The benefits: This shape stimulates the bladder and liver meridians, triggering blood flow and releasing negative emotions like anger and resentment. “It also helps decompress the spine, stretches the hip abductors, and opens the fascia that runs from the sacrum to the back of the neck,” says Clivio, which is especially helpful for runners and people who spend long hours sitting at a desk.
To get into it: Start in seated position, with soles of feet together and heels about 14 inches away from pelvis. Place your hands a prayer position at your chest (pictured). Then, bring your forehead toward the arches of the feet, rounding the spine, and bringing your arms straight out in front of your legs to a completely relaxed position. Place a block or two under the forehead to support it if your head doesn’t touch your feet.
The benefits: The external rotation of the front hip stimulates the gallbladder and liver meridians, which are channels associated with decision-making and long-term planning. This pose is a vigorous way to open the hips, allowing gravity to do the work. It also provides a nice stretch for the quads and hip flexors, says Clivio.
To get into it: Start in downward facing dog. Lift left leg up and then bring all the way forward, so that the left knee could touch the back of the left wrist. (Your shin doesn’t need to be parallel but be sure to square off your hips). Make sure your right leg is directly behind your right hip. Place one hand on your left knee, the other at your heart center (pictured). Then, place a blanket under the left glute if there is space between it and the floor. Fold forward either onto a bolster, block, or floor and completely relax the entire body. Repeat on the left side in the same way but be mindful of what this side needs—the left might tell a different story than the right, so you might need different props to set yourself up, Clivio notes.
The Benefits: In addition to liver, bladder, and gallbladder meridian stimulation, this pose hits the kidney meridian, which helps to release anxiety and fear. “This is a very deep opening of the hips through strong external rotation and by folding forward, you’ll decompress the low back,” says Clivio.
To get into it: From seated position bring one of your shins parallel to the top of the mat. Then stack the opposite shin on top, aligning the ankle to the knee. If this is not possible straighten the bottom leg out, keeping the top shin parallel to top of mat. If you are able to, slowly fold forward, with arms in a relaxed position in front of the legs, throughout the hold. To come out, slowly straighten both legs out in front, shake them out for a moment and repeat on the other side.
The Benefits: Stimulates urinary, kidney, liver, and gallbladder meridians. “Stimulation of the urinary meridian switches the autonomous nervous system over to the restful, restorative parasympathetic mode,” Clivio explains. “Physically, this pose will give you a deep stretch of the hips and targets the glutes,” says Clivio.
To get into it: From tabletop position slide the left knee forward to at a 45-degree angle, slide the right knee in under the left knee, snuggled in tightly together. Use a blanket between the lower legs if this feels too intense. Keep your feet in back of you wide enough for you to sit back between the heels. If hips are too tight to sit directly on the floor between the heels use a block(s) or a blanket to elevate the seat. Place hands in prayer at center of chest (pictured). Then, slowly fold forward, with arms relaxed in front of you (or use Eagle arms or Cow Face arms bind for more intensity in the upper body). To release, unfold the legs out in front of you, take a down dog for a few breaths to come to neutral and set up second side.