1. Mountain Pose
Sanskrit name: Tadasana
Benefits: Improves posture, sense of center, mental clarity; solid breathing exercise
How to: Simply stand—feet hip-width apart, weight spread evenly—with your arms at your sides. Then breathe slowly and deeply at an even pace, keeping your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. You can move your hands and arms as you focus; some people take a prayer position or reach up to the sky for a stretch.
2. Downward Facing Dog
Sanskrit name: Adho mukha svanasana
Benefits: Encourages full-body circulation; a great stretch for calves and heels
How to: Get on all fours with hands and knees shoulder-and-hips-width apart. Walk your hands forward and spread your fingers wide for stability. Curl your toes under and carefully press your hips upward so your body looks like an inverted V with your knees slightly bent. You can get a stronger stretch by keeping your heels on the floor; “walk your dog” by alternately pressing your heels down.
3. Warrior Pose
Benefits: Strengthens and stretches your legs and ankles
How to: Stand with your legs three to four feet apart. Turn out your right foot 90 degrees and your left foot in slightly. Keeping your shoulders down, extend your arms to the sides with your palms down. Lunge into your right knee 90 degrees; keep your knee over your foot and don’t let it go past your toes. Aim your focus over your hand for as long as you like then switch sides.
4. Tree Pose
Sanskrit name: Vriksasana
Benefits: Improves your balance; strengthens your thighs, calves, ankles, and spine
How to Take mountain pose. Then shift your weight onto your left leg. Keeping your hips facing forward, place the sole of your right foot inside your left thigh and find your balance. When you’re there, take a prayer position with your hands. To kick it up a notch, reach your arms up as you would in mountain pose. Be sure to repeat on the other side.
5. Bridge Pose
Sanskrit name: Setu bhanda
Benefits: Strengthens your chest, neck, and spine; great warm-up for more intense backbends
How to: Lie on the floor with your arms at your sides. With your knees bent, press your feet into the floor as you lift your hips. Then clasp your hands under your lower back and press your arms down for support. Lift your hips until they are parallel to the floor as you bring your chest to your chin. Rookie mode: try pillows under your head and/or hips.
6. Triangle Pose
Sanskrit name: Trikonasana
Benefits: full body stretch; strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles; relieves backache; well-recommended for pregnant women
How to: Take warrior pose on your right side without lunging into your knee. Then touch the inside of your right foot with the outside of your right hand. Reach up to the ceiling with your left hand. Turn your gaze toward and past your left hand to stretch your back. Don’t forget to repeat it on the other side.
7. Seated Twist
Sanskrit name: Ardha matsyendrasana
Benefits: gives you an amazing stretch, especially after long hours sitting at the office; works the shoulders, hips, and neck
How to: Sit on the floor and extend your legs. Cross your right foot over the outside of your left thigh. Bend your left knee keeping your right knee pointed toward ceiling. Keep your right hand on the floor behind you to stay stable and place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Twist to the right as far as you can, moving from your abdomen. Be sure to keep both sides of your butt on the floor. Do this on both sides.
8. Upward Facing Dog
Sanskrit name: Urdhva mukha svanasana
Benefits: Stretches and strengthens the spine, arms, and wrists
How to: Lie facedown on the floor with your thumbs under shoulders, legs extended with the tops of your feet on the floor. Tuck your hips downward as you squeeze your glutes. Keeping your shoulders down, push up and lift your chest off the ground. Relax and repeat.
9. Pigeon Pose
Sanskrit name: Eka pada rajakapotasana
Benefits: opens up the shoulders and the chest; great quad stretch
How to: Start in a push-up position, your palms under your shoulders. Place your left knee on the floor near your shoulders with your left heel by your right hip. Press your hands to the floor and sit back with your chest lifted. You can also lower your chest closer to the floor for a stretch. Try it on the other side.
10. Crow Pose
Sanskrit name: Bakasana
Benefits: Strengthens your arms, wrists, and abs; more of a challenge, but a great trick to pull out at parties
How to: Get into downward facing dog position. Then walk your feet forward until your knees touch your arms. Carefully, bend your elbows and lift your heels off the floor. Rest your knees against the outside of your upper arms. Keep your abs engaged and legs pressed against arms.
You can leave your toes on the floor or if you’re a pro, lift them off and hover. To do this, try to keep tucked tight, with your heels close to your butt. When you’re ready, push your upper arms against your shins and draw your inner groins deep into the pelvis to help you with the lift.
11. Child’s Pose
Sanskrit name: Balasana
Benefits: lets you relax and breathe into your back; stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles; relieves back and neck pain.
How to: Sit upright comfortably on your heels. Roll your torso forward and bring your forehead to rest on the ground in front of you. Extending your arms forward, lower your chest to your knees as close as you comfortably can. Hold the pose and breathe into your torso. Exhale and release to get deeper into your fold.