But if consistent, devoted practice is eluding you for whatever reason and you find yourself feeling tired and sluggish or overstimulated and hyper, here are ten simple yoga tricks to employ—five for lifting our energy up and five for bringing it back down to earth.
Wake Up Yoga
1. Sun breath
This form of pranayama(breath control) is a variation of Alternate Nostril Breathing. Using your right hand, fold the index finger and middle finger down to touch the palm. Begin with the ring finger lightly closing your left nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Retain the breath in if you wish. Then, lightly close your right nostril with your thumb and release the finger from your left nostril. Exhale through the left side.
That is one cycle. To summarize: inhale right, exhale left. Optionally retain the inbreath in and the outbreath out. Work up to doing this breath exercise for five or more minutes at a time.
2. Back bends
All back bending asanas, whether gentle or intense, are warming and energizing. Use them to wake up; they’re like a natural espresso shot. (They’re also great for warding off doldrums and depression.)
Try not to practice back bends in the late afternoon or evening, as they can keep you up past your bedtime.
3. Dog breath
Pant like a dog, through the open mouth or through the nose. Try two sets of thirty seconds each, resting between the sets and taking several deep breaths. It may seem silly, but it really works.
Visualize energy in the form of white light flowing upward from the base of your spine to the crown of your head and up to the sky. Raise your arms overhead and stretch. Chant. Sing. Dance.
To bring your energy level up, lift your head, lift your chest and lift your gaze.
Calm Down Yoga
6. Moon breath
It’s the calming sibling of sun breath. Inhale left, exhale right. Optionally retain the breath in and out for a few seconds— but only if it feels comfortable to do so. Another option is to simply close the right nostril lightly with the index finger and breathe in and out through the left nostril only for a few minutes.
7. Forward bends
Forward bending asanas, both standing and seated, are naturally cooling and relaxing. They turn our gaze and focus inward. They calm the mind and help us feel more grounded and stable. Practice moves such as child’s pose or standing forward bend with extended holds when you strive to feel more tranquil or before going to sleep.
8. Bellows breath
There’s nothing quite like long, deep breathing for calming our entire nervous system. Inhale slowly, relaxing the belly and filling the lungs from the bottom up. Exhale slowly, releasing the air from the lungs from the top down. Practice several rounds and enjoy the sense of ease and rest this simple breath technique provides.
9. Bring attention to the lower chakras
Especially the root chakra. Notice the soles of your feet, bringing awareness to where they touch your shoes or the ground. Go outside and stand in the grass, dirt or sand. Remember our innate connection to Mother Earth.
10. Downward movement
Visualize a golden (or any color) light moving downward from your crown to the base of your spine and down your legs to your feet. Lie down on the floor. Practice restorative and/or yin yoga. Move your gaze downward, relax and release your neck and facial muscles. Cool down. Let go. Allow yourself to rest.