hands a little forward to find more length in your spine. If you have tight hamstrings, keep a soft bend in the knees. Your heels are reaching for the floor. Your fingers are spread and your neck should be hanging heavy like a bowling ball on the end of a string. Shake your head yes and no to let that stress go! Press into your thumb and index and feel that awesome lengthening on the entire back body. Take your “dog for a walk” by bending one knee at a time. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
3. TREE POSE
This pose is a great way to work on your balance. It’s also great when your mind is just not thinking clearly. Balancing poses force you to stop thinking and focus on your breath and your balance and get recentered. So next time your brain is feeling a little foggy, you have writer’s block or just need to calm your monkey mind down, put yourself into tree pose.
How to do it: Think of your body like a tree. Let’s start with your right leg as the tree trunk. Spread your toes of the right foot and think of your foot like tree roots. Root into the floor with that foot. Then lift your right kneecap and engage your quadriceps (large muscle group in the upper thigh). Then place your left heel on your right ankle or place it above or below your right knee. Put your hands together at your heart and focus your eyes on something that isn’t moving. Feeling courageous? Extend your arms in a V-shape overhead and extend those tree branches. Embrace those windy days when your tree starts swaying a bit. If you fall out of it, just try again. Hold for 5-10 breaths then release that and try it on the other side. If you need more support, try doing this against a wall. Keep in mind, our balance changes from day to day so don’t beat yourself up if your balance is off. It’s just a yoga pose.
4. CHAIR POSE
This is no lazy boy kind of chair. This chair tones and strengthens the entire body, particularly the thighs and core. It also gives you a boost of energy as it brings fresh oxygenated blood to the large muscle groups. The more you practice this one, this chair could soon become a calorie-burning, leg toning office chair!
How to do it: Start standing with your feet a few inches apart from each other. Make sure your toes are facing forward. Inhale your arms up over your head, arms extended long by your ears. As you exhale, bend your knees and sit down and back toward your heels. Try lifting all 10 toes off the mat as that will nicely shift your body weight back into your heels, which is where you want it. Instead of sticking your butt back, think about scooping your tailbone under. Think of your body creating a lightning bolt shape. Stay for 5-10 breaths, then stand up and feel that blood rush through your thighs. Then do it again! You can always ditch the arms in this pose and focus more on the action in your legs.
5. TRIANGLE POSE
I saved the best pose for last as this is my all-time favorite yoga pose. I always include this pose in my yoga classes. It stretches you everywhere, like your hips, calves, chest, shoulders, side body, hamstrings, and more! Did I mention it feels a-mazing? Give this pose a try. You can even do it against a wall to really help get your hips and shoulders in alignment.
How to do it: If you are on a yoga mat, face the long side of your mat. Take a wide stance and turn your front foot forward to face the front of your yoga mat. Extend your arms so they are parallel to the floor and take and inhale. As you exhale, reach through your front arm and when you can’t go any further, let that arm come down to your ankle, shin, or thigh. Extend your other arm up to the sky or try my favorite variation and send that arm over your ear toward the front of your yoga mat. Got tight shoulders? Take that arm behind you and reach for the opposite hip crease for a nice added shoulder opener. You want your shoulders and hips to be in line with each other. Keep your core engaged and hold for 5-10 breaths then stand up and repeat on the other side. Bonus points: Try this against a wall so you get the full blissful feeling from this awesome pose.
Ali Kamen is a corporate health and wellness enthusiast at Nature Made®, a yoga instructor at Equinox, a wife for over 24 years, and mom to two daughters. She discovered the true power of yoga after giving birth to her first child 20 years ago. She found yoga helps keep her life as a wife and working mom in balance. Her professional background in public health and corporate wellness drove her to pursue becoming a certified yoga instructor so she could share the wonderful benefits of yoga with others. When she isn’t teaching yoga or helping others improve their health, she is out on a run, getting sweaty on her stationary bike, enjoying sushi with her hubby, or wine tasting with her sisters. Ali’s passion lies in helping others live healthy, mindful, and more meaningful lives. You can access Ali’s classes on YouTube.
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.
Carroll is a nutrition scientist and communicator with over 25 years of experience as a clinician, researcher, and educator at major universities, medical centers, and nutrition industry settings. She is a passionate advocate of nutritional health and established the nutrition education and science platforms at Pharmavite. Carroll is an expert in personalized nutrition and has published several scientific papers on vitamin and mineral inadequacies and the impact on health and wellbeing. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Carroll taught nutrition at UCLA Medical School and Santa Monica College and was a chief clinical dietitian and researcher.