Achy and stiff? These 12 yoga poses are guaranteed to make you feel good

And are suitable for beginners, too

Yoga poses: Annie Clark stretches her hips

And are suitable for beginners, too

If you've returned to the office and are now experiencing an achey back, neck, or shoulders, chances are, you're stiff from sitting at a desk all day. Enter stage right, our guide to the many yoga poses that can help ease stiffness, boost flexibility, and more.

This comes as the newly released lululemon Global Wellbeing Index - which surveyed 10,000 people globally - reveal that not only has the pandemic encouraged an increased focus on mental health help, but a prioritisation of physical activity as a key coping strategy.

Obviously it goes without saying that yoga isn't a replacement for therapy, but the benefits of yoga are pretty far reaching, with the practice promising to ease everything from low mood to creaky hips. As lululemon ambassador and yoga teacher Annie Clarke explains, "yoga has a plethora of benefits for both body and mind."

"Whether you are looking for holistic support or something to support you with a specific issue, yoga is a brilliant practice to keep in your toolbox," she continues. 

Without further ado, the pro will take you through her go-to moves. Keen to give it a go with the help of a qualified pro, or never tried downward dog before? Our guides to the best yoga classes and yoga for beginners will help.

Yoga poses: Annie Clarke practices downward dog

Yoga poses: 12 to try tonight

There are loads of different types of yoga - from

1. Yoga pose for balance: Vriksasana (tree pose)

Why it's good for balance? "Tree pose is a great pose for balance as with one standing leg, you can place the ball of the other foot on the floor, then move it to the ankle and progressively higher up the inside of the standing leg (avoiding the knee) as your balance develops," Clarke explains. "Eventually, you can play with arm variations to challenge and explore balancing in different shapes."

Try it yourself:

2. Yoga pose for flexibility: Baddha Konasana (bound angle or butterfly pose)

Why it's good for flexibility: Almost every yoga pose will support you in developing flexibility, shares the yogi, but one she really loves is butterfly pose. "It’s great for tight hips but can also be great for your spine, too."

Try it yourself:

3. Yoga pose for back pain: Forward fold

Why it's good for back pain: Do note here - Clarke shares that back pain can be caused by lots of things, so it’s important to get specific advice from a health professional about your condition. "If your back is feeling stiff temporarily - rather than a long-term issue - a forward fold is a simple but effective way to open up the back of the body and relive some stiffness in both the back and backs of the legs."

Try it yourself: 

4. Yoga pose for constipation: Twists

Why it's good for constipation: Did you know? "Twists are great for stimulating blood flow to the digestive system," explains Clarke. "As a result, taking a reclined twist can really benefit you when you are experiencing constipation or other digestive discomfort."

Try it yourself: 

5. Yoga pose for bloating: Belly breathing

Why it's good for bloating: Depending on the cause of bloating, Clarke would recommend different poses accordingly. "One thing that I find particularly effective is focusing on belly breathing to relieve the discomfort of bloating," she explains. Why? Because, she goes on, often when we are bloated, we might try to hold in the belly, but encouraging deep, belly breaths can help to soften the area and may help relieve discomfort.

"You can do this lying down or seated and place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly, or both hands on your belly if that’s more comfortable. Gently start deepening your breath down into your lower hand so you can feel the belly rising and falling with the breath," she recommends. Our guides to breathwork training and what causes bloating might help, too.

Try it yourself: 

6. Yoga pose for hips: Anjaneyasana (crescent lunge)

Why it's good for bloating: According to the yoga teacher, there are lots of brilliant poses for helping tight hips. "One of my favourites is crescent lunge," she shares.

"This pose is great for allowing you to gently open the front of the hip, while the back leg supports your weight. You can keep your hands on your hips or reach them over your head as you gently draw forward and open up the front of the body," she continues.

Try it yourself:

7. Yoga pose for pregnancy: Cat cow

Why it's good for pregnancy: Cat cow is great during pregnancy as it can really help ease out any aches in the back, explains Clarke.

"You want to be mindful not to mobilise the lower back too much but focus more on the chest and shoulders and you’ll probably find this is a great go to yoga pose during pregnancy," she shares.

Try it yourself: 

8. Yoga poses for root chakra: Sukhasana or easy pose

Why it's good for root chakra: Never heard of your root chakra? In yoga, it refers to the base of your spine and, in essence, is foundation for life which helps to ground you.

So, what's the best pose to connect with it? "A great pose for connecting to your root chakra is easy pose," she shares. "This seated, cross legged pose allows you to really focus on building a solid foundation and connecting to your root."

Try it yourself: 

9. Yoga pose for sleep: Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) 

Why it's good for sleep: "I love forward folds for encouraging restful sleep," explains Clarke. "A seated forward bend is also a great choice - you can use cushions or a yoga block beneath the forehead for added relaxation."

Try it yourself: 

10. Yoga pose for relaxation: Savasana

Why it's good for relaxation: Savasana isn’t just for the end of class, FYI. "You can take this pose any time that you want to encourage a sense of relaxation in body and mind," explains the yogi. "Placing a bolster under the knees, using an eye pillow and covering yourself with a blanket really takes it to a new level."

Try it yourself:

11. Yoga poses for period cramps: Child's pose

Why it's good for period cramps: Clarke recommends trying child's pose. "Really think about using your breath to bring space into the body to help relieve cramps," she recommends.

Try it yourself: 

12. Yoga pose for anxiety: Pranayama

Why it's good for anxiety: "Pranayama practices can be amazing for anxiety - because yes, it’s still a type yoga," reassures Clarke.

She recommends trying Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. "Both are a great way to help reduce anxiety. Not so sure? Simplify it and just take sama vritti pranayama where you inhale for a count (let’s say 1-2-3-4) and then exhale for the same count."

Try it yourself: 

So there you have it - twelve yoga poses to guide you all sorts of ailments.

Do note: if your symptoms persist or last for longer than three or so days, do book an appointment with a specialist to ensure you get the appropriate treatment.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.