Close your eyes and picture yourself in a peaceful room being guided through a series of gentle, fluid stretches, movements, and breathing exercises which reduce stress, release tension, improve circulation, alleviate chronic pain, and burn fat — all adding up to enhanced energy, physical and mental health, and even longevity. This is Zen yoga, and it is an increasingly popular fitness technique designed to help people where they are while bestowing upon them the many brain-body benefits of yoga.
Wondering which postures, in particular, are effective, and how they work? Here’s a closer look at six Zen yoga poses that can help you achieve next-level wellness.
Six Zen Yoga Poses to Get You Started
1. Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Tree pose, which to the naked eye may look like just standing on one leg, has many benefits, including stretching the legs, back and arms; promoting balance; improving concentration; and strengthening the legs. This hip-opening posture also offers relief to people suffering from sciatica.
Says Yoga Journal, “Hips don’t lie, and Tree Pose lets them sing their truth. Work within your body’s limitations for steadiness.” Let’s face it: Any pose that references Shakira is good by us.
(Another therapeutic exercise for sciatica and back pain? Swimming. Sign up for an Aquatic Session today.)
2. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
This therapeutic pose finds one hand resting on the floor and the other stretching to the sky. Its benefits include stretching the legs, knee muscles, ankle joints, hips, groin muscles, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest, and spine; stimulating functions of the abdominal organs, including improving digestion and alleviating constipation; alleviating back pain and symptoms of menopause; and relieving stress. It is also used therapeutically for conditions ranging from sciatica and neck pain to anxiety and infertility.
Whether you’re an athlete looking to strengthen your core or a fitness newcomer looking to build functional strength, Triangle Pose offers a wonderful stretch while feeling great, too.
3. Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
If you’ve ever taken a beginner yoga class, you’re probably familiar with Child’s Pose and Downward-Facing Dog. Extended Puppy Poe is a fusion of the two.
Says Yogapedia, “This asana provides a beneficial stretch to the spine and shoulders, and offers a release to the neck. It is thought to be an excellent respite for chronic stress or tension in the shoulders and upper spine. It is also believed by some to offer relief from insomnia.”
4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Not all yogis are bendy, but all can get bendy-er. Enter Cobra Pose. This gentle back bend is based on the individual needs of the practitioner and can be practiced in “low cobra” (close to the floor or mat) and high cobra (with the upper body extending as high as it can go).
Says Yogapedia, “Cobra pose stretches the chest and lung areas; strengthens the spine, shoulders, and abdomen; firms the buttocks; and is thought to aid in digestion and intestinal relief. This pose is also an excellent counter stretch to relieve muscles that are hunched or curled over from working at a desk or using mobile devices for many hours during the day.”
5. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
It had us at the name. Named after the feet-in-hands position often adopted by babies when lying on their backs, this asana offers a gentle stretch for the spine and inner groin. It also relieves fatigue while calming the brain. Can’t reach your feet yet? Using a yoga strap offers the same benefits.
Says Very Well of this popular pose, “Have you ever seen a baby in happy baby pose? It’s completely true that babies love this position, assume it quite instinctively, and look pretty pleased about it. Until you started yoga, you probably hadn’t tried this position for a long while. Once you start doing it, however, it feels completely natural and pretty awesome.”
6. Corpse (Savasana)
We saved the best for last. Name aside, Savasna offers the opportunity to fully relax your body and mind in order to take in all of the benefits of your practice. When done correctly, corpse pose relaxes the body; calms the brain; reduces headache, fatigue and insomnia; and helps to lower blood pressure. Don’t be misled by its nap-like appearance. Says Yoga Journal, “Savasana is a pose of total relaxation — making it one of the most challenging.”
Author and yoga expert Amit Ray once said, “Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind, and soul.” And while starting a yoga practice on your own may be intimidating, taking a class is an easy yet effective way to embrace everything this art-science-exercise has to offer. Sign up for a trial pass at Brick Bodies today to try out a yoga class for yourself, or join our Zen Days of Summer event for free classes!