Get Twisted! 8 Circulation-Boosting Yoga Moves

Whether yoga’s your thing or not, you don’t have to be freaky flexy to do these eight “vein cardio” yoga moves that will have your legs — and your entire body — hollerin’ a James Brown “I feel good.”

All you need is to clear your head and set your intention on showing your legs some love for a few minutes.

Ommm, and also something comfy to stretch out on — like a yoga mat — and something stretchy, comfy to wear.

So here we go.

First, the Standing Series

Downward-facing Dog (Yoga Name: Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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How to:

Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.

Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.

Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis.

Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.

Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. 

Benefits: 

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with head supported
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

Standing Forward Bend Pose (Yoga Name: Uttanasana)

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How to: 

Stand in Tadasana (translation: hands by the sides, feet together, spine straight!), hands on hips. Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, not from the waist. As you descend draw the front torso out of the groins and open the space between the pubis and top sternum. As in all the forward bends, the emphasis is on lengthening the front torso as you move more fully into the position.

If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles. If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Turn the top thighs slightly inward.

With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. In this way the torso oscillates almost imperceptibly with the breath. Let your head hang from the root of the neck, which is deep in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.

Uttanasana can be used as a resting position between the standing poses. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. It can also be practiced as a pose in itself.

Don’t roll the spine to come up. Instead bring your hands back onto your hips and reaffirm the length of the front torso. Then press your tailbone down and into the pelvis and come up on an inhalation with a long front torso.

Benefits:

The forward bend poses give an internal massage as well as improve the circulation to the various organs like the abdomen, pancreas, liver, intestines and kidneys. They also help to lengthen and strengthen the hamstrings, muscles of the inner leg, make the muscles of the back more supple and boost the strength of the legs and the knees. 

Eagle Pose (Yoga Name: Garudasana)

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How to:

Stand in Tadasana. Bend your knees slightly, lift your left foot up and, balancing on your right foot, cross your left thigh over the right. Point your left toes toward the floor, press the foot back, and then hook the top of the foot behind the lower right calf. Balance on the right foot.

Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, and spread your scapulas wide across the back of your torso. Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other.

Press the right hand to the right and the left hand to the left, so that the palms are now facing each other. The thumb of the right hand should pass in front of the little finger of the left. Now press the palms together (as much as is possible for you), lift your elbows up, and stretch the fingers toward the ceiling.

Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, then unwind the legs and arms and stand in Tadasana again. Repeat for the same length of time with the arms and legs reversed.

Benefits:

This posture rocks pretty much your entire body — as it creates a FANTASTIC compression of the lower region, builds strength in legs, arms and your core, plus it opens joints like a can opener as you come out of the posture and release all that built up tension! This posture is one huge rush of fresh, oxygenated love as blood floods the pelvic area and lower extremities on your way out of this one. Legs rate this one a 10.

Tree Pose (Yoga Name: Vrksasana)

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How to:

Stand in Tadasana. Shift your weight slightly onto the left foot, keeping the inner foot firm to the floor, and bend your right knee. Reach down with your right hand and clasp your right ankle.

Draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh; if possible, press the right heel into the inner left groin, toes pointing toward the floor. The center of your pelvis should be directly over the left foot.

Rest your hands on the top rim of your pelvis. Make sure the pelvis is in a neutral position, with the top rim parallel to the floor.

Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Firmly press the right foot sole against the inner thigh and resist with the outer left leg. Press your hands together in Anjali Mudra. Gaze softly at a fixed point in front of you on the floor about 4 or 5 feet away.

Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Step back to Tadasana with an exhalation and repeat for the same length of time with the legs reversed.

And if you’re really adventurous and feeling extra bendy, try the

Toe Stand (Yoga Name: Padangusthasana)

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How to:

Begin standing in Tadasana)with your arms at your sides.

Shift your weight to your left foot, then bend your right knee up toward your chest. Raise your right foot and bring your right heel to rest on the front of your left thigh or hip. The sole of your foot should be facing the sky, and the top of your foot should rest on your leg or hip.

Allow your right knee to drop down. Bring both hands to the center of your chest in prayer position (Anjali Mudra). This is Half Lotus Tree Pose.

Slowly hinge forward at the hips, strongly engaging your abdominal muscles to aid your balance. Keeping your standing leg straight, release your hands and place your fingertips on the floor in front of you.

Bend your standing leg and bring your hips close to the floor. The thigh of your standing leg should come parallel to the floor, and all of your weight should be balanced across the ball of your standing foot. Rest your buttock on the heel of your standing foot.

Gaze at a single spot on the floor four feet in front of you.

Keeping your abdominals engaged, bring your left hand to the center of your chest in half prayer position. If it is possible, bring your right hand to meet your left, pressing your palms together.

Hold for up to 90 seconds.

To release the pose, place your fingertips on the mat in front of you once again. Slowly straighten your standing leg. Inhale to return to standing, then gently release your raised leg. Repeat for the same amount of time on the opposite side.

Benefits:

  • Increases mobility through hip and knee joints
  • Good for balance and correcting bad posture
  • Great for circulation problems, arthritis and rheumatism

 

Floor Series

Shoulder Stand (Yoga Name: Salamba Sarvangasana)

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How to:

Fold two or more firm blankets into rectangles measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, and stack them one on top of the other. You can place a sticky mat over the blankets to help the upper arms stay in place while in the pose. Then lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported (and parallel to one of the longer edges) and your head on the floor. Lay your arms on the floor alongside your torso, then bend your knees and set your feet against the floor with the heels close to the sitting bones. Exhale, press your arms against the floor, and push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into the front torso.

Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Stretch your arms out parallel to the edge of the blanket and turn them outward so the fingers press against the floor (and the thumbs point behind you). Bend your elbows and draw them toward each other. Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and spread your palms against the back of your torso. Raise your pelvis over the shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands up your back (toward the floor) without letting the elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.

Inhale and lift your bent knees toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso and hanging the heels down by your buttocks. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and turn the upper thighs inward slightly. Finally inhale and straighten the knees, pressing the heels up toward the ceiling. When the backs of the legs are fully lengthened, lift through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.

Soften the throat and tongue. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, and move the sternum toward the chin. Your forehead should be relatively parallel to the floor, your chin perpendicular. Press the backs of your upper arms and the tops of your shoulders actively into the blanket support, and try to lift the upper spine away from the floor. Gaze softly at your chest.

As a beginning practitioner stay in the pose for about 30 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually and 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes. To come down, exhale, bend your knees into your torso again, and roll your back torso slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor.

Benefits:

Since it is an inversion pose and nourishes the brain, Shoulder Stand offers a rich supply of blood and a flood of oxygen to the organs and upper body glands. Since pressure is taken off the lower extremities, it is like super charging when you rest in this pose with your legs up. You will relieve the pressure and swelling of the feet and legs that result from tough, long days at work and play. Just getting extra blood flow to the brain, face and head will give a tired day the boost you need to continue. All this will give you the clearer head you may need to continue with long nights of studying, intense business meetings, intense negotiations with the kids, you catch the drift.

Legs Up the Wall (Yoga Name: Viparita Karani) 

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a modified version…

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look! everyone can benefit!

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How to:

Legs Up the Wall Pose is the slightly nicer sister to Shoulder Stand. Before performing the pose, determine two things about your support: its height and its distance from the wall. If you’re stiffer, the support should be lower and placed farther from the wall; if you’re more flexible, use a higher support that is closer to the wall. Your distance from the wall also depends on your height: if you’re shorter move closer to the wall, if taller move farther from the wall. Experiment with the position of your support until you find the placement that works for you.

Start with your support about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways on right end of the support, with your right side against the wall (left-handers can substitute “left” for “right” in these instructions). Exhale and, with one smooth movement, swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. The first few times you do this, you may ignominiously slide off the support and plop down with your buttocks on the floor. Don’t get discouraged. Try lowering the support and/or moving it slightly further off the wall until you gain some facility with this movement, then move back closer to the wall.

Your sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall, but they should be “dripping” down into the space between the support and the wall. Check that the front of your torso gently arches from the pubis to the top of the shoulders. If the front of your torso seems flat, then you’ve probably slipped a bit off the support. Bend your knees, press your feet into the wall and lift your pelvis off the support a few inches, tuck the support a little higher up under your pelvis, then lower your pelvis onto the support again.

Lift and release the base of your skull away from the back of your neck and soften your throat. Don’t push your chin against your sternum; instead let your sternum lift toward the chin. Take a small roll (made from a towel for example) under your neck if the cervical spine feels flat. Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.

Keep your legs relatively firm, just enough to hold them vertically in place. Release the heads of the thigh bones and the weight of your belly deeply into your torso, toward the back of the pelvis. Soften your eyes and turn them down to look into your heart.

Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to twist off the support when coming out. Instead, slide off the support onto the floor before turning to the side. You can also bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the support. Then slide the support to one side, lower your pelvis to the floor, and turn to the side. Stay on your side for a few breaths, and come up to sitting with an exhalation.  

Benefits: 

Encourages circulation of blood and lymph from the feet and legs. Bathes the abdomen in fresh blood, stimulating the digestive organs. Soothes the nervous system, allowing your body to shift its attention from warding off stress to daily bodily functions, including detox. 

  • Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet
  • Gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck
  • Relieves mild backache
  • Calms the mind

Headstand (Yoga Name: Salamba Sirsasana)

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How to:

Use a folded blanket or sticky mat to pad your head and forearms. Kneel on the floor. Lace your fingers together and set the forearms on the floor, elbows at shoulder width. Roll the upper arms slightly outward, but press the inner wrists firmly into the floor. Set the crown of your head on the floor. If you are just beginning to practice this pose, press the bases of your palms together and snuggle the back of your head against the clasped hands. More experienced students can open their hands and place the back of the head into the open palms.

Inhale and lift your knees off the floor. Carefully walk your feet closer to your elbows, heels elevated. Actively lift through the top thighs, forming an inverted “V.” Firm the shoulder blades against your back and lift them toward the tailbone so the front torso stays as long as possible. This should help prevent the weight of the shoulders collapsing onto your neck and head.

Exhale and lift your feet away from the floor. Take both feet up at the same time, even if it means bending your knees and hopping lightly off the floor. As the legs (or thighs, if your knees are bent) rise to perpendicular to the floor, firm the tailbone against the back of the pelvis. Turn the upper thighs in slightly, and actively press the heels toward the ceiling (straightening the knees if you bent them to come up). The center of the arches should align over the center of the pelvis, which in turn should align over the crown of the head.

Firm the outer arms inward, and soften the fingers. Continue to press the shoulder blades against the back, widen them, and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the weight evenly balanced on the two forearms. It’s also essential that your tailbone continues to lift upward toward the heels. Once the backs of the legs are fully lengthened through the heels, maintain that length and press up through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.

As a beginning practitioner stay for 10 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually add 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes. Come down with an exhalation, without losing the lift of the shoulder blades, with both feet touching the floor at the same time.

 

Benefits:

This is the King of Poses for a reason. Degree of difficulty: when was the last time you stood on your head? That’s your answer.

  • Enhance concentration
  • Improve internal organ function
  • Nourish the skin of the face
  • Calm the body and mind
  • Relieve stress and tension
  • Strengthen the shoulders and the upper back muscles
  • Tighten the abdominals
  • Bring better circulation to the neck and brain
  • Help varicose veins
  • Increase stamina
 
We hope these poses will leave you feeling refreshed and, when practiced regularly, help your legs feel more energized too. 

Which poses make you feel good? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page (while you’re there, we hope you’ll “like” us!) 

Resources: How to and benefit information courtesy of Yoga Journalyogawiz.com and Bikram Yoga.)