Adam Hocke

Adam has been practicing vinyasa flow yoga since 1999 and has trained extensively with Jason Crandell. He offers precise, strong, and accessible classes to physically awaken the body and develop mindfulness both on and off the mat. His teaching is down-to-earth and direct, exploring traditional practices from a modern perspective. A native of South Florida, Adam spent ten years in New York City before becoming a Londoner. He teaches studio classes, teacher trainings, workshops and courses throughout London, and retreats across the globe. Additionally, Adam is a certified restorative yoga teacher. As a writer, Adam contributes regularly to magazines and web publications on yoga and blogs and podcasts at


How do you relax?

Needing relaxation is different than needing rest. A body that is ready to rest, and is otherwise balanced, can usually find it with some level of ease. A body that needs to relax because it is over-stimulated, stressed, worried, and anxious will have trouble settling in and getting anywhere near rest. A body that needs to relax is out of balance and will just continue to freak out if it goes straight to lying down without a gradual wind-down process. And to be frank, this anonymous body, is very much neurotic me if I am not careful. For me, the process of relaxation is not a straight drop into soft and quiet relaxing yoga poses, but a gradual process working with the rhythm of breath and movement to turn the volume of the mind down. When we’ve laid that foundation the body will find a much more easeful transition into rest. So, maybe as a surprise or not, my essential relaxing poses include a half sun salutation. You can practice the following relaxing yoga poses individually, as a sequence, or combined with your favourite postures to relax.

My relaxing poses

Half Sun-Salutation

I find a slow and steady half-sun salutation is just what I need to get out of my head and into my body and breath. This means I raise my arms up into upward salute, fold down into a forward fold, come half way up in a half forward fold, back down, and then all the way up again, happily skipping chaturanga and what follows. I don’t do it to build heat or sweat as I would in a more active practice, but rather to let whatever anxious buzz is still pulsing through me to start to sort it self out. As you practice, be sure to use this series of postures to balance the nervous system rather than excite and focus on long and rhythmically balanced inhales and exhales and movement that lasts as long as the breath. Even feel free to take extra pauses between shapes. After a few rounds, or much more if you still need to move, you will be ready to slow down properly, relax, and rest.

Child’s Pose

It’s good to get to the ground and become small. Child’s pose allows me to shut the world out a bit and feel the movement of my body and breath very closely. The shape allows my back to take a break and my shoulders to soften. Energy that has been expended outward all day is now implicitly instructed to come back inward. If you need a bit more time before you can commit to coming so deep inward, start with down-dog first until enough energy is expended that you are ready to come down.If this pose isn’t accessible for you due to restriction or pain, lie on your back and make the same shape by hugging knees into your chest.

Cross Legged Forward Fold

Seated forward folds are wonderful calming poses, but for many bodies they require a lot of preparation before they feel satisfying. My go-to forward fold when focused on relaxing is a simple cross-legged fold with a bolster, blanket, or block underneath my forehead. I can even cross my arms to rest my head upon. To me this is the most accessible of the seated forward folds and can be easily propped underneath hips or underneath head as much as body limitations demand. In fact, I find the mellowness of it, not chasing any massive depth, what allows me to relax most deeply. If you still need a bit of movement, let the torso sway side to side as you fold down and come up and down a few times until you are ready to surrender downward.

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Legs up the Chair

A mild and calming inversion can do wonders to relax the nervous system, but in this type of practice I generally have not warmed the body up enough to do a full shoulder-stand, nor do I want to faff about with all the props I need for the pose. When that is the case I practice Legs up the Chair, which is one of the mildest versions of shoulderstand or viparita karani you can do. Keep the pose super simple and like on the floor or a folded blanket with the back of the calf muscles on top of a padded chair and ensure the thigh bones come down into the hip sockets at a slight angle. If you want a bit more opening you can add a bolster underneath the lower back allowing a small backbend and opening across the lower belly. Based on my experience, this pose can easily be adapted to living rooms and cramped corners of hotel rooms.

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Supported Savasana

If you’ve given yourself a bit of time to get ready for it, a long and restful savasana can be absolute heaven. Go big and commit to fifteen to twenty minutes. Go luxury and place a folded blanket underneath your head and bolster underneath your knees. Cover yourself with your favourite blanket and cover your eyes with an eye bag. Give yourself permission to take rest. If you are a person that needs reassurance that you are not being lazy, know that taking this time will allow you to be more focused, creative and productive later on. But mostly you are doing it for your own health and happiness. Let the body, brain, nervous system, and mind rest.

See more here about how to prop your savasana.





Savasana is one of the most important poses we can bring into our practice, but is often practiced too quickly, without attention to alignment, and without clarity about how to deepen it. We fidget. We daydream. We snore. We start thinking about dinner. And then it’s over. But there are ways to improve a savasana that doesn’t feel quite right.

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The Usual Suspects

When we think about props in yoga practice we usually think about the usual suspects of legs in straps for supta padangusthasana or hands on blocks for ardha chandrasana. Props, especially from the Iyengar perspective, allow us to explore poses that for one reason or another our body needs some extra help getting into. Additionally, they are useful in other ways and traditions, like yin or restorative, to stretch over or rest on top of. At the end of practice, your savasana might benefit from props because like any pose, you can always go deeper and practice it with more proficiency.

Props for Savasana?

But why would you need props for savasana? It’s just lying on the ground, right? Savasana is not necessarily an easy pose, and is sometimes annoyingly but probably correctly called the “most difficult pose.” For many people it can be quite hard to settle into a rest at the end of class, even when and probably most especially when it is all too brief.  Keep in mind that Light On Yoga advises a savasana of ten to fifteen minutes after asana practice, not three minutes lying down while a slow ballad plays and your sweat dries. Savasana is serious business and can take some time to set up. Once in the pose, the mind needs a few minutes to slow down as you give yourself permission to rest. The addition of props can make the feeling so luxurious and inviting that you have no excuse but to drop in to rest. Each bit of support can potentially remove small amounts of discomfort and tension throughout the body that otherwise would have made you wiggle, squirm, and itch. Here are my essential prop supports to make the transition into savasana and rest much easier and more rewarding.


Particularly for those of us with strained lower backs and tight hip flexors from sitting all day, supporting the back of the knees with a bolster can be a much welcome support. With the slight lift of the knee, the thigh bones can ground into the pelvis, which can release to the floor and the lower back can take a much needed rest.


As we come into savasana our body temperatures can drop, and particularly if we’re sweaty from a strong practice we can get quite a chill.  But if you’re cold you won’t relax. Use a blanket to cover up and get warm and cozy. Importantly, extremities like feet and hands get cold more quickly than other parts, yet often I see students covering only their abdomen.  Be sure your blanket covers all of you without restricting breath in the upper chest, and even put on extra layers and socks before you settle down. Additionally, a blanket can be used to provide comfort to the back of the head and support a bit underneath the shoulders and back of the neck. Especially for those with typical computer-related forward head, the support can allow the upper body to relax.

Eye Pillow

Eye pillows often sit neglected in a basket by the straps and may seem mysterious in their potential uses. But the fact is gentle pressure on and around the eyes initiates a reflex action which will lower the heart rate and stimulate the vagus nerve, all of which will lead to a calmed down nervous system and deeper relaxation. This is a super quick fix that can yield big results on your path to a restful savasana. If you’re practicing in a studio, bring your own if you don’t like using communal ones.


Especially after a demanding vinyasa practice, the wrists could use some propping up, which will allow the elbows to release into the floor and the shoulders to relax. You can use blocks as shown here, or folded blankets under each hand. Be sure the angle of your support is parallel to that of the back of the wrist and that you are only supporting underneath the hand and wrist, and not the forearm.

Bonus: Timer

If practicing at home, use a timer and commit to a lengthy stay and prevent any falling-asleep-induced scheduling snafus.

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A confession: I’m a book worm.

I was recently asked by a teacher during a guided meditation, “Where do you find refuge?”. In other words, where do I go for support, reassurance, and inspiration?  Where is my safe harbour? I immediately thought of my books! My library of spiritual guides and how-tos of yoga practice and meditation shout pretty loud and clear to me “You are not alone. Many have walked this path.” I take refuge in this great tradition of teaching and go to it when my spirits are low or if I need a good kick in the bum. Whenever I am lost in this big world of yoga, I recall Joan Didion’s directive from The Year of Magical Thinking: “Read, learn, work it up, go to the literature.” Here are my essentials.

B.K.S. Iyengar: Light on Yoga

Not a surprise choice as this is the book on yoga posture practice. Although it is hard to sit down and read for pleasure, it is a handy resource I go to time and time again when I’m trying to understand a complicated pose or just trying to bring a bit more clarity and precision into the poses that have become habitual. Or, in a broader view, I go to this book when I wonder why on earth I’m bending myself into these shapes. In contrast to other books and teachers that can be non-committal and wishy-washy, Iyengar is unapologetically confident and clear. For example: “Practice of asanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics.”  My favourite passage however comes in his hopeful advice to those facing obstacles along the path:

“The attitude of the aspirant is like that of a lover ever yearning to meet the beloved but never giving way to despair. Hope should be his shield and courage his sword. He should be free from hate and sorrow. With faith and enthusiasm he should overcome the inertia of body and mind.”

Erich Schiffmann: Yoga: the Spirit & Practice of Moving into Stillness

Schiffmann’s prose makes me feel alive and want to go out give out free hugs. I can’t think of more moving descriptions of how poses feel and what they can awaken inside of you. Time and time again I go to the gorgeous opening chapters of this asana guide to address the questions of why we need to move and breathe to get to our spiritual heart and why we need to push our edges to continue to grow. My copy is dog-eared and highlighted with many passages, like this one, that get to the heart of the matter:

“Each breath you take can remind you to be here now, to treat this moment as important, and repeatedly to affirm the fact that right now you are exactly where you want to be, doing exactly what you want to be doing. You will probably be amazed at how much energy is suddenly at your disposal the moment you realize this. When you are no longer wishing you were somewhere else, doing something different, you will discover that energy is the given and that energy is abundant. What would you expect but the fullest enthusiasm and response when your body, mind, heart, attention, and interest are all in one place? “

Donna Farhi: The Breathing Book

If you read this book, you’ll never think about breathing in the same way. Farhi has filled this text with anatomical detail, poetic inspiration, and loads of practical inquiries to experience rather than simply think about it. My first yoga teacher training assigned this book along with a homework assignment to watch our breath throughout the day and notice when, why, and how it changes and how that affects us (for example: “On a tense conference call. Not breathing. Pissed off.”). As Farhi gets to in my favourite passage, the breath is not just breath:

“Our breath is constantly rising and falling, ebbing and flowing, entering and leaving our bodies. Full body breathing is an extraordinary symphony of both powerful and subtle movements that massage our internal organs, oscillate our joints, and alternately tone and release all the muscles in the body. It is a full participation with life.”

Judith Lasater: Relax and Renew

I like to seek solutions. I like to know what to do and do it. My vinyasa flow practice is strong, and deliberate, and very much about finding equilibrium through challenge. I use the rhythm I create in that practice to work out my neuroses and begin the process of stabilising my nervous system. But the fine-tuning and balance comes largely from my restorative practice. Judith Lasater’s teachings have taught me to trust in the natural rhythm of my body and brought me to understand that sometimes slowing right down and accepting comfort and support can be the most radical practice of all.  My favourite passage summarises it neatly:

“Restorative poses are poses of being rather than doing.”

H.H. The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.: The Art of Happiness

Like many people, some of my first exposure to Buddhist thought was through the popular writings of H.H. The Dalai Lama.  The first time I saw him speak in person was at Rutgers Stadium (!) in New Jersey and even though I was up in the rafters, his words and his heart cut straight into me. I’ve always struggled a bit with the Buddhist viewpoint that our underlying nature is good. Perhaps I read too many history books, or lived in New York City too long, but I can often veer into pessimism. The Dalai Lama’s unflinching optimism and belief in our goodness always jolts me back, and this precise analysis of the seeming disconnect with our inherent nature and our actions throughout history helps me stay positive and committed to practice. Beyond the more obvious passages about our fundamental quest for happiness, I hold on to this favourite passage:

“Although I personally believe that our human nature is fundamentally gentle and compassionate, I feel it is not enough that this is our underlying nature; we must also develop an appreciation and awareness of that fact. And changing how we perceive ourselves, through learning and understanding, can have a very real impact on how we interact with others and how we conduct our daily lives.”

If we practice long enough, there are bound to be months and even years when what we do on the mat can feel a bit routine and we lose sight of why we are doing it or what it’s all about in the first place.  As we go through this malaise, quite possibly the practice is still sustaining our health and mental wellbeing, so we shouldn’t worry too deeply as long as we are keeping up our discipline. But if we spend too long floundering in this phase it could result in a loss of interest and discipline that can eventually lead to losing the quality and effectiveness of your practice. Do not despair! Here are my essential qualities to support your lifelong quest as a yoga student.


“This very moment is the perfect teacher, and it’s always with us.” – Pema Chodron

Yoga is a practice of experimentation and trial and error.  We do our best with the teachings available to us, but essentially we are left on our mat with the peculiarities of our own body and mind. We should practice not to meet some ideal of what we think we should be going, but rather to face the reality of where we are. When I practice, I begin by asking myself in some way or another: “How am I feeling today? What do I need? What can I learn?” If we begin with curiosity and the willingness to free up our approach on a daily basis, the practice will never go stale. Somedays it may be hard to summon that curiosity or rise up to the information it provides, but it is an essential to keeping the practice working for you. That’s not to say that if you are a student of a discipline with more rigidly structured sequences and approaches you are out of luck. Even if you repeat the same types of physical practice every day, you can query the emotional responses, and subtle and not so subtle physical shifts that appear on any given day, and see then how you can better relate to them. Each moment we practice reveals tremendous amounts of information about ourselves and how we respond to challenge. All we have to do is listen and start learning when patterns are revealed, and then respond out of wisdom and not negative habit.

Sense of Humour

“Sense of humor seems to come from all-pervading joy, joy which has room to expand into a completely open situation because it is not involved with the battle between “this” and “that”. Joy develops into the panoramic situation of seeing or feeling the whole ground, the open ground. This open situation has not hint of limitation, of imposed solemnity. And if you do try to treat life as a “serious business,” if you try to impose solemnity upon life as though everything is a big deal, then it is funny. Why such a big deal?” – Chogyam Trungpa

Are you willing to laugh at yourself when you fall out of bakasana? Can you have a chuckle when you find yourself finding the perfect retort to an insult from twenty years ago when you sit in meditation? We can easily judge ourselves on perceived failures or instead we can have a kind-hearted sense of humour about it all. I used to have a wonderful pilates teacher who would laugh as we grimaced through seemingly endless core work and glute exercises. He would cheerfully declare “It’s not that serious. It’s just pilates.” Similarly, it’s not that serious, it’s just yoga. Of course, yoga can help us work through strong emotions and the tidal currents of life, but in actuality we are just making some shapes, breathing, and sitting. If we can handstand… great. If we can’t handstand… great. What’s important is that we don’t get too fixed on being “good” or “bad” at yoga, but keep our eyes on how we can sustain a practice to last a lifetime.


“1.14: Practice is the repeated effort to follow the disciplines which give permanent control to the thoughtwaves of the mind

 1.15: Practice becomes firmly grounded when it has been cultivated for a long time, uninterruptedly, with earnest devotion” – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Are you going to get on your mat today no matter what and do something? It’s easy to find excuses: “I’m tired.” “I’m sick.” “I don’t know what to do.” “My teacher is away this week.”  But yoga isn’t something you do when you feel like it; it is a tool to help you live your best life. It’s a bit like brushing your teeth. We don’t brush our teeth when we feel inspired; we brush our teeth every day because we don’t want to end up an old toothless crone. Can you have the same approach to keeping up the discipline of your yoga practice to sustain your physical and mental health?

Unconditional Friendship with Yourself

“Developing unconditional friendship means taking the very scary step of getting to know yourself. It means being willing to look at yourself clearly and to stay with yourself when you want to shut down. It means keeping your heart open when you feel that what you see in yourself is just too embarrassing, too painful, too unpleasant, too hateful.” – Pema Chodron

I’m pretty big on discipline and I often teach a tough class. But underlying all the discipline for me must be an attitude of self-care and unconditional friendship, otherwise discipline can easily turn into self-punishment and practice can become its own addiction that takes you out of your life rather than into it.  I practice the way I do because I know that it is the best way for me to take care of myself and temper my own brand of neuroses.  However you practice make sure it comes from a place of love. When you meet challenges on and off the mat can you be a bit kinder to yourself rather than the usual go-to of disappointment, blame, and guilt. Let’s be a little bit easier on ourselves. Keeping yoga practice as part of a deal to befriend and care for yourself will ensure that it stays with you for your whole life.

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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness, or sustained present moment awareness, isn’t just sitting in a quiet room with eyes closed and learning to find peace within. Mindfulness is a way of being fully present in your life out in the reality of a big and unpredictable world. Mindfulness helps you navigate through the entirety of your day, managing the bad and welcoming the good. Mindfulness can guide wise action within your personal relationships and professional obligations. But like anything, it takes practice and persistence. Here are my habits of a mindful day to help develop the skills to live a mindful life.

My daily habits of mindfulness


It is fundamental to have dedicated and separate practice time to develop your skills in maintaining mindfulness. My body is my first and most fundamental tool of learning to reside in the present moment and I use a mindful breath and movement practice to develop the mental capacity to keep my attention focused on the present moment. For me, that means a moderately strong and slow yoga practice that helps me feel awake and alive and healthy in my body and trains my mind to pay attention to the reality of what I’m feeling, rather than any mental storylines around it. In addition to my breath and movement practice, I have a seated and quiet meditation practice. Contrary to a moving practice, sitting leaves me with little else to feel and observe other than the contents of my mind. Here is where the work begins of being with myself fully, filtering out the toxic, and embracing the good.

What you can actually do: Have separate practice time that has some combination of movement, breath, and quiet. Commit to whatever amount of time you can commit to on a daily basis even if it’s as little as a single minute. Don’t overcommit and set yourself up for failure. Practise something every day.

Stick with the moment

Fundamental to mindfulness is keeping attention in the present moment not only in meditation but throughout your day. But for a variety of reasons, including aversion to pain and boredom and pure addiction to modern technology we, including me, distract ourselves out of the present moment. Smartphones, social media, streaming content, shopping, eating, and a million other enticing things can keep us from seeing, feeling, and dealing with what’s right in front of us. I’ve been working hard to make sure whatever I am doing, I have chosen to do it in that moment and am dedicating my full attention to it.  So that means no more automatic smartphone obsessing for no good reason when I should be focused on wherever I currently am. That means one task at a time. That means re-building an attention span shot to hell by growing up in the internet age. To stick with each moment I can ask “is all this constant connectivity and distraction actually making me happier?” and “what can I learn or experience from this moment if I was to let myself have it?”

What you can actually do: So you know I’m going to say it, but put down your phone, take a break from the computer, take a break from checking likes and comments, and be in your life. It’s hard to go cold turkey, so build up the amount of time you are disconnected from distractions little by little day by day. See what shifts. Then re-build your attention span by focusing on one thing at a time. Listen to whole albums. Read for long periods.  Watch a whole movie. Cook. Enjoy a long dinner conversation.  And when you have to work, try not to ‘multi-task’ and let your mind stay focused and clear.

Get some green and blue

I’m fortunate enough to live in a part of London where I am surrounded by the old commercial docklands. To get to and from the tube I traverse bridges, see swans and seagulls, and watch the sun rippling off waves from small crafts moving through the waters of the Thames. I make sure I have a moment of contact and communion with the blue water every day. When we touch base with nature, we remind ourselves that most of our major neuroses are pretty petty in the grand scheme of the Universe. The rhythms of the natural world can help us recalibrate our priorities and viewpoint. This may be looking out to the water like me, or looking up to the blue sky, or finding some green park space.  But make the effort and let it give you a bit of natural healing.

What you can actually do: Find a way to get to green space or blue space every day. Walk through it on your way home or sit outside during lunch.  Just take a moment to pause and look out at what is natural and real.


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Enjoy your life

The mind has a negative bias from our long history of having to avoid predators and war and plague. We remember traumatic and painful experiences much more clearly than positive ones. To shift this bias, we have to deliberately fire new neural pathways to keep us positive. If we take the time, we can pattern the brain to stay focused on the good stuff. After we came back from a yoga retreat I taught in Costa Rica, my partner got obsessed with seeking out the sounds of birds here in urban London. “Listen! Listen, can you hear it?” And of course we could if we made the effort. There’s so much out there to embrace and enjoy when you take the time and consciously let it in.

What you can actually do: When you are having a good time, stop for a moment and tell yourself you are enjoying this, and take in every wonderful moment of it. Recall this feeling when you need it.

We’re delighted to have Adam Hocke contribute to the Yogamatters blog for a 6 week series of ‘Essentials’. Each week, Adam will take a different theme and share his insight and yoga know-how. To kick off week 1, he’s sharing his tips and tricks on essential poses for feeling energised…

How do you energise?

There isn’t a shortage of energising yoga classes or sequences, but I often wonder what we are actually asking of our students and ourselves when we practise with this goal. Often an energising yoga class is just fast and hard. A bit more mindfully, it can focus on poses or breath patterns that stimulate and excite the nervous system into a more focused but not frantic state. My essential energising poses, which find their way into my energising classes, tell the chest to expand and invite an empowered inhalation. They connect me to the ground, but suggest a rise of vital energy or prana upwards. But as my teachers have taught me, we should also remember that if we need energy, we are also probably tired and need rest. Therefore, my essential energising poses include, maybe as a surprise, savasana. You can use the following poses as a sequence on their own or combine them with your favourite postures.

My energising practice

  1. Savasana

Begin or end with savasana as if you are tired, you need rest. Named ‘corpse pose’ in a spiritual system that believes in rebirth, this pose in some ways is about the act of full surrender into rest and the rebirth that comes when you exit the pose. Go through the journey of savasana and surrender to however you are feeling, even if it’s dead tired, and then observe how you feel when you come out on the other side. If it happens you just fall asleep, then you probably needed it. I find that most of the time, accepting and temporarily giving into my tiredness instead of revolting against it is the most important step in finding a way to summon the energy I need for whatever is next on my plate.

  1. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

Standing tall and reaching my arms up into the air, especially at the beginning of a sun-salutation, signals to me that I have begun practising and that I’m waking myself up. I feel the root of my feet into the ground and the length of my body upward. Because of the simplicity of the shape, I feel the subtle energetics of the pose and the sense that something deep inside me is beginning to be summoned. The lift of my chest and ribs stimulates an empowering breath that invigorates my body and within it my nervous system.  Stay here for a few breaths or let this move into a mindful sun-salutation set to a slow and rhythmic breath.

  1. High Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasa Variation)

The high crescent lunge cranks up the transmission of energy from the ground through the back leg, up through the pelvis, across the chest, and up through the fingers. I feel as if I’ve become a vessel for prana, and the flow has now been supercharged. The pose can be static or move up and down with the legs or the arms or both. This pose is accessible for most and easily scaled up by lengthening and deepening the stance, or scaled back by making it as short and stable as needed. Additionally, this pose can be relatively neutral through the spine, or a pretty big backbend. For an extra boost, I ensure the hip of the back leg is facing forward and the front rim of the pelvis is lifted upward so energy is directed in and up through the lower belly and spine.

  1. Upward-facing Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

Backbends are usually crowd favourites for uplift and invigoration. The symmetrical clarity and the potential rebound from the floor through both arms and legs makes upward-facing bow pose essential for me. It is a full body pranic explosion as energy is transmitted not only through the back-bending spine, but across the front of the hips and chest, and along the long line of back, shoulders, and arms. I enjoy raising my heels up to allow even more lift of my hips and chest and more energetic reach through my arms. If you cannot practice the full upward-facing bow, then happily do a bridge pose, even with support like a yoga brick underneath your sacrum, and send breath upwards through the chest.

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  1. Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)

Yogis usually don’t need much convincing that inversions are energising. The mere act of changing one’s orientation to gravity, and with it the muscular tone of the body and breath, along with the fear-defying journey to get upside-down can definitely awaken the senses. The active inversions of handstand, forearm stand, and headstand can all fit in here. I’ve selfishly chosen forearm stand as it is my easiest balance, and for me feels a bit more stable with a reasonable amount of support on the ground. You can take your pick of active inversions and scale it up to handstand (adho mukha vrksasana) or down to headstand (sirsasana). If you can’t get up on your own feel free to use a wall or a friend. If all else fails, just hop up to wherever you can go. The act of going up and down a few times will invigorate on its own.

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