9 poses to deal with fatigue

Yoga for fatigue

Fatigue is something we all are faced with from time to time. I know this because many of my students, friends and family complain about it. We’re so busy going to work, keeping up with our social life, taking care of the kids, taking care of the parents once they get older, battling a flu or serious illness, recovering from a strong work-out, and it tires us out. Fatigue has been an interest of mine for a while, since so many people (including myself) in so many different situations are dealing with it.

About two weeks ago, I was at this amazing training with Kate Holcombe on Yoga and Cancer. Maybe I should’ve known this, but to my biggest surprise, one major problem cancer patients are dealing with is fatigue; due to a lack of sleep, fear and stress, body aches and the recovery of the treatment.

From my own experience I know that yoga has often helped me in moments of fatigue. Even though often I started my practice feeling like I was too tired and shouldn’t be doing it, I have NEVER EVER regretted my decision to practice.

So to get to the point, I thought it would be nice to share the 9 poses that help me when I am tired, because they might help others too.

Chest opening poses and back bends are often associated with creating energy, while forward bends and inward going poses are associated with relieving anxiety and a calming of the mind. And then we have a variety of poses that can help you with insomnia, which are often forward bends or movements with the spine.

Below is a combination of these poses that help with fatigue. You could do the poses in a sequence, although you have to add a few extra poses to move smoothly from one pose into the other. If you are dealing with fatigue it is good to try the poses and see which ones are helpful for you. When you do all poses, you will also do all elements we practice in yoga, forward bend, backward bend, twist, standing poses, seated poses and inversions. The sequence will take you 5 to 10 minutes.

It is advisable to start the practice with 5 minutes of meditation, to calm the mind and be focused during the practice. End the practice with a Savasana pose (corpse pose) for a minimum of 10 breaths.

Some basis rules when you perform the poses:

  • Make long, deep and controlled breaths through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer then your inhale.
  • Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
  • Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
  • While you’re in a standing pose always check your front knee. When it is bent, it makes a 90-degree angle with your ankle; however, it should never go over your ankle.
  • There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.

If you have doubts about the poses, below you can find the basic ideas and adjustments per picture.

3 poses to deal with insomnia

  • Picture 1: Marjaryasana
    Catpose. Come to your hands and knees. Knees in a 90 degrees angle with your hips, shoulders with the wrists. Inhale, look up and arch your spine. Exhale, look down and round your spine. Do this with a minimum of 5 times.
  • Picture 2: Adho Mukha Svanasana
    Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sitbones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.
  • Picture 3: Paschimottanasana
    Seated forward bend pose. Sit on the mat. Bring both legs forward. Pull your toes towards you. Inhale bring your arms up and straighten your spine, push your chest forward. Exhale come to a 45 degree angle. Grab where you can, knee, calf muscles, ankles, toes. Inhale straighten your spine again and exhale come forward as far as you can with your back straight. Look towards your knee.

3 poses to create energy

  • Picture 4: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
    Bridge pose. Lay down on your back, knees are up, feet are hip distance apart. Measure the positioning of your legs by bringing your arms next to your body; the tip of your middle finger needs to just barely touch your heel. Then interlace your fingers behind your back. Push your hips up as far as you can, roll your shoulders together. Breathe into your chest.
  • Picture 5: Salabhasana
    Locust pose. Start by having your whole body on the mat. Bring your arms back. On the inhale take both your arms and legs up. If this is too much to begin with, then start with only taking your chest off the mat. Second time only the legs. And third time both the chest (arms) and the legs.
  • Picture 6: Urdhva Hastasana
    Upward Salute pose. With an inhale come up from Uttanasana. Keep your back straight while coming up. Align the movement and speed of your body with the breath. Bring your palms together over your head and on a next inhale make a small backward bend. If you want you can keep the pose for 2-3 cycles of breath.

3 poses to deal with anxiety

  • Picture 7: Salamba Sarvangasana
    Shoulder stand. Lay down on your back. Palms are facing down on the mat. Bring your knees into your chest. With the force of your hands push your hips off the floor. Place your hands in your back. Straighten your legs upright. Walk your hands closer to your shoulders blades. Stay here; wait until you can breath properly. If gravity is pulling you down, walk your hands closer to your shoulder blades and give yourself a lift. Stay for a minimum of 10 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 8: Uttanasana
    Standing forward bend pose. Hang forward, have your knees slightly bent or straight (your own preference) while holding your elbows or releasing your hand on the floor. Feel how, due to your head hanging down, the vertebras in your neck are getting some space. Stay in this pose for at least 5 cycles of inhales and exhales.
  • Picture 9: Reclining twist
    Reclining twist pose. Lay on your back. Arms are out in a cross. Bring your knees towards your chest. Make a 90-degree angle with your hips and your knees and knees and ankle. Move your legs to the right, look to the left; keep both shoulders on the mat. If you want you can place your right hand on your knees, to add extra pressure.

9 yoga poses for beginners

Yoga poses for beginners

Everybody that started yoga at some point remembers the constant looking up from your down-dog to see what the yoga teachers has in store for you now. One pose after the other follows and they tell you to focus on your breathing, while doing the poses is enough of a challenge. How do you combine the two, how do you keep on focusing on the one if your mind is completely occupied with the other? And that question is exactly what yoga is about: being able to focus the mind, being able to be present, by focusing on your breath, while your body is moving from one pose in the other.

Imagine that it is a reflection of your real-life, we are constantly distracted by our phone, our colleagues, what happens outside, the doorbell ringing, the mess you made in your house, etc. When we learn to focus, to be fully with the work we are doing, the presentation we make / give, the conversation we are having, you will see the quality of your work and life will change. Conversations get more interesting, the connection with that person intensifies, the presentation went better, the work is done quicker and the plus is that by the end of it all you have more energy left.

The longer you do yoga the more you will also realise that there are a few basic poses, which will convert into more difficult variations. When you begin the trick is to not want too much too soon, to hold back a little, focus on really understanding the basic poses AND know how to connect your breathing to these poses and sequences.

The following sequence is set up so you can practice the basic postures, to understand how they physically feel in your body and to be able to breath well with each pose. That way you will have more attention for your breath and posture when your teacher uses these basic poses in your next class. In this way your practice with the teacher will become even more beneficial for yourself.

The poses you can perform in the order of the pictures, but you can also do them separately. If you do all poses, you will also do all elements we practice in yoga, forward bend, backward bend, twist, standing poses, seated poses and balance. The sequence will take you 5 tot 10 minutes.

It is advisable to start the practice with 5 minutes of meditation, to calm the mind and be focused during the practice. End the practice with a Savasana pose (corpse pose) for a minimum of 10 breaths.

Some basis rules when you perform the poses:

  • Make long, deep and controlled breathes through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer then your inhale.
  • Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
  • Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
  • While you’re in a standing pose always check your front knee. When it is bent, it makes a 90-degree angle with your ankle; however, it should never go over your ankle.
  • There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.

If you have doubts about the poses, below you can find the basic ideas and adjustments per picture.

Picture 1: Balasana
Child’s pose. Sit on your heels. Take both your arms up. Bring your hands in front of you on the mat. Rest your forehead on the mat. Breathe deeply into your belly. Let your body come to a rest.

Picture 2: Urdhva Mukha Savanasana
Upward facing dog pose. Lay down on your belly. Place your hands next to your chest, fingers facing forward. On an inhale, push yourself half way. Then straighten the legs, the knees come of the mat. Next inhale, straighten your arms. Shoulders are straight over your wrists. Look forward or up.

Picture 3: Uttanasana
Standing forward bend pose. Hang forward, have your knees slightly bent or straight (your own preference) while holding your elbows. Feel how, due to your head hanging down, the vertebras in your neck are getting some space. Stay in this pose for at least 5 cycles of inhales and exhales.

Picture 4: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sit-bones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.

Picture 5: Virabhadrasana I
Warrior 1 pose. Come to the front of your mat, standing. Step backwards with one leg.  Knee is 90 degree over your ankle, hips point forward, arms are up, shoulders are down.

Picture 6: Virabhadrasana II
Warrior 2 pose. Turn your back foot to a 45-degree angle. Open your hips towards the side. Roll your shoulders down and back. Look over your front hand. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.

Picture 7: Vrksasana
Tree pose. Put all the weight on one leg. Place the other one in your thigh or on your lower leg. Never on the knee!! Focus on a point in front of you and don’t let it go. Stand up tall. Hands in prayer in front of your chest. Inhale, next exhale bring your arms up, lower your shoulders, palms are facing each other. Minimum of 5 cycles of breath.

Picture 8: Paschimottanasana
Seated forward bend pose. Sit on the mat. Bring both legs forward. Pull your toes towards you. Inhale bring your arms up and straighten your spine, push your chest forward. Exhale come to a 45 degree angle. Grab where you can, knee, calf muscles, ankles, toes. Inhale straighten your spine again and exhale come forward as far as you can with your back straight. Look towards your knee.

Picture 9: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Bridge pose. Lay down on your back, knees are up, feet are hip distance apart. Measure the positioning of your legs by bringing your arms next to your body; the tip of your middle finger needs to just barely touch your heel. Then interlace your fingers behind your back. Push your hips up as far as you can, roll your shoulders together. Breathe into your chest.

9 yoga poses to deal with cold weather

Yoga in cold weather

I wrote in my blog last week, yoga in cold weather has a lot of benefits. Especially if you can find the right poses that help you heat up your body, that protect and mobilise the joints, and that help you open your chest and strengthen your air passageways.

The following poses you can do in the order of the picture, you can make it into a sequence or you can cherry pick the ones that help you best. When you decide to make it into a sequence, then start with a short meditation, followed by a breathing exercise (see my previous blog for examples) and end the practice with Savasana (corpse pose).

Some basic rules for all poses in the pictures:

  • Make long, deep and controlled breathes through your nose. Focus on your breath going in and out while being in a posture. Try to make your exhale slightly longer then your inhale.
  • Let your breath initiate a movement. Inhale is a movement upwards, exhale is a movement downwards or a twist.
  • Work both sides of your body. Do every posture on the right side and then switch to the left.
  • There is NO pose in yoga where we have our shoulders close to our ears. So when you are settled in a pose, always pay attention to your shoulders. Roll them backwards and down.

If you have doubts about the poses, below you can find the basic ideas and adjustments per picture:

  • Picture 1: Gomukhasana (with arm variation)
    Face Pose. Legs: Bend your knees and put your feet on the floor. Slide your left foot under the right knee to the outside of the right hip. Then cross your right leg over the left, stacking the right knee on top of the left, and bring the right foot to the outside of the left hip. Try to bring the heels parallel next to the hips. Sit evenly on your sitting bones.
    Arms: Bring your right arm up and bring it behind your back. Swing your left arm backwards and try to grab your right hand. If this is not possible, reach as high as you can and grab your shirt with both your left and right hand. On an inhale bring your elbow up and backwards. Place the back of your head against your arm and push your arm (with your head) gently backwards. Do at least 3 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 2: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
    Bridge pose. Lay down on your back, knees are up, feet are hip distance apart. Measure the positioning of your legs by bringing your arms next to your body; the tip of your middle finger needs to just barely touch your heel. Then interlace your fingers behind your back. Push your hips up as far as you can, roll your shoulders together. Breathe into your chest.
  • Picture 3: Halasana
    Plow pose. From the previous pose, shoulderstand, bring your feet down over your head. Make sure it is a controlled movement. Keep your arms in your back. Or if you want, interlace your fingers and stretch your arms out on the mat. If your toes can’t touch the mat, you keep your hands in your back – or you place blocks under your feet. Stay here for a minimum of 5 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 4: Dhanurasana
    Bow pose. Lay down on your belly. Arms beside your body. Bend your knees and reach with your hands backwards to grab your ankles or feet. Forehead is still on the mat (if possible). Inhale into your chest and bring your chest up. Kick with your feet against your hands and give a pressure with your hands on your feet. Try to bring your thighs of the mat. Stay for 3 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 5: Urdhva Mukha Savanasana
    Upward facing dog pose. Lay down on your belly. Place your hands next to your chest, fingers facing forward. On an inhale, push yourself half way. Then straighten the legs, the knees come of the mat. Next inhale, straighten your arms. Shoulders are straight over your wrists. Look forward or up.
  • Picture 6: Ustrasna
    Camel pose. Sit on your heels, knees on the mat. Bring your knees hips distance apart. Push yourself up, so you have your hips 90 degrees over your knees. Freeze this – your knees and hips remain 90 degrees throughout the entire pose. Tuck your toes under and place your hands on your lower back. Inhale into your chest and bring your torso backwards. If this is enough for a backward bend stay here. To continue, bring your hands down and reach for your heels. Look straight up, be aware of the 90 degree angle of knee and hips. Stay here for a minimum of 3 cycles of breath. To come out: bring your hands back on your lower back. Move your hips towards your heels. Your head comes back last. Go to child’s pose.
  • Picture 7: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
  • One-legged king pigeon pose. Come to a downward facing dog pose. Bring your right leg up and bring it forward. Right knee goes to your right wrist. Your foot goes as close to your left wrist as possible. Your hips need to be open to do this, so you might want to walk your foot closer to your body. Place your hands next to your hips. Breathe into your chest and stay up straight. A possible next step is to bring your body forward on an exhale. Make a diamond of your hands (hands are on the mat) and place your forehead in the diamond space of your hands. Stay for 5 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 8: Salamba Sarvangasana
    Shoulder stand. Lay down on your back. Palms are facing down on the mat. Bring your knees into your chest. With the force of your hands push your hips off the floor. Place your hands in your back. Straighten your legs upright. Walk your hands closer to your shoulders blades. Stay here; wait until you can breath properly. If gravity is pulling you down, walk your hands closer to your shoulder blades and give yourself a lift. Stay for a minimum of 10 cycles of breath.
  • Picture 9: Matsyasana
    Fish pose. Lay down on your back. Place your hands under your hips, palms facing down. Breathe into your chest and bring it up. Place the top of your head on the mat. Make sure the weight is on your hips and not on your head. Stay for a minimum of 5 breath cycles.

Vinyasa Yoga in 10 minutes – instruction video

We often think that we have to take at least half an hour or more to do our exercises. So we skip moving our body due to time limits.But when you think about it, in the end moving your body for just 10 minutes is a lot better than not at all.

If you create a morning, evening, or lunch routine of 10 minutes yoga, you will feel tremendous differences in your body. All you need is space for a math. So you can do it at home, in the park, in the office, by yourself or with family & friends.

10 minutes of yoga a day will help you to:

  • Be energized (with the breathing you have a better oxygen flow in your body)
  • Reduce stress & anxiety and have a better focus
  • Have a clear mind and calm down your thoughts
  • Increase body flexibility, while strengthening at the same time
  • Reduce back problems
  • Have better body & breathing awareness throughout the day.

And last but not least, it just makes you feel good. Try it! For one week or maybe even a month. You will be surprised about the effects!