How-To: Energize Your Day with These Five Yoga Poses

A yoga teacher shows us how to increase energy and sleep better using five simple moves.

September was a doozy. Whether you went back to school or not, you’re likely dealing with a longer commute, more foot traffic around Boston’s busy streets, a congested meeting calendar, and that exhausted feeling that comes at the end of a fun-filled summer.

Coffee might be the first thing that comes to mind when you hit an afternoon slump or wake up bleary-eyed, but yoga is a great fix, too. A quick stretch gives your body the energy it needs to fight fatigue, relieve stress, and improve sleep later in the day.

Not convinced? A recent study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that when young, healthy individuals practiced yoga during the day, they experienced reduced plasma levels of adrenaline and increased plasma levels of serotonin, aiding in a restful slumber and more productive days.

Whether you’re looking to improve sleep or just give yourself an afternoon energy boost, give this sequence a try next time stress levels spike.

Extended mountain pose

Start in mountain pose with feet separated hips’ distance apart. Place your arms by your sides and turn your palms forward. As you inhale, bring your hands overhead; stop at shoulders’ width, with palms turned to face each other.

On an exhale, swan dive down by releasing your arms to the side and down to the floor as you fold forward at the hips. Inhale as you roll up to stand, one vertebrae at a time. Exhale and relax in mountain pose. Complete five rounds.

Tip: When your arms are overhead, try to keep your shoulders down and away from the ears.

Down dog to planks

Start in downward-facing dog by placing your hands at the front of your mat and feet at the back. Create an inverted V with with your body, sending your hips up to the sky. In this position, your hands are spaced shoulders’ width apart, while feet are hip’s width. Spread your fingers wide, with the middle finger pointing straight ahead. Soften elbows and knees slightly.

On an inhale, rock out to a plank. Position your shoulders over your wrists and push firmly into your hands to open up the space between your shoulder blades. At the same time, tighten your core and engage the muscles in your legs. When you exhale, return to down dog. Repeat 10 times.

Rock and roll

Sit down with knees bent and feet on the floor. Grab the backs of your legs. Tuck the chin slightly, inhale, and roll onto your back. On an exhale, use your core to come back to starting position. Complete five rounds.

Bridge or wheel

Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet on the floor. Reach your arms down by your sides, palms facing down, and make sure you can graze your heels with your fingertips. Lift the hips off the floor. Feel length in your spine. Hold for 10 breaths. Release the hips to the ground.

Repeat another round of bridge pose or move on to wheel pose. Start in the same position, but place your hands by your ears with fingertips facing the shoulders. Press through your hands and feet to lift your hips to the sky. Hold for 10 breaths.

Upside down

Start by lying on your back, arms by your sides with palms facing down. Extend your legs straight over your hips and flex your feet; a slight bend in the knees is fine. Stay here or move to a shoulder stand.

If you’re moving to shoulder stand, bring your knees toward your chest and roll onto your upper back. Catch your hips with your hands and extend your legs towards the ceiling. Work to move your hips over your shoulders, legs over the hips. Be careful not to scrunch the neck. Hold your inversion for 10 breaths.

Advanced: If a handstand or headstand is in your practice, spend several breaths there. End in child’s pose.