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With December (and the holiday season) in full swing, we’re taking a look back at our most popular yoga practices of 2022. This year, you may have focused on developing strength or building flexibility. You may have been recovering from an injury or signing up for a yoga teacher training. These are the practices you turned to—and we agree that they are great ones. We’ve collected them here in the hope that they’ll continue to offer you relief, solace or a chance to deepen your practice in the months ahead.
The 10 most popular yoga practices of 2022
Ever find yourself fixated on stretching a particular part of your body? It makes sense to seek a solution for whatever your situation, whether you need stretches for tight hamstrings or poses to ease low back pain.
But despite your desire to zero in on a specific area, that’s not how your body works. Everything is interconnected. Just as you can’t fully appreciate the experience of daylight without also experiencing night, you can’t stretch a particular muscle without acknowledging—or at least inadvertently incorporating—the muscles that support it.
High blood pressure—otherwise known as hypertension—is among the most common health conditions in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, nearly half of adults have hypertension, yet many people don’t even know they have it.
But just because high blood pressure is so common doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Hypertension can put people at risk for serious health conditions, such as heart attacks or strokes. Lifestyle changes top the list of steps you can take to improve or prevent hypertension—and research shows that yoga can play a crucial role in lowering high blood pressure.
I was playing with my son recently and threw out my back while we were wrestling. This wasn’t the first time this had happened, but it was the first time the pain was so intense I had a hard time even getting up from the floor.
As a single mother of a toddler, I don’t have the option of spending the day lying still and recovering. Instead, I continued to move through the pain. Inspired by my yoga practice, I engaged in some simple stretches that I thought might bring low back pain relief. This turned out to be a blessing. My recovery was much faster than in past years when I was suffering and didn’t let myself move at all.
Our instinct, when we experience breathtakingly intense lower back pain, is typically either to remain completely still or try to work it out, stretching beyond our comfort level and yanking ourselves into positions that are completely inappropriate at the moment.
These are literally the worst things you can do. When your back is in a tightened and traumatized state, these approaches further aggravate the situation (and your mood) and impede healing. Instead, you want to seek out passive stretches for lower back pain relief.
It’s said that we store a lot of emotions in our hips (if you’ve ever started crying during Pigeon Pose, you know what that means), and that should come as no surprise—the hips are one of the most important and complex areas of the body.
Summertime sends us outside—walking, running, hiking, biking, or standing still trying to catch a breeze. What do these activities have in common? They require us to use the power of our legs. In fact, many of our recreational and mundane activities require strong lower limbs. And while summer shorts and swimsuits put our legs on display, that doesn’t mean we need to stop at simply healthy-looking legs. We want legs with power.
I know a lot of yoga students who experience low back pain. And I’ve observed that many of them keep a more limited range of motion in their yoga practice and their everyday movements than their actual pain or tightness necessitates. I think a lot of it has to do with the underlying fear that pain is imminent, which keeps students from moving their bodies in certain ways.
So many of us find ourselves sitting all day at a computer. It’s very likely the reason why yoga teachers constantly hear students complain of tight hips and back pain. When we remain seated for hours at a time, our hips and knees are in constant flexion, and if we hunch forward over a screen, we’re in prolonged protraction of the shoulder blades and flexion of the spine, which over time can cause aches and poor posture. Prolonged sitting also puts significant stress on our low back as well as our hips.
Mornings can be tricky. You may like to imagine yourself leisurely taking yourself through stretches, scribbling peacefully in your gratitude journal, and sipping tea from your luxuriously soft white sheets, the reality is that most mornings you’re more likely to silently curse your alarm clock and groggily fiddle with the coffee machine before you can even think about taking time for yourself at some point during the day.
Most of us are creatures of habit: We take our morning coffee the same way, follow the same route to work, sleep on the same side of the bed. With all the decisions we need to make each day, and with decision fatigue a very real thing, it’s understandable that we repeat certain behaviors in order to think less. Our yoga practice often follows this tendency too, with the same poses, variations, or transitions appearing repeatedly, whether we have our own home practice or are teachers leading others through sequences.