When you have a busy lifestyle, it can be hard to find time for a 60 or 90 minute yoga class. Fortunately, a quick yoga session can still be very effective.
While there is no singular benefit to each yoga pose, some can target specific concerns.
If you want the best ‘bang for buck’ yoga poses but only have 20-30 minutes to spare, here are the best poses for you, and why they are so good.
With each pose, go at a pace that feels good for you. Focus on how it feels rather than how it looks. Repeat each pose as many times as you like, as long as it feels comfortable to do so.
Best yoga poses for flexibility and strength
Flexibility is an important factor to good physical health. But over time, we can lose flexibility due to age, poor posture and lifestyle. These yoga poses will help to increase flexibility and help build muscle strength.
Boat pose, or Paripurna Navasana in Sanskrit, is an abdominal and deep hip flexor strengthener. This pose requires you to balance on your sitting bones to build mental and physical focus. Boat pose strengthens your core and thighs, helps to improve posture and counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting.
Extended Side Angle
Extended side angle pose strengthens the thighs, knees and ankles. Helping you find length in your body, it provides an excellent stretch for the hips, groin, hamstrings and calves. It also works to open the shoulders, chest and spine. If it isn’t possible to comfortably touch the floor with your hand or fingertips, try using a yoga block for extra support.
Warrior I is one of three variations of the Warrior pose and is also known as Virabhadra’s Pose in Sanskrit. This pose represents the spiritual warrior who battles self-ignorance (the cause of all our suffering). Warrior I is a very powerful pose that strengthens the back, obliques, abdominals, groin, knees and legs. It’s also an excellent pose for relieving stress.
Malasana is a deep squat that stretches the inner groin and hips, lower back, hamstrings, knees and ankles. It's a simple, but very effective asana. Malasana squat encourages strengthening of the pelvic floor, stimulates digestion and eases constipation. If your heels don’t reach the floor, try placing a blanket or block under the feet.
Best yoga poses to alleviate cramps
There are a lot of tools within yoga that can help alleviate the root cause of cramps. Research suggests that pain and discomfort occurs when the psoas are in spasm. These poses will stretch and open the hip flexor to help bring relief in the moment. If it feels good, spend a few minutes in each pose.
Bound Angle Pose
Baddha Konasana, or bound angle pose opens the pelvic region and soothes the digestive system. This can provide comfort from painful menstrual cramps. It’s also a reproductive health power pose. For a more restorative version, come into a forward bend using a bolster or blankets for support.
Reclined Bound Angle Pose
The reclined version of bound angle pose, this asana is all about opening your groin and hips. Leaning back into this pose helps your abdominal muscles relax which can ease cramping. Reclined bound angle also helps a range of PMS symptoms including fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and headaches. Spending 5 - 10 minutes in a meditative state in this pose is a great way to relax.
Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend
The Sanskrit name for this pose is Upavistha Konasana. Wide angle seated forward bend helps stretch the hamstrings and inner thighs. Seated with your legs open wide, lean forward to lengthen the spine. This action stimulates your abdominal organs, leading to less painful cramps. For a more supported forward fold, use a bolster or blankets for added comfort.
Low lunge, or Anjaneyasana in Sanskrit stretches the thighs and groin and opens the chest. This pose opens the hip flexors which can help ease period pain. Be sure to modify this pose if you feel any discomfort. For extra stability, use blocks to bring the floor up higher. You can also use a blanket under your knees for additional support.
Best yoga poses to manage back pain
When you suffer from back pain gentle movement can sometimes speed recovery. Get comfortable and begin the healing process with the following asanas. Remember not all yoga poses will be appropriate for you, and if something doesn’t feel right - stop right away. When in doubt check with your doctor or physical therapist first.
The name “Child’s Pose” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Balasana'', “bala” meaning “child” and “asana” meaning “pose”. Child's pose provides a gentle stretch along your side body, from your shoulders to your hips, as well as your thighs and ankles. This gentle forward fold helps to release tension in your back, shoulders and neck, providing relief from backache. Stay in this calming pose as long as you want.
Supported shoulder bridge, also called Setu Bandhasana, is an inverted backbend. This pose stretches the spine and reverses the negative effects of sitting all day. Bridge pose strengthens the back muscles, helping to prevent future damage. It can also provide immediate relief for back aches and headaches. A yoga block can be used to support the back.
Cobra pose is a gentle backbend that stretches your abdomen, chest and shoulders. This pose warms and strengthens the spine and can even soothe sciatica. Cobra pose is an excellent pose to stretch out those tight back muscles. It can help relieve the stress and tiredness that often comes with back pain.
When practised correctly, gentle twists can be one of the best things you can do to ease back pain. The restorative supine twist encourages movement and flexibility in the spine and neck. Stretching your back, hips, spine and shoulders, this twist can help remedy pain and stiffness. It also stimulates and aids in digestion.
Inversions in yoga are basically where the head is below the heart. This includes the handstand, headstand, or shoulderstand if you’re a beginner. These asanas strengthen our core which can improve our standing poses. But there are gentler variations that might be more suitable. Easing into inversions like legs up the wall pose, happy baby, and downward dog are all lovely ways to experience their benefits.
There are many benefits to yoga inversions, they are great for circulation and can boost the immunity. Turning upside down is also incredibly energizing and can give us a new perspective on life.
Inversions aren’t for everyone. There are contradictions to be mindful of such as high blood pressure, epilepsy, spinal problems, or pregnancy past the first trimester. Speak with your doctor if you’re unsure.
Finishing your session
When your yoga session is over it’s always beneficial to end with a restorative Savasana (corpse pose). Lie flat on your mat with your palms up, legs extended. Stay here, breathing into your belly for as long as you like.
If you can’t make it to a yoga class, try the above yoga poses instead. Just a few minutes of yoga a day can make a big difference to your physical and mental wellbeing.
If you need more support in your practice, yoga props can help you find more ease and stillness while you try new things. But they’re not only for beginners, they can help you personalise your practice so you get more out of it. Check out our eco-friendly yoga accessories here.