Fitness

Cool, Calm and Zen: Our Top Yoga Moves to Relax and Unwind

Whenever I feel my brain going at 100mph and anxiety creep in, I use a calming flow like this to help ground me and create some zen. The prime focus is moving mindfully with your breath. Try breathe slowly and deeply, in and out through your nose, and hold each pose for three to five breaths.

Tadasana / Mountain pose

Benefits: Improves posture and strengthens the hips and thighs, reduces stress and anxiety, increases concentration

1. Standing at the top of your mat, with your feet hip-distance apart and grounding down, your legs active and find length through the crown of your head.

2. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhale for a count of four and exhale to a count of eight. Repeat for 10 rounds.

3. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath and your attention back to the present.

Adho much svanasana / Downward facing dog

Benefits: Energises the body, strengthens the arms and legs and stretches the shoulders, hamstrings and calves. It also calms the brain and helps relieve stress.

1. Start on hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees hip-width apart.

2. Exhale and curl your toes under, lifting your knees away from the floor and your hips up and back. Lengthen the tailbone and move your chest towards your thighs as you lift the sit bones towards the ceiling. Keep your spine long and extend your legs as much as possible.

3. Actively press your whole hand into the floor and engage your core by pulling your navel to your spine. Keep the ribs drawing in. Hold for five deep breaths.

Uttanasana / Forward fold

Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings and back, quietens the mind and reduces anxiety

1. Stand at the top of your mat with your feet hipdistance apart. Exhale and slowly bend forwards, hinging from the hips with a gentle bend in your knee to help send the sit bones upwards.

2. Hold onto the back of your legs or bring the hands onto a block or the ground, wherever is comfortable. Hug the lower belly up and in and find length in the spine, grounding down through your feet.

3. Take five deep breaths here, then slowly inhale and return back to the upright position.

Virabhadrasana II / Warrior II

Benefits: Strengthens and tones the legs and glutes, stretches the hips, groin and shoulders and builds stamina and concentration.

1. Step your feet slightly wider (about four feet apart) with your right foot still facing forward and your left foot parallel to the back of the mat. Raise your arms so they are parallel to the floor and energise them in opposite directions as you gaze over the middle right finger.

2. Exhale and bend into your right knee, bringing it over the ankle, trying to bring your thigh as parallel to the floor as possible. Press the inner knee outwards so your knee isn’t collapsing in.

3. Take five deep breaths then inhale, bringing your arms up, with your hips facing forwards and coming onto the back toe, ready for the next pose.

Virabhadrasana III / Warrior III

Benefits: Strengthens the back body and core and improves balance and posture

1. Starting in high lunge with your right foot forwards, exhale slowly, bringing the left leg back up behind you. Extend your leg as much as possible, pointing your toes and squeezing the glutes.

2. Engage your core throughout the movement to help with balance and control and ground down through the left foot to engage the stabilising muscles in your hip.

3. Hold for five breaths.

4. Inhale to return to a high lunge. Exhale, then plant your hands to the mat, framing the front foot and stepping back to downward facing down. Repeat triangle pose, warrior II and III on the left side.

5. Repeat the standing flow three times. Each time the movement will become more familiar, allowing you to focus on your breath and sensations in your body.

Trikonasana / Triangle pose

Benefits: Strengthens the legs and core, stretches the hips, backs of the legs, shoulders, chest and spine. Helps relieve stress and stimulates the abdominal organs.

1. From downward facing dog, step your right foot towards the front of the mat, coming up to stand (with your feet around three feet apart). Have the outer edge of the left foot parallel to the back of the mat and the right foot facing forwards. Line up the arch of the back foot with the front heel. Press through the edges of both feet to activate your legs and lift the arches.

2. Raise your arms parallel to the floor, palms down. Inhale and extend forward, lengthening the torso from the hip joint, directly over the right leg.

3. Exhale and, keeping the waist long, rotate your torso to the left, opening your body to the side. Bring your right hand down to rest on the floor, shin or a block and your left hand to the sky, in line with your shoulders. Keep the tailbone long and roll your left shoulder and left hip back to keep the sides long and your body open to the side.

4. Stay in this pose for five deep breaths, then inhale back upright and move onto the next pose.

3 of your essential yoga buys

The Yoga Studio Mandala Turquoise Yoga Mat (6mm) £27.99, thepsychictree.co.uk

Umi Essentials Yoga Strap £4.99, amazon.co.uk/umi

Swig Stainless Steel Water Bottle in Seagrass £24.95, glasswells.co.uk

Hannah Barrett is a leading London-based yoga instructor. Follow Hannah at @yoga_girl_london on Instagram or head to yogagirllondon.com

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