Some of us deal with pain in key parts of our body — whether it’s from sitting at a desk all day or not properly stretching before or after working out. Thankfully, we have yoga to rescue us. Carla Jean Whitley, a yoga instructor, writer and editor from Birmingham, Alabama, shared a few poses to help pain in the hips, shoulders, knees, neck and back. Each pose should elicit the feel of a good stretch, she said, but you should never feel pain in any of these poses. “Feeling a challenge is great,” Whitley said, “but not to the point of pain.”
It’s important, too, to pay attention to the form in each pose, so you’re engaging the body correctly. "There's so many things happening in any of these poses,” Whitley says.
Take some time each day to use the poses that will help you most, and reap the benefit of the calm given to you during the time spent in each one. “The intense physical movement helps me get out of the rat race of my mind,” Whitley says.
Three-legged downward facing dog: This version of downward facing dog opens your hip more than regular downward facing dog, Whitley says.
Reclining pigeon: Not as intense as king pigeon pose, this move is also good for hamstrings.
Reclining cobbler: With this move, gravity is doing the work of pulling your knees to the earth, Whitley says. She especially recommends this pose for nighttime, right before bed. You can put a bolster under your lower back, close to your seat, and also blocks under your knees for extra support.
Cow-face pose: Cow pose can be done while sitting down, as shown here, either with one leg over the other or in regular Indian-style. But the pose can also be done while standing in warrior pose, Whitley says.
Shoulder opener: Lie flat in a T and put one cheek on the earth. Then bring one arm in and use it to gently push yourself over to the other side, to open your shoulder blades and upper back.
Warrior II: For this pose, Whitley says putting your weight in your thighs and the back calf will help strengthen the knees.
Chair: This balance pose is made harder by keeping your feet together, but you have the option of standing with your feet apart, which will make it easier to balance. This pose helps the knees and also strengthens the glutes, hamstrings and calves.
Neck rolls: Slowly move your head to the side, the front, then the other side, and deepen the stretch by putting your hand out straight to the side.
Rabbit: Explaining that anything that is good for the spine is good for the neck, Whitley instructs to tuck your chin and roll your forehead to the top of the knees, putting your head down on the mat. You have the option to hold onto your ankle or calf and roll farther forward, but only roll to your comfort level.
Sphinx: To come into this pose, flatten your arms and relax your rear, which should be engaged but not clenched. Then stack your shoulders on top of your elbows, keep your neck long and draw your chin back. This moves involves a lot of strength building, she says, and you will feel it in your upper back and arms.
Camel: Start by kneeling down with your toes curled under, then push your butt back, bending back and lower into the pose. Grasp your heels or place your hands at your lower back and arch into the pose, dropping your head back if you like. Finally you can put your feet down flat, if that feels good, Whitley says.