You may already know that yoga has tons of health benefits – flexibility, strength, and relaxation, just to name a few. But the beloved mind and body workout can also help you look and feel more beautiful, particularly when it comes to improving posture and balance. Here are New York City-based vinyasa yoga instructor Leslie Lewis’s best tips for achieving perfect poses.
Stretch a little bit each day
Although it’s best to practice yoga regularly, you can still reap its benefits when you’re time-pressed. “Try a forward fold with your hands clasped behind your back and bend at the hip, versus hunching your back,” Lewis suggests. She adds that forward folds are basically anti-agers because posing against gravity — even for a few seconds — brings blood to your face, which boosts circulation. Or, do downward-facing dog. Advanced move: “If you can hold plank for even one minute every day, you can move almost every single muscle into action,” she adds.
Focus on the small details
Even seemingly simple poses can be surprisingly complex when you consider there’s a correct (and incorrect) way to place your arms, turn your head, or even breathe. And it’s easy to forget it all the next morning when you find yourself slouching at your desk. “The thing about yoga is that there are many little nuances to each pose that make you more aware of your body,” Lewis says. For example, you can even practice a pose while you stand: “Make sure your shoulders are above your hips, your tailbone is slightly tucked so you have a long spine, your chest is open, and your navel is at your spine,” she says. “Stand up straight and take full breaths.”
"Mindfulness is simply staying present and being conscious of everything you’re doing," Lewis says. And that’s why yoga is so beneficial — it forces you to relax and quiet your mind, admittedly hard to do in our plugged-in, overscheduled world. "But once you become mindful, you might treat the person at Starbucks, your coworkers or your boyfriend a little bit better,” she says. “It starts to seep into the rest of your life."
Realize that small actions can have big payoffs.
If you only seldom take a yoga class you may not feel like a true yogi, but even the tiniest healthy decisions can be rewarding. For Lewis, she committed to being less obsessed with unproductive activities such as simultaneously texting and walking. She has the right idea— taking the occasional break from technology will free you up for more feel-good activities. If you think you don’t have time to exercise, consider how often you’re on social media. Checking Facebook, for example, multiple times a day could amount to one or more hours– that’s plenty of time to sneak in a workout. Getting offline also means you spend less time hunched over a screen that’s doing damage to your neck and shoulders.
Always stand tall
Bottom line: even if you leave yoga class sweaty and grimy, you’ll still feel beautiful and energized. “When you let go of stress, you look and feel better,” she says. “Being confident and happy — that radiates.”