Top Yoga Poses
Adho Mukha Svanasana
“Downward-Facing Dog helps you elongate your back, hamstrings, and calves, ” Crandell says. “It also develops greater strength and conditioning in the arms and shoulders. You’re getting the benefits of a mild inversion since the pelvis is over the heart and the heart is over the brain. Down Dog is an accessible, semi-inverted state that helps you focus your attention.”
This pose is an excellent start to your home practice because it’s a good all-around warming up posture. Hold for 5–10 breaths.
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“Most people who are sitting at desk for long periods of time are going to have excessive tension in the front of their hips, hip flexors, and quadriceps, ” Crandell says. “Anjaney helps relieve that excess tension by stretching these areas.”
Try Anjaney early in your sequence help unravel and release some of your chronic tension.
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“Warrior II is a strong pose that is foundational for many others such as Side Angle, Half Moon and Triangle, ” Crandell says. “You get to the medial side of the leg, or the inseam. It brings attention to and strengthens the quadriceps and arms. When you strengthen the legs, that increases flexibility in the hip joint.”
Try Warrior II after a few other warm-up poses but before Side Angle, Half Moon, and Triangle. This is a whole-body pose that helps you develop physical awareness and generate heat.
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“Triangle adds more hamstring and inner leg opening, ” Crandell says. “It also provides a mild side bend and twist. I like that triangle includes a bit of everything. It’s one pose that checks a lot of different boxes. It’s accessible but sophisticated.”
Try Triangle after Warrior II for a smooth transition since you don’t have to change the position of your feet.
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“Warrior I strengthens the legs, opens the hips, lengthens the hip flexors and adductors. The pose builds stamina, ” Crandell says. “All of the standing poses are highly focusing for the mind because they are demanding. Demanding postures tend to require our full attention.”
The lunge and two standing poses that come earlier help to prepare the hips for Warrior I. Warrior I is harder than Warrior II and Triangle for most people. And Warrior I helps prepare the shoulders for the Handstand and Wheel to come.
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Adho Mukha Vrksasana
“Whether you like it, hate it, you will be fully focused on the present moment when you work on Handstand, ” Crandell says. “It’s not a pose where the mind has the ability to space out. Handstand also trains a high level of skillful physical integration. Your whole body has to work together to do it.”
Try Handstand after you’ve done a few poses that work the lower body. This pose will counterbalance standing poses by working the upper body.
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“For me, this is the single most important strengthener for the back of the body in yoga, ” Crandell says. “We strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, paraspinal muscles, scapular and posterior shoulder muscles that are easy to neglect in other postures. And given our physical lifestyle, we sit in chairs most of the time. It’s really important to practice Locust often to strengthen muscles that get chronically weak.”
Try locust after the body is warm. Do it first and then progress through your backbend series.
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“Wheel strengthens the entire posterior body and opens the entire anterior body, ” Crandell says. “That means it strengthens the back and opens the front. You develop more flexibility and strength in the shoulders, spine, back of the hips, glutes, and hamstrings. It’s one of these poses where it’s challenging for practitioners of every level. If you have time, include a few repetitions.”
Do Wheel when you’re warm and after you’ve done a few milder backbends building up to it. Wheel strengthens the body while it neutralizes the mind.
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“This is a very efficient pose in that you are simultaneously opening both major ball and socket joints of the body: your hips and shoulders, ” Crandell says. “It’s a big outer and posterior hip opener. It’s a big shoulder opener. Your arms are doing diametrically opposed things. Both shoulders go through a big range of opening. It’s a really balanced combination. Also, for a lot of people, the other hip openers get a little tricky with their knees. Even most people who have knee discomfort in other outer hip-opening postures are able to get away with Gomukhasana.”
Try Cow Face Pose after your backbends. It helps re-lengthen the back body and outer hips.
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“Sometimes people at home skip Savasana, ” Crandell says. “They start thinking of all the other things they should be doing at home. But Legs-Up-the-Wall feels like a more active pose. People are more inclined to do this restorative pose. It’s my favorite pose in a workshop or training environment. ”