Challenge your muscle memory keep your mind sharp.
Alright yogis—feel like you’ve done it all, seen it all, and tried it all in yoga class? Flowing through the same asanas can be a rewarding spiritual practice, but it never hurts to shake up the routine and challenge your muscle memory to keep your mind sharp. In fact, studies show that making your brain’s processing center work harder may help with long-term memory retention. This 10-minute brain-teasing yoga sequence incorporates some of your favorite traditional poses, like cat cow, bird dog and downward facing dog – but Health contributing expert Kristin McGee gives each pose a little twist. Watch the video to learn variations on yoga moves that will challenge and stimulate your body and brain.
Don’t have time to watch? Read the full transcript:
Hi, I'm Kristin McGee and I'm going to take you through a brain-teasing yoga sequence. This is a super fun way to mix up poses that you're familiar with and add little tweaks to make them feel new. You’ll stimulate your body and brain, whether you're beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Let’s get started.
Cat Cow: Come onto your hands and knees on the mat. Begin to arch and round the spine. To mix up your cat cows a bit, move your hands into different positions. You can turn one hand to face back toward the body, or have both hands facing back if you have that range of motion. As you move through your cat cows, you can also turn your hands inwards. Now stay rounded and flip your hands forward. Tuck your right knee in toward your nose and then extend the leg straight back and look forward. Continue with this movement, inhaling and exhaling as you tuck and extend, then repeat on the other side.
Bird Dog: From all fours, extend the right leg out behind you and stretch the left arm forward, lengthening the body from the hand to the foot. This is a traditional bird dog pose, but we’re going to add a back exercise to it. Reach your arm behind you and try to find your foot. Touch the hand to the foot and then stretch back out to lengthen. This works the hamstrings, the glutes, and the entire back body, as well as the abs. After reaching and extending a few times, hold the foot and stretch the upper body upwards to enter a modified all-fours boat pose. Repeat on the other side.
Modified Side Plank: From all fours, put the ball of the right foot down on the mat, pushing through the heel. Slip the left knee forward a little bit, turning the foot down against the mat. Stack your hip and raise your right hand up towards the ceiling to enter a modified side plank pose. Try to lift the back leg like a half moon to test your balance. If you want to go even further, try and bend the knee behind you, grabbing the foot with the hand. Repeat on the other side.
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One-Heeled Chaturanga: Come into a downward-facing dog. Raise the right foot off the ground, spreading the toes wide. Clip the left ankle in the space between the big toe and second toe on the right foot. Try rolling out to a plank with the feet in this position. If you're more advanced, try a one-heeled chaturanga, keeping the left toes flexed as you bend and straighten the arms. Return to downward-facing dog and repeat the sequence on other side.
Down Dog: Come into a plank, flipping your right hand so the fingers face toward the toes. Return to a downward-facing dog, with the right hand facing backwards, left hand facing forwards. If this is too much on the wrist, drop to your knees. Switch hand positions.
Triangle: Stand in a straddle with the feet wide apart on the mat. Turn your right toes out to the right and your left toes slightly in. Stretch your arms out to the sides, and reach all the way into your triangle, dropping the right hand to the right shin and raising the left hand up toward the ceiling. Feel free to play around with variations here. You can take the left hand around the back and wrap it around the inner right thigh. You can also lengthen both arms over the ears for an extended triangle, which is a great oblique workout. Return to stand and switch sides.
Extended Angle: Open up into a warrior II pose with the right leg bent to 90 degrees in front and the left leg extended straight. Place your right elbow on the right thigh, and stretch the top left arm overhead. You can also drop the right hand inside the foot, or can work into a bind again so that the left arm goes all the way around your back, the right arm threads under the thigh, and you catch the wrists. Repeat on the opposite side.
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Lizard Stretch: From a lunge, place both hands on the inside of the front foot and lower the back knee down to the mat. Next, lower the elbows down into a lizard stretch. To mix it up, turn the right toes out to a ballet first position, walk the hands over to the left, pushing the right knee open with the right hand. This is a really nice hip opener. Repeat on the opposite side.
Airplane: From a low lunge, stretch your right arm through to the right and your left arm to the left, allowing both hands to float above the ground.
Straddle Forward Bend: Stand in a wide-legged straddle. Press the palms together in a prayer position behind your back as you fold forward over the legs. Inhale as you make your way back up to stand.
Tree Pose: Stand tall with your left foot grounded and the right foot pressing against the left inner thigh. Finding your balance, press your hands together in prayer and lift your arms up overhead. Lean to the right side to test your balance. Then switch, placing your left foot against your right inner thigh as you raise the arms overhead and lean to the left.