10 Best Yoga Poses for Women
Women face a special brand of stress, both physical and mental. Linda Sparrowe outlines advantages of yoga for women in “Yoga Journal”: stress relief, improved flexibility and posture, encouraging the bones to retain calcium. And in a paper published for the West Virginia University School of Medicine, eight of nine studies on yoga and other meditation-based programs showed overall improvement with the physical and mental symptoms of menopause.
Yoga expert Mary Schatz, M.D., is quoted in Linda Sparrowe’s article as stating that weight-bearing poses such as the Half Pushup stimulate the bones to retain calcium, vital for fighting osteoperosis. To perform the Half Pushup, begin by kneeling on the floor, your knees under your hips and your hands placed below your shoulders. Pull in your abs and line up your head with your spine. Bend your elbows to a 45-degree angle with your arms close to your sides. This will take you halfway down into a pushup. Extend your arms until straight, returning to your beginning pose.
Begin this arm balance pose by lying face down on the floor, legs straight. Place your hands directly beneath your shoulders, palms down, and press, lifting your body up off the floor. Your legs should be straight, toes turned under as support. Draw your shoulder blades in, then spread them out from your spine. Keep your head aligned with your spine as you flex your feet, pressing your heels away from your body and lengthening through your spine and legs. As an arm balance pose that is weight-bearing, the Plank pose will also encourage calcium retention.
Inversion poses, according to B.K.S. Iyengar, master of yoga therapeutic applications, are helpful for regulating the thyroid and parathyroid glands. Encouraging health in these glands is vital for women to maintain normal hormone production. Performing these poses squeezes stale blood from the area of the glands as you begin the pose and then draws in fresh, oxygenated blood as you come out of the pose. And, because they are also weight-bearing poses, they also assist in helping the bones to retain calcium. Plow pose is just such a yoga pose. To start, lie back on a folded blanket, positioning yourself so your head is on the floor and your shoulders are just on the edge of the blanket. Your arms will be at your sides, legs straight. Bring your legs up, then back, lifting your upper body off the blanket. Bending at your hips, let your legs drop so your toes touch the ground behind your head. Bring your hands together and clasp them behind you.
Supported Head Stand
Kneel on a mat and bend your elbows, placing your forearms on the mat in front of you, lacing your fingers together. Place the crown of your head on the floor, cradling the back of your head between your hands. Inhale as you lift your knees off the mat and bring your feet in close to your elbows. Lengthen your spine toward your tailbone. Exhale as you bend your knees and forcefully push off, lifting your feet up off the floor. Carefully extend your legs to the ceiling, straightening them and balancing your body with your elbows. Extend your feet, toes to the ceiling. This is another pose that offers the benefits of both calcium retention from the weight-bearing part of the pose and thyroid and parathyroid regulation from the inversion portion.
Feathered Peacock Pose
Begin by crouching on the floor facing a wall. Lean forward, placing your forearms on the floor shoulder-width apart, palms flat and fingertips against the base of the wall. Move your right leg back and extend through your heel. Push off with both feet, sweeping your legs upward and back toward the wall so that you are upside down. Try to move lightly so you don’t bang your feet into the wall. Your elbows will still be bent. Press down on your hands and forearms, lifting your body up and your head off the floor. Lengthen your body by sliding your heels up, pressing your navel toward your spine and drawing your ribs into your torso. This pose can take some practice to master, but is an ideal example of a weight-bearing inversion pose.
As with the arm balance and inversion poses, the standing poses are on Dr. Schatz’s list of yoga poses that stimulate bones to retain calcium. She also notes that these poses encourage full range of motion. Mountain pose is a perfect example of a standing pose that involves all of these elements. Begin standing upright, feet together, relax your shoulders and breathe in. Raise your hands over your head, palms facing in toward each other. Straighten your arms, reaching up with your fingertips.
Also known as the Downward-Facing Dog, this pose is a standing pose with a forward bend. It brings all of the benefits of weight-bearing standing poses, but adds an element that B.K.S. Iyengar says quiets the adrenal system. This is important for stress relief for women, as a stressed system will push the adrenals into overtime to constantly pump adrenaline into the system. Begin in a standing position, feet hip-width apart, legs straight. Bend forward, keeping your spine straight, head aligned with your spine. Place your palms on the ground in front of your feet, about shoulder-width apart. Lightly jump back with both feet so that your body forms an inverted “V” shape. Reach your tailbone up and press your heels to the ground.
Begin standing in an upright position. Step your left foot forward in a lunge, toes facing forward, and bend your knee to a 90-degree angle. Behind you, your right leg should be straight. Lengthen through your spine as you raise your arms over your head, palms facing each other. With Warrior pose, women benefit from all the features of a standing pose, from balance to healthier bones.
Twist poses are effective for controlling the adrenal glands, according to Iyengar. Since adrenal glands provide estrogen and androgen, important factors in healthy bones, effective regulation is vital for women. Start the Twisted Chair pose by standing with your feet together; your spine should be straight and your head aligned with your spine. Bring your arms overhead and place your palms flat together as you inhale. Exhale as you twist your body to the left, bringing your right elbow to the outside of your left thigh and sitting back into a chair position. Keep your hips aligned and your knees parallel. Stand back up to the starting position and repeat on your right side.
Sit on the floor, legs extended in front of you, spine straight, head held high. Bend your left knee, placing your left foot on the floor with your heel as close to your sitting bone as you can get it. Turn your right leg inward slightly. Exhale as you turn your torso to the left and bring your right arm to the outside of your left leg. Place your left hand on the ground behind you and bend your right elbow, hand up, palm out. Press the fingers of your left hand into the floor and lift your chest, lengthening your spine. Turn your head to the left so that your chin is over your left shoulder. Hold for about 30 seconds, then inhale as you return to the beginning pose. Repeat on your right side. As a twist pose, Marichi’s pose will benefit your adrenal system and help support your bones.