When we’re low on energy we might feel like everything is on top of us making it hard to move. The urge might be to curl into a ball in a dark room. For me doing something that makes me feel stronger emotionally is what’s most likely to help cultivate energy that I can then channel in a positive direction. I always think the first thing we want to do is sit tall with purpose. You can sit in any comfortable seated position on the floor, on a chair, neck long, and the crown growing tall. Shoulders back and down and a broad chest to make space for the breath.
In terms of postural work; all of the standing poses sun salutations are going to offer vitality. invigoration is what we’re after so anything that cultivates that is good. Headstands can be great and backbends are helpful for releasing and unlocking things but I’d handle these with care and only approach them when you’re up for it. There’ve certainly been times in my life when I’ve felt vulnerable and needed to protect my heart and avoid backbends.
I’ve chosen five poses that require some energy to do them (because you’re standing up for starters) but that also build strength and will oil the joints and get some flexibility going. You can do them as standalone poses or put them together to make a sequence.
Utkatasana (Fierce Pose)
This is often translated as Chair Pose because of the way it looks but I always refer to it as “fierce” when teaching because it certainly feels that way when you hold it for a while!
Standing on your mat have your feet hip distance or you can move them closer or even have toes touching. Bend your knees and sink the hips as if you were going to sit down. It’s fine to lean forward slightly so that your torso from shoulders to hips is in a diagonal line. Try to keep knees over your feet if you can. Reach arms up, palms facing each other. You can look down, forwards or up at the space in between your hands. Over time if you find yourself feeling comfortable with palms facing one another then bring them closer and practise doing that until they’re touching and you can work on looking at the thumbs. I always find it easier to look at something rather than an empty space so there’s an incentive to keep practising until your shoulders are ready for palms to touch. Draw your shoulder blades down as you reach up (not easy I know!) and take five long breaths. Rest and maybe go again as many times as you like.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
This pose stretches the hamstrings, calves, spine, and muscles in the back. It’s a wonderful posture but can also be intense so go gently.
Start on hands and knees in a table top position; hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Spread your fingers wide (these are your paws in the Downward Dog) and press palms firm into the mat. Tuck your toes and as you breathe out lift your knees off the floor, tailbone moving to the sky. If you feel like you need more space to lengthen your back, step the feet towards the back of the mat until you find it. We’re trying to make an upside down V shape with our bodies here so keep pushing the mat away with your hands to create space in the shoulders, lifting the tailbone and sinking the heels to the floor. If legs feel tight of course bend the knees and focus on lengthening the spine. It’s more important to focus on lengthening the spine – we can think about the legs later. If you watch dogs stretch, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Let the head be heavy and send the gaze towards the space between your feet. Take five breaths and then come to your knees and rest in child’s pose. Then go again if you like you can or move to another posture.
If you have wrist pain you could do a version of this which becomes Dolphin Pose where forearms are on the floor. This can feel more challenging for some people as it requires fairly open shoulders so explore rather than judge as you discover what your body is telling you.
Phalakasana (Plank Pose)
This is a key posture for developing strength and it requires some strength to do as you’re supporting your entire body with hands and feet as in Downward Facing Dog. If you have pain in the wrists you can do it on your forearms or have knees on the floor until you feel able to support yourself with knees lifted. You can also try making your hands into fists and seeing if that works for you. If your wrists are fine but it feels too strong to hold for too long, get into the pose and slowly lower your whole body to the floor in Chaturanga Dandasana (Foor Legged Stick Pose); have elbows close to the body on your way down until you’re on the actual floor. Then you can do the Plank again. This is a good way to build strength.
You can come into this from hands and knees or move into it from Fierce Pose or Downward Facing Dog. Spread fingers wide and press firm into your index fingers and thumbs. Broaden shoulders, keep elbows in and step back with straight legs so toes are tucked under. If you have double-jointed elbows (like me) or are hypermobile in that area then having a small bend in the elbows is a good way to protect the joint. The energy is moving in two different directions as you move your chest slightly forward while pushing heels back. We have to switch the legs on and really use them to keep us up. Drawing your naval in gently will help as well as adding support to your back and the weight of your pelvis.Gaze at the space between your hands or look slightly forward. Hold for five breaths and rest. If you feel like you’re sticking your seat in the air or gasping for breath then bring the knees to the floor and maybe practise with one leg at a time.
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior one)
This one is another pose for building strength that asks for some strength too as in Fierce Pose since your arms are in the air while the legs are working too.
Step your right foot to the top of your mat, your left foot depending on leg length is a few feet behind you. Have the right toes pointing forwards and the left foot slightly turning outwards. Bend your right knee so it’s above the ankle. Breathing in, reach arms up, drawing shoulders down the back. Palms face each other and you can gaze at the space between them, or bring the palms closer until they touch so you can look at the thumbs. If looking up isn’t comfortable for your neck, allow it to relax and gaze gently into the middle-distance in front of you. Breathe. Maybe five times or more. Rest and go for it on the other side.
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior two)
This is the ultimate power pose that will hopefully make you feel invincible and ready for anything! With arms extended and chest wide, breath long, it’s definitely one of my favourites for getting energy fired up. It often makes me think of this B.K.S. Iyengar quote: “Hatha Yoga teaches us to use the body as the bow, asana as the arrow, and the soul the target”
The position of the feet is similar to Warrior I but you might need to take a wider stance as that can allow a deeper sinking of the hips. Step your right foot to the top of your mat, your left foot depending on leg length is a few feet behind you. Have the right toes pointing forwards and the left foot slightly turning outwards. Bend your right knee so it’s above the ankle but if it goes a bit beyond that’s fine too – just be careful that it’s not behind the knee as that can put too much pressure on the joint. Sink the hips down as you keep your torso upright as possible, squaring your shoulders and relaxing them as much as you can, extending arms wide parallel to the ground, palms down. Gaze is on the fingers of your right hand. Feel firm in both feet, you can even slightly push forward with the right foot and back with your left as if you were pulling your mat apart. Take as many breaths as you like, pause for a rest and then take the other side.
None of the suggestions here are prescriptions or cures for low energy that might be caused by an underlying health condition – be that physical or mental. They’re ideas based on experience that I think are worth trying. Everyone will respond differently to yoga postures and breath work. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. Always use your judgement and seek the advice of a health professional for proper guidance on how to treat any health conditions.