Once upon a time one of my yoga teachers would end class with a 12 minute hold of this Kundalini yoga pose:
It looks easy until you’re five minutes into it.
And then your arms are shaking and you can’t believe your arms have turned into two monster trucks or giant elephants.
I had no idea why he loved that pose so much, but he also had a penchant for 3-minute planks and other practically obscenely hard yoga practices.
But now I have a clue–this posture is a “power pose.”
In the video below social psychologist Amy Cuddy talks about “power posing” — how posing your body powerfully influences not only how others perceive you but also how you see yourself.
In short, Prof. Cuddy’s research suggests that physical poses can change the amount of testosterone and cortisol in your body. Simplistically translated, more testosterone means more confidence and more cortisol means more stress. “Power poses” increase testosterone and decrease cortisol and, thus, increase confidence and decrease stress.
Practically speaking, your body language changes your mood.
Her research shows that if you just assume a power pose for just two minutes, you can change your feelings about yourself.
If you wrap your arms around yourself, this protective gesture makes you seem weak.
If you expand your body in space by standing with your hands on hips, shoulders back to open the chest, chin up, and feet spread, like Wonder Woman, you can increase your confidence.
Another power pose?
Prof. Cuddy showed a slide of a runner crossing the finish line–arms up in the air.
See how similar that is to the kundalini yoga pose above? Case closed.
These are power poses, made to make you feel confident and less stressed. Not a bad way to end a yoga class.
We yogis have always known that your body affects your mind, and now science proves that your body language can shape who you are.
Recently I made a custom yoga video for a vegan chocolatier so that she could get in 30 minutes of yoga whenever she gets a chance rather than going to a scheduled class. I designed the yoga practice to challenge her and address her needs, and so she had a question about one of the yoga poses that challenged her : How can she keep her balance in mermaid pose?
If you’re curious too, watch the video below to find out. Even if you’re not interested in mermaid pose, the 3 tips I share in the will help you with pigeon pose and its variations.
Plus, I got some great compliments on my gold leggings–watch them in action!
At The Joy of Yoga Emma Silverman blogs about yoga, meditation, being a yoga teacher, and–what makes her blog unique–yoga sequences. Of these, she will be publishing 108 in a book.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced yogi, try following one of the sequences at home for a DIY yoga class–like this one to get yoga arms (like tennis arms, but long and lean rather than bulky). They are helpful tools if you are developing a home yoga practice.
What I find most inspiring about Emma’s yoga sequence project is that it’s community-supported : yogis all around the world contribute sequences, so there’s a huge variety of intensity, focus, and effect.
So, get to know Emma and her book project The Joy of Yoga by listening to our interview below. You’ll learn
what karma yoga is
the process behind publishing a book
Emma’s biggest challenges and how she’s moving beyond them
Find out more about Emma and her yoga sequence book on her blog The Joy of Yoga. If you would like to contribute a yoga sequence to Emma, her submission guidelines are here.
Here are some ways to practice yoga on a busy schedule–some are as short as one minute and others can be as long you like. You can incorporate a few of these into your day as free time opens up.
The most important component is to connect your mind, body, and breath. Any time you connect, that is yoga regardless if you make it to yoga class or not.
Try out this minimalist at-home yoga practice from Everett Bogue. (Editor’s note on March 15: Everett Bogue no longer blogs and has removed this post from the internets.)
Laugh out loud for one minute–laughter expands life.
Kapalbhati breathing in the shower or preparing breakfast or getting dressed.
Inhale deeply and exhale thoroughly for 2 minutes while on hold on the telephone.
First bend forward at the waist to place your hands under your feet in Padahastasana or just reach as far as you can in Uttanasana before putting on your shoes.
Chant om as you ride your bike–it keeps me warm in the winter!
Imagine that you are breathing through alternate nostrils while waiting in line anywhere–the ensuing relaxation is almost as good as if you did put your hand up to your nose. If you dare, DO alternate nostril breathing while waiting in line!
Clean your eyes through concentrated internal or external gazing–at a candle flame, for example, at a bar or restaurant when the conversation gets boring.
Listen to my guided relaxation mp3 which you can do sitting while commuting on the bus or train. Please do not listen to this while you are driving! Sign up for my newsletter to get it.
Make an intention for your day when you wake up and return to it throughout the day when you have a moment or two. Return to this intention before you go to sleep.
How do yoga asanas / postures reduce weight? Fats accumulate in areas of reduced blood flow, so yoga increases blood flow to these areas. The body starts using these fats for energy when fewer calories are eaten. So increase blood flow to the areas you want to lose weight.
You burn more fats on an empty stomach, so do the asanas early in the morning or when you are hungry!
But remember that weight loss is a side effect of yoga. If you are overweight, any yoga would help you lose weight, but the following specific postures / asanas speed up the process of weight loss:
Surya namaskar / sun salutations at high speed, which means one round for every 15 seconds for 32 rounds without stopping. It becomes aerobic. If you can’t do 32 rounds, work up to it. Start with 12 rounds, 18 rounds, then 25 rounds. It gets easier with time. Not good for you if you have high blood pressure, however.
A few yoga asanas / postures affects the thyroid, which controls metabolism. Hold shoulder stand + plow + fish for 2-3 minutes each. If you can’t hold them for that long, try for as long as possible without strain.
To combat abdominal fats, try the half-spinal twist, forward bend, cobra and boat, wheel, bow poses—they all increase blood flow.
To increase blood flow to your lower abdominals and thighs, practice camel and sputa vajrasana yoga postures / asanas.
To lose weight around your thighs, all standing poses, trikonasana, and eagle pose help.
Please note that if you don’t have any background in yoga, it would be best to learn these postures / asanas from a teacher.