Top image: Graham Ervin, skirt! Fitness Blogger (Photo: Libby Williams Photographs)
8 Essential Yoga Poses
Let’s get physical flexible.
Finding balance in life, mentally and physically, takes effort. We all live busy lives and are constantly pulled in different directions. Our bodies then get stressed, tense and exhausted.
I connected with Megan Gray, Physical Therapist, yoga teacher and founder of Urban Flow Yoga on King Street, to bring you eight essential yoga stretches. Adding yoga to your gym routine, or your every day life, can provide the “tune up” needed to realign your muscles and find inner peace.
Urban Flow Yoga is Charleston’s newest community-centric yoga studio located in the heart of Upper King Street, above West Elm. With 18 teachers, offering more than 50 classes a week with various class types, this studio welcomes yogis of all levels and ages. Take advantage of their class passes, monthly and annual memberships to find a flow that best fits your needs.
1. Ardha Matsyendrasana // Seated Spinal Twist – Also known as Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, this pose has several variations that provides a deep stretch for the shoulders, neck, back and hips. Elongating and twisting the spine with deep inhales and exhales helps decompress vertebrae, relieves tension in mid back/thoracic spine, detoxes liver and kidneys, and strengthens abdominal obliques.
2. Utthita Parsvakonasana // Extended Side Angle – Utilizing many essential muscle groups like the legs, abdomen and shoulders; this pose, generally entered from Warrior II, offers a full-body stretch from feet to fingers – especially along the side body while building muscular stamina and endurance if held for 5-10 breaths.
3. Parivrtta Sanchalasana // Low Lunge Twist – This pose provides flexibility and mobility, opening the pelvis, shoulders, legs and spine. Focus on keeping the pelvis square to the front of the mat and collarbones wide, with shoulders away from ears. Twist from the mid-to upper-back, keeping front knee directly over ankle.
4. Prasarita Padottanasana // Wide-Leg Forward Bend – This pose strengthens the legs and vertebral column. It is a great hip opener and hamstring stretch. Work to bring the crown of the head to the ground through deep breaths, trying to engage quadriceps while also avoiding hyper-extending the knees. If you feel your back is rounded, bend your knees slightly to keep the neutral spine position to avoid compression on your lower back.
5. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana // Three-Legged Downward Dog – This variation to downward dog challenges your balance while opening the hips, chest and shoulders. Energizing the nervous system, this pose offers a full-body stretch and builds strength in the shoulders.
6. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana // Upward Facing Dog – Traditionally, this pose is part of a Sun Salutation Sequence and considered a backbend and heart opener that lengthens and strengthens the spine, torso and arms. A gentle alternative to this pose is Cobra, where your legs, pelvis and lower ribs stay on the floor with elbows bent.
7. Urdhva Dhanurasana // Full Wheel Pose or Upward Facing Bow – This backbend is part of a finishing sequence and strengthens the abdomen, buttocks, legs, arms, shoulders and back. This pose is a great chest and hip opener. Hold for several breaths to get maximum benefits of the pose. Repeat two times for a total of three backbends.
8. Balasana // Child’s Pose – This restful pose gently stretches the lower back, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. It is a great finishing pose to a difficult sequence or pose to take when you need a break mid-sequence.
Photos by: Libby Williams Photographs
Studio: Urban Flow Yoga – 484 King Street, Suite 207
Attire: Lululemon Athletica – 279 King Street