How do you energize?
There isn’t a shortage of energizing yoga classes or sequences, but I often wonder what we are actually asking of our students and ourselves when we practice with this goal. Often an energizing yoga class is just fast and hard. When done a bit more mindfully, it can focus on poses or breath patterns that stimulate and excite the nervous system into a more focused, instead of frantic state. My essential energizing poses, which find their way into my energizing classes, tell the chest to expand and invite an empowered inhalation. They connect me to the ground but suggest a rise of vital energy or prana upwards.
However, as my teachers have taught me, we should also remember that if we need energy we are also probably tired and need rest. Therefore, my essential energizing poses include, maybe as a surprise, savasana. You can use the following poses as a sequence on their own or combine them with your favourite postures.
My energizing practice
Begin or end with savasana as if you are tired, you need rest. Named ‘corpse pose’ in a spiritual system that believes in rebirth, this pose in some ways is about the act of full surrender into rest and the rebirth that comes when you exit the pose. Go through the journey of savasana and surrender to however you are feeling, even if it’s dead tired, and then observe how you feel when you come out on the other side. If it happens you just fall asleep, then you probably needed it. I find that most of the time, accepting and temporarily giving into my tiredness instead of revolting against it is the most important step in finding a way to summon the energy I need for whatever is next on my plate.
2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
Standing tall and reaching my arms up into the air, especially at the beginning of a sun-salutation, signals to me that I have begun practicing and that I’m waking myself up. I feel the root of my feet into the ground and the length of my body upward. Because of the simplicity of the shape, I feel the subtle energetics of the pose and the sense that something deep inside me is beginning to be summoned. The lift of my chest and ribs stimulates an empowering breath that invigorates my body and within it my nervous system. Stay here for a few breaths or let this move into a mindful sun-salutation set to a slow and rhythmic breath.
3. High Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasa Variation)
The high crescent lunge cranks up the transmission of energy from the ground through the back leg, up through the pelvis, across the chest, and up through the fingers. I feel as if I’ve become a vessel for prana, and the flow has now been supercharged. The pose can be static or move up and down with the legs or the arms or both. This pose is accessible for most and easily scaled up by lengthening and deepening the stance, or scaled back by making it as short and stable as needed. Additionally, this pose can be relatively neutral through the spine, or a pretty big backbend. For an extra boost, I ensure the hip of the back leg is facing forward and the front rim of the pelvis is lifted upward so energy is directed in and up through the lower belly and spine.
4. Upward-facing Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
Backbends are usually crowd favourites for uplift and invigoration. The symmetrical clarity and the potential rebound from the floor through both arms and legs makes upward-facing bow pose essential for me. It is a full body pranic explosion as energy is transmitted not only through the back-bending spine, but across the front of the hips and chest, and along the long line of back, shoulders, and arms. I enjoy raising my heels up to allow even more lift of my hips and chest and more energetic reach through my arms. If you cannot practice the full upward-facing bow, then happily do a bridge pose, even with support like a yoga brick underneath your sacrum, and send breath upwards through the chest.
5. Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)
Yogis usually don’t need much convincing that inversions are energizing. The mere act of changing one’s orientation to gravity, and with it the muscular tone of the body and breath, along with the fear-defying journey to get upside-down can definitely awaken the senses. The active inversions of handstand, forearm stand, and headstand can all fit in here. I’ve selfishly chosen forearm stand as it is my easiest balance, and for me feels a bit more stable with a reasonable amount of support on the ground. You can take your pick of active inversions and scale it up to handstand (adho mukha vrksasana) or down to headstand (sirsasana). If you can’t get up on your own feel free to use a wall or a friend. If all else fails, just hop up to wherever you can go. The act of going up and down a few times will invigorate on its own.