Yoga
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8 Yoga Moves for a Happier Mood

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By: Deborah Wilburn

 
The health benefits of yoga are well-known -- but did you know that yoga can give you a mental lift, too? Studies suggest that a regular yoga practice (along with other exercise) can improve your outlook and ease symptoms such as depression, anxiety and insomnia.
 
“Breath awareness is an important part of every yoga practice,” says certified yoga instructor Theresa Brennan, who created this sequence. “It helps you put aside worries and focus on being in the moment. That alone can reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being.” 
 
All you'll need to begin is a yoga mat and a block. Repeat the sequence three times per week to gain the most benefits.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

2 / 9 Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

While deceptively simple, Mountain Pose is an essential starting place for this happiness sequence: It grounds you in the here and now and prepares your body for the moves to follow.
 
How to do it:  Begin by standing with your feet parallel, big toes touching.  Bring energy and purpose to the pose by firming your thigh muscles (don't lock your knees) and lengthening your tailbone. Imagine a straight line running from the top of your head to the ground between your feet. Engage your abs to protect your lower back. Allow your arms to hang at your sides, palms facing forward. Keep your gaze soft and take several calming breaths. 
Warrior II  (Virabhadrasana II)

3 / 9 Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II is the first of four warrior poses.  “These poses will make you feel powerful and confident, leading to a happier you,” says Brennan.
 
How to do it: Stand tall and take a large step back with your left foot. With your right foot pointing forward, bend your right knee. Turn your left foot out at a 90 degree angle. Align your left heel behind your right foot. Lift your arms, keeping them parallel to the floor, palms down. Turn your head to gaze over your right arm. Take several slow, deep breaths. Return to the standing position and repeat with your left foot in front.  
Peaceful Warrior (Shanti Virabhadrasana)

4 / 9 Peaceful Warrior (Shanti Virabhadrasana)

Peaceful Warrior, also referred to as Reverse Warrior, gives you a gentle side stretch, allowing you to breathe more deeply.  
 
How to do it: From Warrior II pose, with right foot forward, flip your hands so that your palms face up. Lean straight back at the waist and raise your right arm, sweeping it over your head, palm facing down. Lift your gaze to your palm. As you lean back, slide your left hand down your left leg, allowing your hand to rest on your thigh. Take several breaths. Return to Warrior II starting position, this time with your left foot in front, and repeat Peaceful Warrior. 
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

5 / 9 Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

The warrior poses, which lift and expand the chest area, are sometimes referred to as heart openers. Try letting the expansiveness of these poses extend off the mat as well -- you'll be opening yourself up to more joy. 
 
How to do it:  Stand tall with feet together, hip-width apart. Take a big step back with your left foot. Bend your right knee with your right foot pointed forward. Turn your left foot out about 45 degrees. Lean back and lift your heart (chest). Raise your arms to your sides, keeping them slightly bent, with palms up. Shift your gaze to the ceiling. Take several deep, calming breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat with your left foot in front. 
Warrior III  (Virabhadrasana III)

6 / 9 Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)

When stress and tension run high, Warrior III can help calm your nerves, reduce anxiety -- and take you to a more relaxed, happier place.
 
How to do it:  Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step your left foot back by about two feet. With your right foot pointing straight ahead, shift your weight to your right leg. Bend forward and lift your left leg, keeping it parallel to the ground. Shift your gaze straight down. Extend your arms forward with palms facing each other. Contract your abs and engage the muscles of your right leg to help maintain balance. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths. Return to a standing position and repeat on the other side. 
Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)

7 / 9 Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)

You’ll feel lighter in body and spirit with the playful Dancer Pose. 
 

How to do it:  Stand straight with feet parallel about hip-distance apart. Shift your weight onto your left foot. Bend your right knee and move your right foot toward your right buttock. Reach back with your right hand and take hold of the ankle or heel of your right foot. Pull your leg up and away from your body. As you do so, your torso will lean forward. Shift your gaze straight down to the ground and extend your left arm. Hold the pose for several breaths. Return to a standing position and repeat on the other side.

Triangle Pose

8 / 9 Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose is more than a feel-good stretch. “This pose opens your heart, allowing for an emotional release that can lead to an elevated mood,” says Brennan. 
 
How to do it: Stand with your feet three to four feet apart with arms raised at your sides. Slightly angle your left foot in. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Hinge from the hips to the right, directly over your right leg. Rest your right hand in front of your right ankle or along your right leg; your chest should not collapse forward. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling. Turn your head to gaze at your outstretched hand. Hold the pose for several breaths. Return to a standing position; repeat on the other side. 
Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)

9 / 9 Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)

Resting one hand on a block makes it easier to maintain this chest-opening pose.

 

How to do it:  Place your block about eight inches in front of your right foot. Shift your weight to your right leg and lean forward, placing your right hand on the block while keeping your arm straight. Allow your left leg to lift so that it’s parallel to the ground. Straighten and firm the muscles of your right leg to stabilize the pose. Rotate your torso to the left and lift your left arm straight to the ceiling. Allow your head to follow and shift your gaze to your extended left hand. Return to standing position and repeat on the other side.