Is there such thing as having favorite yoga poses? Well, in my book...the answer is an astound YES! There are some great yoga poses out there, but I certainly have my favorites. They have all taught me great lessons and I want to share them with you. Maybe you can benefit from these yoga poses, too. Let's start with my all time favorite.
#1: Side Angle Pose
This doesn't seem much like an amazing yoga pose, but it's one that I've definitely cataloged as an all time favorite. It's a posture that has brought me flexibility in parts of my body that used to be pretty tight. The main thing is that it's a hip opener. With the feet and legs positioned as they are, the inner thighs receive a stretch and release that is crucial if your hips are already significantly bound up. The gentle pressure of an arm or hand against the inner thigh allows for a release that is pretty profound. I dedicate my freer hips to this pose.
Another feature of the posture is the balance. With the wide stance, you really have to root your feet strongly into the ground which contributes to a stronger foundation and a greater sense of stability. (I like that!) Another benefit of the pose is the lengthening that happens down through the side of the body. When your arm is extended in the air, I often reach overhead toward the front of room. By doing that, I get a really good stretch down the side of my body. In particular, that lengthening occurs just below the rib cage and down by the waist line. This is a part of the body that tends to be tight due to a lot of stationary sitting or standing. A good stretch in that part of the body is always a good thing.
#2: Boat Pose
Looking to gain more core strength? This is your pose. When I learned about this posture and began to practice it more, I noticed that I didn't need to do all those crunches and sit-ups at the gym any more. The stationary positioning of the body (along with continued flow of breath) allows for core stability. You build endurance strength and stamina which gives you power and energy when you engage in other physical activities.
Not only do you hit the six-pack region of the abs, but it penetrates deeper to the low ab region sometimes called the pelvic floor (I call it the abdominal floor.) This is where true core strength develops. You are engaging the transverse abdominal muscle group that stabilizes the entire body. And the great thing about this pose is that you experience strength pretty quickly; just a few times at doing this pose and you'll feel immediate change!
#3 Crow Pose
There are some very dynamic yoga poses out there and this one is truly a favorite. It's Crow Pose; it's an arm balancing posture, but can be considered a great introduction to most arm balancing positions in yoga. A lot of effort goes into this pose and incorporates many of the other introductory postures all into one. It requires focus, balance, upper body strength, and core strength. It also tests how much of risk taker you are! If you suffer from fear being an obstacle in your life, then Crow Pose will certainly challenge that notion and help you to step out of that fear. One of the fears that might develop trying to do this pose is falling over. But, guess what? We fall! We all fall down at times. It's normal and expected. Don't worry if you're going to fall, accept that as a norm in life. Step through that fear and challenge yourself to be strong in tough times. Crow Pose IS tough at first, but definitely an approachable pose. Give it a shot!
#4 Stick Pose
This is another one of those dynamic arm balancing postures like Crow Pose. In this case, though, instead of having both knees resting on the bent arms, there is only one knee in that position while the other is fully extended out to the side. This can take enormous strength, balance, and concentration, but that's what you're learning and incorporating into your life when you're trying poses like this. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new and exciting. (And again, don't worry about falling. It just takes practice.) I really feel alive in this pose and it is truly a testament to my strength, balance, focus, and self-control.
#5 Marichiasana B
I know, that's quite a tongue twister of a name, but don't worry about it. Many of the yoga poses have odd/different names that are difficult to pronounce. Some have easily translatable names, while others do not. Just think of this pose as one that demonstrates how we can get ourselves into physical, mental, and emotional binds, but we have the power to get out of them. That's what I've learned from practicing this pose. It also reminds me of my early thoughts about yoga. I used to think that yoga was all about being a contortionist and turning yourself into a pretzel. (This posture certain has the looks of a pretzel!) It further shows the flexibility of the physical body, but as one continues to practice yoga, they soon shift out of the need to gain a flexible physical body, but more toward a flexible inner mind.
I certainly remember a time when this pose seemed impossible. But over time, and with continued practice, a handstand became more attainable. It's not so much about being in the posture, it's more about what led me to be able to get into the posture. As I practiced the basics of yoga: breath work, alignment, engagement, focus, balance, etc., I learned the fundamentals needed to move into an inverted posture like this. That was the true lesson. Having the basics in my tool belt allowed me to face challenges that I thought I could never face. Handstand, for me, represents a lot of hard work and dedication to face and conquer life challenges.
#7 Side Plank Pose
This is a favorite posture of mine because it takes me back to that effort of creating strength and stability in my body. It is such a dynamic pose that involves balancing sideways on only one hand and one foot! It's an extraordinary pose that has been dubbed "a pose of excellence." One really does step into their own power when they practice a posture like this one. You feel excellent! (And you develop some killer core strength along the way!)
#8 Warrior Two
Let's go back to some of the basic postures. Warrior Two is a yoga pose you'll encounter pretty early on in your practice. It's a true icon of the grounded, powerful, aligned, focused, determined, driven, and confident human being we all want to become. This pose sets us up for many other postures on the yoga roster. In this particular pose, it starts with the rooted feeling of the feet on the ground. One certainly wants to be strong and steady where they stand; that might be literally or even figuratively. People want to be seen as someone who is strong and steady in their mindset, too.
Being in this posture requires a sense of alignment; the feet need to be well positioned for that physical balance to occur in this pose. From there, one experiences a desire to look forward with a sense of determination and drive. I have certainly learned these elements while practicing this posture. And it's a common and reoccurring experience because it is a pose that is repeated throughout a moving yoga practice. I'm constantly reminded to stay focused, determined, and confident when I look at my life path.
#9 Downward Facing Dog
Another basic pose, but nothing to bark at. (Sorry.) Part of the Sun Salutation, a series of poses that is often repeated in moving yoga practices, is a posture that stimulates the entire body. First of all, you're literally upside down in the postures. (It's not a handstand, but it is certainly a precursor to that inverted pose, too.) It lengthens the arms, opens the shoulders, strengthens your core, and provides some release in those tight hamstrings. Don't underestimate the power of Downward Facing Dog. It's a favorite because I know where it has eventually led me in my continued yoga practice over the years.
This yoga posture definitely had to be on the list and I left it for #10 only to accentuate the importance and significance of this pose. At a glance, it may seem like a very simple posture. It really does look like you're just lying there....ready for a nap! However, it comes with its own set of challenges. It typically comes at the very end of your moving yoga practice. It is an opportunity for the body to rest and relax, especially if you just went through a grueling 90 minute hot yoga class. The idea of the moving practice is to get you deeply connected to the parts of the self that are distracting: tight hips, weak core, wandering mind, and more. The movements and postures are designed to help you release those distractions so that you can ease your body and calm your mind. That's what you ultimately do in Savasasna or Corpse Pose. That's a great name for a yoga posture: you allow those distractions to die, to be removed from your physical and mental being.
Savasana is sometimes regarded as the goal of yoga: to be at peace with yourself. Of course, there are times while you're lying there in Corpse Pose and your mind is still wandering. That's ok. We're human and that IS going to happen. But if you continue to practice yoga regularly, you're gonna find that your "mind chatter" will become less and less. You'll be able to be in complete stillness and bliss: the true nature of yoga.