“Yoga helps you stay calm and not freak out as much; focus and concentrate; relax and get rid of tension. Plus, learning how to control your breath can help you get through just about any stressful situation,” says Ellen Schwartz, author of I Love Yoga: A Guide for Kids and Teens. Ellen believes teens can benefit body and soul by simply taking a few slow, deep breaths in each of these five essential yoga poses. Get started by visualizing yourself as the animal or form each pose is named after to help you move more correctly into a position that literally puts you in better health.
Pose 1: Mountain
For those of you who don’t have time to stand still, but slouch and lean on things when you do, imagine you’re as tall and broad as a mountain. This will improve your posture and builds strength in your back and stomach. “When you stand taller, you feel taller and actually look taller — so it’s great for projecting a positive body image,” says Ellen.
With feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides, draw stomach muscles in and up as you inhale. Keep shoulders down and lower your chin, elongating the back of your neck. Plant your feet on the ground and pull the top of your head skywards. Stay for several breaths.
Pose 2: Cat
After being scrunched up at a desk, on a computer chair or even in an easy chair, Ellen says this pose “wakes up” your back, making your spine more flexible, as well as strengthening arms and toning the front of your body.
Get on your hands and knees. Like a cat waking from a nap, breathe out and arch your back upwards, drop your head and tuck in your tailbone. Stay for a few breaths. Then exhale and curve your back downwards, pointing your head and tailbone towards the ceiling. Breathe. Return to start position.
Pose 3: Downward facing dog
To help carry a heavy backpack and textbooks all day, this pose strengthens arms, shoulders and upper body, and stretches legs and back.
Kneel on hands and knees and tuck toes under. Breathing out, push your tailbone upwards and lift your knees off the floor until legs are straight. Like a dog waking from a nap, push your hands into the floor, press your chest towards your thighs and try to keep your heels on the floor. Stay for several breaths. Return to start position on an out-breath.
Pose 4: Triangle
Forming a triangle with your body strengthens legs and chest muscles and balances out slouching, leaning hips. If you slouch or lean one way or the other, the triangle pose helps when you lean to the side by stretching the other hip.
From the mountain pose, step sideways with the right foot, evenly distributing your weight. Raise arms to shoulder level, palms down. Stay for a few breaths. Turn right foot sideways and left foot slightly. Exhaling, shift hips left and tilt upper body to your right. Stay for several breaths. Reach further outwards with both hands. Breathing out, bend your right leg and push out of the pose until upright. Return to mountain pose and repeat with left leg.
Pose 5: Tree
This balancing yoga pose increases flexibility in hips, improves concentration and makes you better at sports such as, skateboarding, rollerblading and snowboarding.
Start in the mountain pose. Breathe in, shifting weight to the left leg. Breath out and place your right foot high inside your left thigh. Press right knee back and pull up on the left leg to feel tall and stretched. Bring palms together at your chest, keep shoulders down and let elbows fall to your side. Stay for several breaths. When balanced, slowly raise hands above your head until arms are straight. Slowly resume starting position. Repeat sequence for other leg.
Written by Sydnia Yu