Yoga is an ancient and spiritual connection between limbs, breathing, and powers of the mind. Its mystic and Indian roots still influence people today, especially those who crave a deeper meaning to existence (and a hearty hamstring stretch).

I started doing yoga regularly last August and built up experience through UF student rec classes, intense hot yoga at Yoga Pod studio, and virtual sessions from the Down Dog app. As I’m half Indian, half German, yoga is a kismet intersection of appropriated and native culture, and although yoga is glamorized by sexy leggings and besmirched by the Bikram Yoga scandal, it still creates energy within me.  

I also love yoga because it is incredible exercise. Tendons stretch to lands end - limbs contort in impossible ways - and your sense of balance is instantly reset. No wonder the Maharishi was enlightened after a few down dogs (“the quintessential yoga pose”). Here are my top five yoga poses that stimulate the chakras while also tightening the mind/body relationship.

1. Crow Pose (Bakasana)

Mackenzie Patel

This pose, achieved by first crouching into a malasana squat, perches your lower limbs on your forearms. It’s an exercise in balancing and courage, as the sensation of tipping forward and cracking your face is strong. This pose is a more daring one, but it’s also exhilarating because your hands and arms are supporting your full body weight - plus, you resemble a plumed bird during a mating call. 

2. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Mackenzie Patel

As the name implies, this pose erases all tension and creates this childlike state of total deference. Knees fall open as toes press together and the chest melts into the mat. The stretch in your shoulders and lower back is longing, and your body compresses to the earth. It’s a humbling pose that minimizes space between the forehead, mouth, and chest - creating a sort of yogic vacuum. 

3. Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)

Mackenzie Patel

Your core will be crying after a few sets of boat pose: this brutal position flexes your knees to 90 degrees and then fully extends your body into a V shape. For a fuller immersion, your body can lower further into half-boat (shoulders and legs peeled off the mat) or a rolled boat pose (arms and legs swayed to one side). At this point, your core will be shaking as if an earthquake struck and an unsettling, warm feeling will percolate. Your midriff will feel sore and taught the next day, but it’s 100% worth it. 

4. Garland Squat (Malasana)

Mackenzie Patel

This pose is the springboard for crow pose and reminds me of a smiling, portley Buddha statue at the Metropolitan Museum. Your tailbone drives down to the earth, legs wide, while your palms press together in prayer. Your thighs endure a thorough, firm stretch and despite the angle, the pose is surprisingly comfortable. 

5. Chaturanga

Mackenzie Patel

One of the most classic yoga poses, this feline stance is the genesis of the vinyasa cycle. The body lowers to a glorified push-up, arms bent at 90 degrees, while the chest hovers strongly over the mat. Also known as a low plank, this pose creates a parallel line between your core and the ground beneath.

To complete the full vinyasa, the body is lowered all the way, tops of the feet flip to the mat and the heart opens towards the ceiling in “up dog.” From there, the body launches back into down dog and the next sequence.

Back to Down Dog

Mackenzie Patel

For a complete list of poses (and their Sanskrit counterparts), check out the Yoga Journal list. My other go-to poses include Superman, Drinking Bird, & Happy Baby.

Because I am not religious and only espouse a vague, nondenominational spirituality, yoga is my ideal form of mental and physical exercise. My limbs have also become more supple and limber within a short period, twisting in ways I haven’t exhibited since my baton twirling days. Especially when quarantine days are monotonous and scorching, yoga segments time into little tidbits, making the days melt by. Namaste.

#SpoonTip: Students, educators, and health professionals can access free yoga lessons through the Down Dog app until July 1.