Mindful Movement: 12 Yoga Poses to Decompress

Yoga has been proven to improve physical tone, decrease stress and anxiety, stimulate creativity and help you sleep better. We've curated 12 of our favorite yoga poses for a restorative flow that fits easily into your daily routine.

Begin in easy seat. With shoulders pulled back and away from the ears, press your palms forward as though you're pushing a wall. For an added challenge, rotate the fingers towards the floor. Shake it out.

Cat Cow is great for both opening the chest and adding a little fire the spine. Begin in flat-back position with arms stacked beneath shoulders and knees stacked below hips. Cat: Inhale and curve the spine into a U-shape, face to the sun. Cow: Exhale, pull the navel to the spine and tuck chin to chest into a moon shape.

With fingers linked above heart, stretch your arms above your head, but ensure the shoulders are rolled away from the neck. The outward portion of the arms should remain to the sides, and the spine and pelvis should remained tucked.

Child's pose (Balasana) is great for rest. Press the big toes together and rest your stomach on your thighs. Stretch the arms to the front of the mat and lean deeper into the pose. It's OK if your bottom doesn't quite touch your heels. The more you practice, the more results you'll be surprised to see.

Side stretches activate muscles that we tend to hold tightly daily, especially in the ribs and lungs. Lean into the stretch and breathe into all corners of the trunk. For a deeper pose, try leaning on one elbow. Be sure the fingers are stretched straight above to the sky. The key to a good practice is integrity in all poses.

Downward dog is a great pose for lengthening the leg. Bend the knees slightly if it is too much of a strain on the lower back or thighs. Hold your arms beside your ears, but relax the shoulders away from the neck. A good measure is to roll the shoulders back and activate the core muscles.

Cobra Pose is a good heart-opener and deep stretch for the chest. Squeeze your thighs together with your hands resting below your shoulders. Hold elbows in close to your trunk and on your inhale, lift your head to the sky.

All warrior poses are powerful poses, but we're biased toward Warrior 2 for the burn and the lengthening of the spine and the stretch of the arms. Similarly to lunges, your knee should be stacked right above the ankle.

Forward lunges open your hips-- which makes this pose especially good for runners and athletes, or even those of us who spend a lot of time sitting. Check the placement of the foot; your knee should never be bent further than your big toe.

For a cool down, rest in V position and slowly roll back to the floor. For added heat, hold your feet slightly above the floor with core engaged.

Elongate the spine and activate your thighs with a forward fold. Bend the knees slightly if you are unable to bring yourself close to your knees. Gently grasp the backs of your calves for an extra challenge. Modification: Fingertips touch the floor.

Side stretches are good for a deep lower back stretch. Lay with your arms outstretched and tuck your pelvis (which sometimes mean physically pulling the glutes up and out to rest the spine on the floor, not arched with the glute). Rotate your knee across the opposing leg, but turn your eyes the opposite way. Repeat on both sides.

About the author

Maya, reigning queen of marathon sleeping, is a freelance writer and student at Jackson State University. She enjoys power walks through Target and aggressively sending memes to all of her friends. Follow her on Twitter at @MayaLMiller for tweets about puppies and politics.

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