12 Amazing Yoga Poses For Physical & Mental Health
Have you heard of super foods? They’re foods like kale and avocado that are more nutrient dense than other food on store shelves. Think of these yoga poses as super asanas! They seem to be the best yoga poses for…well…everything!
You know that yoga can benefit both your physical and mental health, but there are some that just really stand out to me. I do a lot of research on yoga poses, because I’m a strong believer in using yoga as a tool for a healthier you. Here are just a few of the yoga pose series I’ve put together here at Care2:
- Yoga for Concentration
- Yoga for Energy
- Yoga for Improving Circulation
- Yoga to Overcome Anxiety
- Yoga for Lower Back Pain
As you can see, the targets of these series vary widely. What I’ve been noticing lately, though, is that there are these “repeat offenders” whenever I’m compiling these series. Whether we’re talking about relieving aches and pain or improving mental health, these 12 postures seem to pop up over and over again. Not every pose is in every single one of my series, but these 12 poses seem to be a motif in my research.
Continue reading to see the 12 asanas that seem to be the best yoga poses for practically everything. If you have a favorite super asana that’s not on this list, I’d love if you would share it in the comments!
1. Easy Pose
Easy pose kind of is what it says it is. It’s simple and relaxing. Just sit in a criss-cross position with a straight back and your hands on your knees. A lot of practices combine easy pose with breathing exercises to add even more benefit. Some of the breathing exercises that you can do in easy pose are:
You can also choose to just sit in easy pose and focus on your breath’s natural rhythm.
2. Mountain Pose
Better posture, better balance, improved concentration and an overall sense of tranquility. What can’t mountain pose do?
Mountain pose is almost like the standing version of easy pose. Just stand up straight, with your shoulders rolled down and back and gaze ahead. Bring your hands into prayer position, and breathe. Mountain pose is the starting point for many standing postures, but it’s also very beneficial on its own.
3. Tree Stand
Balancing postures like tree stand help stabilize your body and focus your minds. What I love about tree stand in particular is that it’s a great beginner balancing pose, but it’s still beneficial for advanced yoginis.
To get into tree stand, begin in mountain pose, then lift your right leg and grab hold of the knee. If you’re comfortable there, you can move on by placing your right foot onto the inside of your left thigh, then bring your hands into prayer position. Once you feel good here, you can complete the posture by raising your arms above your head, like in the photo above. Stay here and breathe, then repeat on the left side.
The great thing about tree stand is that no matter how far into the pose you get, your mind and body benefits.
4. Downward Dog
Downward dog stretches and strengthens the legs and spine while strengthening your arms.
Start off on your hands and knees, then curl your toes under, and straighten your legs. Make sure you pull your shoulder blades together. You may want to walk your feet back a bit to get comfortable in this posture. Once you’re situated, just focus on pushing down on the floor with your hands and keeping your back straight. Don’t worry if your feet don’t touch the floor – in time, you’ll get there.
5. Warrior II
Stretch and strengthen your legs while improving your concentration and reducing stress!
From mountain pose, jump your feet apart, so there is about four feet of space between them. Turn your right foot out, so it faces the opposite wall, and turn your left foot in ever so slightly. Bend your right knee as you raise your arms parallel to the floor, then turn your head to gaze out beyond your right hand. Stay here and breathe, then repeat on the other side.
6. Triangle Pose
Triangle combines stretching and strengthening with more balance work for a total mind-body experience.
Begin by separating your feet so that they’re about three feet apart, turning your right foot out and left foot in, just like in warrior pose. Raise your arms parallel to the floor, then tilt from your waist, bringing your right arm toward the floor. You can grab on to your right leg wherever you can reach, if you can’t reach the floor yet, and raise your left arm toward the sky. Finally, turn your head to gaze up toward the sky. Try not to let your hips roll inward as you stay here and breathe. Repeat on the other side.
7. Standing Forward Bend
Forward bending is about facing fears by literally turning you on your head. It’s also a great stretch for your legs, neck, and spine.
Begin in mountain pose, and raise your arms over your head. Look up, then swan dive forward, bringing your upper body downward with a flat back. Release into the pose. There are a few variations that you can do in this posture:
- Grip your elbows with the opposite hands, and hang out, letting gravity do the work.
- Grab hold of the backs of your legs or your heels – whatever you can reach – and ever so gently pull yourself deeper into the stretch
- Let your arms hang loose, with your hands on the floor, if you can reach, or just hanging out, if you can’t
8. Seated Forward Bend
Seated forward bend has a lot of the same benefits of standing forward bend, but it’s a more active pose.
Begin sitting on the floor with your back straight and your legs straight out in front of you. Inhale, and as you exhale, flex your feet back toward you and fold forward with a flat back. Grab hold of your thighs, knees, calves, ankles, or feet – whatever you can reach – then relax into this posture. You can gently use your arms to pull yourself deeper into this stretch, just don’t force things too much.
9. Cat and Cow Pose
Technically, this is two poses, but practiced together they are great for your back, neck, and for reducing anxiety and improving concentration.
Begin on hands and knees, with your hands right under your shoulders and knees right under your hips. From that neutral position, inhale and arch your back downward, tilting your head back. On the next exhale, scoop in your belly and push with your hands to arch the spine upward, and curl your chin toward your chest. Flow between these two postures, following your breath – for 10-15 repetitions.
10. Pigeon Pose
This posture stretches the hips and the front of the body while focusing your mind.
Begin on hands and knees, just like in cat/cow pose, and swing your right foot through your hands, placing the knee on the floor in front of you. Slide the left foot back, until the thigh is resting on the floor. Push up with your hands, and arch your back, lifting your chin and gazing at the ceiling. After 10 deep breaths, release your upper body forward, and rest your head on your folded arms in front of you. If you’re not flexible enough to rest this way, you can stack your fists on top of each other, and rest your forehead on your fists. Take another 10 deep breaths, then switch sides and repeat on the left.
11. Child’s Pose
Child’s pose feels relaxing, but it is excellent for recovering after any strenuous activity.
Begin by sitting on your knees with your back straight. Bend at the waist, and rest your belly on your thighs and your forehead on the floor. You can either rest your arms by your sides or extend them out in front of you for a deeper stretch in your spine.
Savasana – aka corpse pose – is another posture that may not feel like much, but does a lot. You want to end any yoga practice with some deep breathing in savasana to help your body process all of the work that you’ve done.
Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, and let your feet roll out to either side. Close your eyes. Focus on your natural inhale and exhale, and think about relaxing every muscle group, beginning at the top of your head and ending with your toes. Don’t skip the small groups, like the muscles in your face. These tend to be the ones that deepen your relaxation the most!
Do you have any yoga poses that you find yourself practicing more frequently than others? Share your super asanas in the comments!