When energy reserves are running low, try this yoga flow to restore and replenish
Exercise might not be the first thing you think of when you’re overtired and looking for ways to boost your energy levels – but perhaps it should be.
The science behind this works in a few different ways. Firstly, when you exercise, cellular changes take place inside your body, with the exertion prompting you to produce more mitochondria – often described as the ‘powerhouse of the cell’ – which creates fuel from the food you eat and the air you breathe. This, in turn, increases your energy supply, giving you a boost to keep on going. Beyond that, exercise also increases the oxygen circulation inside your body, plus it triggers the release of endorphins, feel-good chemicals that’ll give you that up-and-at-’em attitude. Of course, finding the motivation to actually move can still be a challenge. But here’s where yoga comes in…
“Being overtired is a sure sign that the body needs rest, so I would always recommend keeping movement gentle and almost always floor-based,” says yoga teacher Iain Ross. “Often when tiredness or fatigue sets in, forcing yourself into a dynamic physical practice can be counter-productive. At best, you’ll feel totally unmotivated, at worst it can lead to injuries. Listen to your body and respond as necessary.”
Iain’s golden rule is: always let your practice meet you where you are – a sentiment that stresses the importance of listening to your body, and moving in ways that make you feel good. He recommends focusing less on what you think your practice should look like, and more on what you need from it. “Sometimes that may simply be 10 minutes in a meditation and that’s enough, others it may be some gentle strengthening or perhaps a longer Yin or restorative practice,” he explains. “Let your body guide you into what’s needed, rather than sticking with anything too rigid.”
With all that in mind, if you find yourself low on energy, give this sequence a try. Take it at your own pace, let your intuition guide you, and open your heart to the energising and empowering effects of yoga.
Over to you
Try this yoga sequence, created for you by Iain Ross.
Sit up tall on the sit bones and let the spine be long as you inhale. As you exhale, place the left hand to the outer right thigh and the right hand behind you as an anchor point. Inhale here, and as you exhale allow your body to move deeper into the twist. Repeat on the second side, and then flow between the two shapes, using the inhale to bring you through the centre and then exhale to twist.
Seated side bends
Place the right hand beside you and reach your left hand upwards, as you inhale to create length in the side body. On the exhale, bend the right arm to a side bend towards the right. Repeat on the second side, and then flow between these two shapes using the breath. Inhale to come through the centre and exhale to bend.
Seated heart openers
Inhale to bring your hands into prayer position at the heart centre. Exhale as you interlace the fingers and push your palms forward. Inhale and raise your hands above your head, keeping the interlace of the fingers if it’s available. Exhale and make a cactus shape with the arms, squeezing you shoulder blades together and shining the heart up and out. Inhale to bring hands into prayer, and repeat up to five times.
From all fours, inhale into cow pose as the belly drops while the chest and the gaze lift forward and up. On the exhale move into cat – push through the palms as you round the spine, tucking the chin into the chest and the tailbone under. Flow through these two postures as much as you need, or explore some free movement around your mat.
From all fours, walk the hands forward as you allow the chest to melt down towards the floor. Keep the hips aligned over the knees, and grab a pillow or a block for the head if the ground feels like it’s miles away. Breathe into the space across the front of the chest, bringing the hands wider than shoulder distance if the shoulders are a bit tight.
From your ‘melting heart’, slide the chest through between the arms so you end up laying on your front, resting on your forearms. Try to align shoulders over elbows to support your weight and gaze forward.
Child’s pose with side stretches
Bring the knees as wide as the mat and the big toes together to touch while you sit your bum back towards the heels, reaching your hands forward and letting the forehead rest on the mat or a block. Reach the hands to the top right corner of the mat while trying not to lift the left hip, breathing into the left side body. Repeat both sides.
Optional sun salutation:
- Upward salute (inhale)
- Forward fold (exhale)
- Halfway lift (inhale)
- Supported plank (exhale)
- Low cobra (inhale)
- Downward dog or child’s pose (exhale)
Low lunge with heart opener into supported half hanumanasana flow
Find a low lunge with the front knee over the front ankle and the back knee lowered, turning both hips to face the front of the mat. Inhale as you sweep the hands high, then exhale the arms into a cactus shape. Inhale once more to bring the arms high, then exhale into half splits, bringing hands to the mat as the hips move back and the front leg straightens. Flow between these two postures three to five times, each time using the inhale to lift the arms.
Twisted low lunge
Staying in your low lunge, bring both hands to the mat. As you inhale, twist towards the front leg as you peel the hand up towards the sky (e.g. if your right leg is forward in your lunge, you’ll twist towards your right and lift the right hand). Repeat on the second side.
Bridge or supported bridge
Come to a reclined position and bring the heels close in towards the bum, around touching distance from the fingertips. Inhale as you push through the heels, squeezing the bum to lift the hips high. For a more supported version, place a bolster or a brick under the lower back.
Keep it short and sweet so as not to drift away back into deep relaxation, but allow your body time to settle. Lay on your back on the mat, either extending the legs long or bringing soles of the feet to the floor (especially if the lower back is at all uncomfortable).
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