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Uplifting Yoga Poses That Boost Your Mood

High Lunge Twist

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Twists are the ultimate detoxifier—of the body and the mind. Picture yourself wringing out like a sponge, getting rid of what you don't want or need in your body or mind, and use each exhale to create new space.

  • Begin in high lunge with right foot forward.
  • Take hands together in a prayer at the center of chest.
  • Take a deep inhale, using thumbs to slightly lift chest.
  • Use exhale to engage navel to spine and twist torso to the right.
  • Hook left elbow outside of right thigh.
  • Breathe here for at least 3 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Photo: Fredy Soberanis

Revolved Half Moon

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This chest and shoulder opener not only helps you breathe, but it challenges your balance so that you are firmly placed into the here and now, making it difficult for your mind to wander to unpleasant places. (Try these brilliant hip opener poses, next.)

  • Begin in a standing forward bend.
  • Lift left leg to come to a supported warrior III on right leg, with both hands on the ground.
  • Keep left fingertips on the ground and lift right arm toward the ceiling.
  • Look up at top hand. Bend both knees to reach right hand to left ankle or shin. You can use a yoga strap or a towel if that helps.
  • Once you have hold of the foot, lift left knee and foot straight up. Look up, rotating chest open toward the ceiling.
  • Breathe here for at least 3 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Photo: Fredy Soberanis

Camel Pose

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Camel pose is a heart opener that physically increases your lung capacity, allowing for deeper breathing.

  • Begin in a high kneeling position with hips over and lined up with knees, and weight supported by shins and the tops of feet.
  • Place palms on sacrum—fingers facing up or down, whichever feels better, tailbone reaching down—and draw elbows in to one another so that they aren't winging out. Keep thighs rotating inward and pull shoulder blades toward one another and down back.
  • Look to the ceiling as you lift chest upward. Release hands to heels and arch spine.
  • Tip head back to keep the whole spine in extension if that is appropriate for your neck.
  • Breathe here for at least 5 deep breaths.

Photo: Fredy Soberanis

Hollow Back

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Not only does this inversion force you to focus on the present moment to balance, but this shoulder and chest opener creates more space for your lungs to breathe than you can experience through any other pose. Consider any hollow back inversion the queen of antidepressant yoga poses.

  • Begin on hands and knees facing a wall. Release forearms to the ground and hold opposite elbows to get shoulder's distance.
  • Parallel forearms to one another, with fingertips about 6 inches from the wall, and lift hips high into dolphin pose.
  • Walk feet toward elbows as close as they will go. Lift left leg toward the ceiling.
  • Come onto the ball of right foot and take tiny hops until you get both feet to the wall.
  • Allow bottom to rest on the wall, bend knees, and keep toes on the wall as well.
  • When you feel steady, slowly press chest through arms, away from the wall, as much as feels comfortable.
  • Breathe here for 3 to 5 breaths and then slowly reverse out of this into a child's pose for at least 3 breaths (bonus happy points if you place forehead on the ground when you do this).

Photo: Fredy Soberanis

Shoulder Stand

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Inversions increase the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain, which calms the mind and makes you happy; shoulder stand is typically the most accessible of the non-supported yoga inversions.

  • Lie faceup on the ground with knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms on either side.
  • Soften knees and press arms into the ground to reach feet up toward the ceiling and then back behind you (any amount that feels good on your neck) to plow pose.
  • From plow pose, place hands on lower back for support and try to keep elbows about shoulder-width apart.
  • Soften through the knees and, one at a time, reach feet toward the ceiling, lengthening legs when you feel comfortable.
  • Breathe here for at least 5 to 10 deep breaths.
  • To come out, soften knees back toward forehead, come back to plow, and, using arms as brakes, slowly lower back onto the mat one vertebra at a time.

Photo: Fredy Soberanis

Shoulder Stand Variation

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This variation of shoulder stand touches your knee to your third eye, which is said to promote grounding and relaxation as well as calm your nervous system. (Still looking for some more zen? Move into a flow filled with 7 Chill Yoga Poses to Ease Anxiety.)

  • From shoulder stand, bend right knee and lower knee softly to forehead.
  • Allow left knee to softly rest on the bottom of right foot.
  • Breathe here for at least 3 deep breaths, then bring legs through center and repeat on the other side.
  • To come out, soften knees back toward forehead, come back to plow pose, and, using arms as brakes, slowly lower back onto the mat one vertebra at a time.

Photo: Fredy Soberanis


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