When someone asked me to give them some yoga poses they could do anywhere, I knew they were thinking about busting out a king dancer in the supermarket or dropping into a flying side crow in the middle of the farmers market, sort of like a flash mob yoga move.
But what immediately came to my mind was the deeply internal, barely visible aspects of yoga. It’s because they are the deepest that these movements are sometimes the most profound. Several happen to be quite simple to use and master.
1. The notch at the base of the throat (left) is a potent marma point, or yoga power point, that calms the fight or flight response in the body. In Energy Medicine yoga, we use that point in conjunction with the heart chakra to balance and send love to this fragile system that often makes us focus on fear or stress when we don’t need to be, flooding the body with harsh hormones that accumulate and make us feel frazzled and tired. Put two or three fingers in this delicate spot and hold them there whenever you feel something amiss — when someone cuts you off in traffic or you feel stressed out by something at work. Do this, and you’ll feel an immediate calming. I sometimes act as if I’m fiddling with the charm on my necklace so as not to draw attention to myself while holding this pose to reach calmness.
2. There is a similar pose that works to calm the same system. Triple warmer governs the fight or flight response, and a way to calm that is the triple warmer/spleen hug. This bathes the body in comfort and ease. You can stand like this in line at the bank, at your child’s soccer game or in that stressful business meeting. We use it in warrior poses, and many of the standing poses, and in sit-ups on the mat. Wrap one arm around the low rib cage underneath your breast. Wrap the other arm across yourself just over the bend in the opposite elbow. You can do this with either arm under or over. You’ll feel the calm balance in moments.
3. Mula bandha is my favorite pose for centering and giving me added strength when I’m lagging behind, either on a walk or in my chores. When I feel my spine sinking and my posture weaken, grabbing onto mula bandha sends a surge of strength and electricity through the core of the body. I think of it sometimes as two little hands grabbing onto the strings of a balloon and being lifted up by it. To practice this, engage the muscles in the pelvic floor as if you were stopping the flow of urine. This is similar the Kegel exercises that pregnant women learn. You’ll feel an immediate surge of strength and core power.
4. A little twist goes a long way. It is so easy to stand in one place or sit in one place and turn your torso around to the side. Keeping your hips stable, wherever they are, and turning the core of the body provides a gentle yet powerful twist, clearing and cleaning out the organs and sending fresh blood through the system when you unwind. It also feels wonderful and freeing for the spine. You can twist your head too, to release the delicate and often tight neck muscles.
5. Although we use our hands in almost every yoga pose except for hand mudras, the hands don’t get much love. Here, we’ll clear the gaits, where energy, especially energy from five meridians, can get stuck, causing pain, soreness and aches. Massage down between the bones of each finger, culminating in the fleshy bit at the gullies between the fingers. Spend extra time between the thumb and first finger as these are good points for clearing the liver, which is often overburdened removing toxins from the body. After you do in between the fingers, massage down and pinch off the end of each finger, then shake out your hands to fling off the old energy.
These smaller, more internal poses can deliver powerful benefits beyond their size. You don’t have to do a one-arm handstand in the middle of the busy restaurant if you’re feeling tired. (That might get you a lot of attention!) But these five poses will give you a deeper, more balanced state of being.