Downward facing dogs and salutations to the sun aren’t just good for your body, they can also be fun.
Any fitness fundi or health geek worth their macros meal plan will tell you that summer bodies are sculpted in winter. So instead of curling up to a crackling fire with a cup of caloriffic hot chocolate, consider rolling out your yoga mat and stretching your way to that swimsuit body. Below are 10 positions that will not only strengthen your core and centre your spirit, but will boost your metabolism too.
1. CRESCENT LUNGE POSE
This is a great one to start with. The crescent lunge gets your heart rate up which will, intern, accelerate your metabolism. An added advantage is that it strengthens your legs and stretches your hips.
How: Begin in downward dog pose. Place your right foot in between your hands. Breathe. While lowering your hips into a lunge position, shift your weight onto the ball of your left foot. Breathe. Bring your hands to your hips. Stay up on the ball of your left foot and lift your upper body so that you’re standing upright. Breathe. Keep your hips squared the entire time. Stretch your arms up towards the ceiling, palms facing each other. Breathe. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then switch sides.
2. EAGLE POSE
Not only will this pose build lean leg muscles, but it’s a great energizer that eases digestion too.
How: Start in a standing position and bend your knees slightly. Lift your right leg up and around your left leg, hooking your foot and ankle behind your calf. Breathe. Sink your hips down and back as if sitting on a chair. Breathe. Cross your arms at your elbows and wrists in front of your chest and hold for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Breathe. Come out of the pose, shake out your legs, and switch sides.
3. TWISTED CHAIR POSE
Get every muscle in your body involved in this energizing pose. You’ll enjoy increased circulation and digestion.
How: Stand with your feet and legs together. As you bend your knees, sink your hips down and back as if you were preparing to sit down. Breathe. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Twist your spine to bring your right elbow to rest on your left knee. Breathe. Keep your chest lifted the whole time. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
4. STANDING BACKBEND POSE
Tighten your glutes while simultaneously stretching your chest, shoulder and hip muscles with this pose. The standing backbend also improves the flexibility of your spine.
How: Clench your glutes and place your hands or fists alongside your spine. Push your hips forward and lift your chest up towards the ceiling. Breathe. Lift out of your lower back, drawing your elbows back to expand your chest. Breathe. Without dropping your head back, look up toward the sky. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
5. TREE POSE
This powerful balancing pose will certainly engage your core and strengthen your legs, abdominals and glutes. It requires a great deal of concentration and controlled breathing.
How: Balancing on your right leg, visualise yourself as a tree with your roots firmly planted in the ground. Breathe. Bring your left foot onto your left ankle, calf, or inner thigh, avoiding your knee. Breathe. Bring your hands into the prayer position, or raise your arms straight up and look straight ahead. Breathe..Contract your abs and level your hips. Hold this position for 1 minute. Breathe. Bring your left foot down. Shake it out then switch sides.
6. HALF MOON POSE
Challenge your leg muscles and your ability to balance with this standing pose. The half moon will strengthen your ankles and thighs, stretch your hamstrings, obliques, and hip abductors, and improve your balance as well as your core strength.
How: From the forward fold position, raise your right leg to level with your hip. Breathe. Place your left-hand fingertips on the floor directly beneath your shoulder and your right hand on your hip. Breathe. When balanced, tilt your chest out and up towards the ceiling and extend your right arm overhead. Breathe. Look up to your top hand. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. Switch sides.
7. BOW POSE
The bow pose boosts energy and keeps the metabolism burning long after you’ve stretched. This pose also opens up your chest muscles and strengthens your back muscles at the same time.
How: Lie face down on the floor with your hands alongside your body, palms facing up. Bend your knees up and reach back with your hands to grab your ankles (Don’t grab your feet). Breathe. Keeping your legs hip-distance apart, lift your heels up and away from your body, making sure to pull your chest up off the floor. Breathe. Keep your shoulder blades down.. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds and then release, turning your head to the side. Repeat two more times.
8. BRIDGE POSE
A gentle inversion pose that works to open your chest and shoulder area, the bridge pose will massage your thyroid which will intern regulate the hormones controlling your metabolism.
How: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hip-distance apart and flat on the floor. Reach down with your fingertips to touch your heels. Breathe. Press your weight into your feet to lift your hips up towards the ceiling, always keeping your thighs parallel. Bring your arms underneath you and try to clasp your hands together. Breathe. Roll your shoulders blades toward each other and hold this pose for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Release and roll slowly back to the floor. Repeat two more times.
9. PLOW POSE
Another inversion pose that increases circulation in your thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands. These help send endorphins and hormones through your body, balancing your metabolic system.
How: Lie on your back with your arms alongside your body, palms down. Bring your legs straight up towards the ceiling. Breathe. Press into your hands and lift your legs over your head. If your legs do not touch the ground behind you, bring your hands to your back for support. Breathe. If your feet do hit the ground, then, similar to the bridge pose, clasp your hands together and try roll your shoulder blades towards one another. Breathe. Hold for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
10. SHOULDER STAND
A final inversion pose with all the previously mentioned benefits, the shoulder stand offers a good stretch for your neck and upper back
How: Assume the plow pose. Bring your hands to your lower back for support, make sure your fingers are spread wide across your lower back. Breathe. Slowly lift your legs to the ceiling one leg at a time. Breathe. Try to get as straight as possible by walking your hands close to your shoulders. Hold for 1 to 3 minutes.
*SNEAKY BONUS: EASY SPINAL TWIST
This is a great pose to help stimulate your digestive system, which helps you lose weight.
How: Start in seated pose with your back straight and arms relaxed. Place your left hand on your right knee and twist your torso to the right. Breathe. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, switch sides and repeat. Remember to keep your shoulders and neck relaxed, soften the belly and lift the sternum to lengthen the torso. Take deep breaths, draw your tailbone towards the floor and keep your lower back long.