20 Yoga Poses and Movements for Peace
By Instructor Julia Albertson
In todays modern world, finding peace can take effort. Our days are often absorbed with long and busy work hours and sometimes our self-care needs get put on the back burner. Then, our stress can accumulate in our bodies and minds. When we allow this stress to stay built up, we can become sluggish, irritable, and unhappy. If instead, we take time out of our days to stop, move, and breathe, we can then show up in our busy lives with more awareness, clarity, and peacefulness.
The following poses can be practiced all together as a flow, or you can pick one or a few that call to you. As always in your yoga practice, finding a fluid breath is key. You may want to envision someone or something that represents peace to you, while you move through these poses. Each moment of stillness is an opportunity to connect back to this symbol of peacefulness.
- Mountain Pose— Stand tall with your feet firmly planted on the ground. If you’re able, do this shape with bare feet on the earth outside. Spread your toes, elongate your spine, and reach the crown of your head upwards towards the sky. With your arms by your sides, gently turn your palms to face forward, with your fingers spread wide. Imagine yourself drawing up the earths energy through your feet, gathering up all of its healing vibrations. Take 10 deep breaths.
- Shake it out— While standing, move your body any way that comes to mind: start to shift your hips from side to side, bounce your shoulders up and down, rock the head, shake out the arms, and gently kick your legs out. Find big deep breaths. There’s no right or wrong way to do this movement. The idea is to shake your body up like a snow globe, to allow any stagnant or stuck energy to move up and out. Once you feel you’ve had enough, take a few deep breaths in your Mountain Pose again.
- Breathe with your arms— With your feet on the ground and your body stretching tall, inhale and reach your arms out to your sides, then all the way up above your head, touching your palms together at the top. As you exhale, draw your hands down through your midline to your heart center. Repeat as many times as needed, moving with the rhythm of your breath.
- Standing Forward Fold— As you stand, let your upper body melt down towards the earth. Allow the back of your neck to be soft, with the crown of the drawing down. You may want to find a soft bend in your knees to keep from over stretching your hamstrings. You can choose to let your arms dangle freely, or grab opposite elbows. It may also feel nice to sway from side to side or gently bob up and down.
- Low Squat— Separate your feet as wide as you need, and turn your toes slightly outwards as you drop your hips all the way down below your knees, keeping the spine long. Bring your hands together in front of your heart and breathe deeply. If your heels are not able to reach the ground comfortably, roll up your mat or a towel and wedge it underneath them so that you feel more stable.
- Easy Seated Pose—Find your sit bones on the ground or propped up on a block or bolster and cross your legs gently with your knees bent outwards towards your sides. Rest your hands either on your knees or in your lap. Relax the muscles in your face and soften your jaw. Sit up tall and breathe slowly.
- Easy Seated Twisting— From your easy seated shape, reach your right hand and take hold of your left kneed. Reach your left finger tips to the ground behind your low back. Focus on a slow breath and lengthening your spine. Repeat on the other side.
- Supported Seated Forward Fold— Stretching your legs out in front of you, give your legs a gentle shake out and then find stillness. Take a gentle bend in your knees and prop a rolled up towel, mat, or blanket underneath your knees, to keep your hamstrings relaxed. Take a deep breathe in. As you exhale, allow your upper body to melt down towards your legs. To find even more support, lay a bolster or a few rolled up blankets on top of your legs to support your upper body. Breathe deeply and slowly for 2-3 minutes.
- Easy Seated Heart Opener— With your legs stretched out in front of you and your sit bones on the ground, reach your fingertips to the ground behind you, about 6-8 inches. Draw your shoulders back, opening your heart center. If it feels okay for the neck and spine, drop your head back and look up towards the sky. Take 5-10 deep breaths focusing on your heart.
- Cat Cow— Come to all fours, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. As you inhale, life your sit bones, gently arch your back, and open your heart, directing your gaze forward or up. As you exhale, gently push the ground away as your round your spine, bringing your chin in towards your chest. Repeat for 5-10 rounds. For this particular cat/cow flow, allow your rhythm to be slow and the emphasis to be on the awareness of your breath.
- Childs Pose— From all fours, draw your big toes together and separate your knees little wider than hips-width apart. Shift your sit bones back towards your heels and melt your upper body down, allowing the head to make contact with the ground or a block. Relax your arms either out in front of you, or fold them along your sides. Breathe slowly and deeply for at least one minute.
- Thunder Bolt Pose— From your Child’s pose, slowly walk your hands back towards your knees, gently pressing your upper body up, and sitting back on your heels. Relax your hands on your thighs, with your palms pacing up. Feel free to prop a bolster or block underneath you if this shape is too straining on your knees. Close your eyes, slow down the breath, and find stillness.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing— From either your Easy Seated pose or your Thunder Bolt pose, relax your left palm in your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face. With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale. Inhale through the right side slowly. Hold both nostrils closed. Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.. Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.
- Reclining Cobblers Pose— Slowly easy yourself down onto your back. Draw the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall apart gently. Place one hand on your belly and one hand over your heart. Keep your breaths slow and steady and draw your inhales all the way down into your belly. If it feels straining to have the knees drawing down without support, place a block under each knee. Stay for 2-3 minutes.
- Reclining Pigeon Pose— With your back on the ground, your knees bent, and your feet flat, place your right ankle on your left thigh. Raise your left leg straight into the air. Use your hands to gently hold the back of your left thigh. Breathe slowly as you allow your right hip to open up. Repeat on the other side.
- Legs Up The Wall Pose— Bring your self to a wall, and lay in your side with your knees bent in. Shift your sit bones so that they make contact with the wall, roll onto your back, and raise your legs up the wall. Let your arms fall out to your sides. Find a slow breath.
- Happy Baby Pose— Laying on your back, bend your knees in towards your chest. Separate your knees apart and point your feet up towards the sky. Reaching with your hands, take hold of either your ankles or the outer blades of your feet. Gently draw your knees out towards your sides. You can choose to stay still or rock slowly from side to side.
- Easy Reclining Twist—Laying on your back, draw your knees into your chest. Gently let both knees relax out to your right side, as you stretch your left arm out. Turn your gaze towards your left hand. Allow gravity to do the work for you here. Relax as the spine gently unfolds. Take 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
- Savasana— Lay down, either on your yoga mat, or straight on the earth. Turn your palms face up towards the sky. Relax all the muscles in your face, unclench your jaw, and soften your hands and feet. Allow your thoughts to be just as they are. Give yourself permission to relax here, allowing your breath to return to its natural rhythm. Stay for as long as you need.
- Seated Meditation— Returning once again to your Easy Seated Pose, Rest your hands on your knees or in your lap and start to find those same deep breaths again. Begin to slow your breath down and draw out the lengths of each inhale and exhale. With your next inhale, say silently to yourself “I am here”. As you exhale, silently say “I am peaceful”. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply and repeat these statements with each breath.
Julia has been teaching Vinyasa style Yoga in various places between Miami and Asheville for the last ten years, but her journey with the practice began at the tender age of five, when her mother first became a certified yoga teacher. Being homeschooled for most of her high school years, Julia’s life was shaped by her experiences teaching as a young teenager, many hours spent writing at the beach, and her insatiable desire to explore the world. In addition to her public classes, Julia also dedicates her time weekly volunteer teaching to Buncombe County’s incarcerated population; a demographic she calls her “souls work”. Her classes are light hearted in nature and fuse elements of breath-work and meditation to create a well rounded practice that will make you both sweat and laugh. In her spare time, Julia enjoys blogging in local coffee shops, Epigenetic Coaching, rock climbing with her beloved, hiking with her dog, and engaging in real and authentic human connection.
Please note: sometimes Julia’s classes feature uncensored Hip Hop music.
Tuesdays 4:15-5:30 WARM Power Flow
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