Whatever your energy drain—a bum day at work, traffic woes, too-tight schedule—the solution isn’t to crash on the couch. (Tempting as that can be.) It’s to get down and stretch.
“Stretching frees up stuck energy so you feel more alive and engaged,” says Mia Togo, a yoga instructor based in Santa Monica, California, and creator of the Element: Daily Yoga DVD. Try these easy moves to loosen all the tight spaces in your body (especially your hips, hamstrings, and shoulders) and get that quick pick-me-up you’re after. In a time crunch, you can pick your favorite and go about your day, but ideally these moves should be performed one after the other to reach maximum Ahhh.
Lie face up on the floor with knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, flex the right foot, and lift your left foot off the floor. Clasp your hands behind your left thigh and slowly bring your left knee toward your chest. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your hips should remain pressed into the floor. Hold the stretch for 8 to 10 slow, deep breaths; release and repeat on opposite side.
On the floor, support yourself on your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders with fingers spread; your knees should be hip-distance apart. Breathe in while arching your upper back and pressing your shoulder blades toward the front of your chest. Exhale and round your upper back, gently tucking in your pelvis as you lift your navel toward your spine. Alternate arching and rounding your back as you slowly inhale and exhale.
On the floor, support yourself on your hands and knees. Check that your hands are shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Drop onto your forearms and interlace your hands. Press down on your forearms and lift your hips, straightening the legs, so your body forms an inverted V. Elongate your spine, draw your shoulder blades toward the front of your chest, and let your head hang freely. (Bend your knees slightly if the stretch is too intense for your hamstrings.) Hold the stretch for 8 to 10 slow, deep breaths.
From a hands-and-knees position on the floor, place your hands about two inches in front of your shoulders. Your knees should be hip-width apart and your toes should be gripping the floor. From this position, press your heels to the floor and lift your hips up until your body forms an inverted V. Press your weight down through your hands as you lengthen your spine. Hold the stretch for 8 to 10 slow, deep breaths.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees, putting your weight onto your heels, and lower your body until your thighs form 45-degree angles with the floor. Extend your arms overhead with your palms facing each other. Keep your chest lifted and relax the base of your neck. Hold the stretch for 8 to 10 slow, deep breaths.