Yoga has grown in popularity as a method of exercise and relaxation in recent years. Yoga poses have several benefits, ranging from improved flexibility to stress reduction. The numbers reveal that many people have resorted to yoga to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing.
According to Google Trends data, the Downward Dog is the most popular yoga pose in 40 countries worldwide, with a monthly search volume of 76,790. The Side Plank is also among the world’s favourite yoga poses, with over 81,500 monthly searches across 29 countries including Germany and Italy. Other popular poses include the Cobra Pose and the Tree Pose.
But what drives people to practise yoga? Physical benefits such as enhanced strength and flexibility may appeal to some, while mental benefits such as stress reduction and mindfulness may appeal to others. We spoke to yoga experts to understand why these poses are the world’s favourites.
Why is downward dog the world’s favourite yoga pose?
The Downward Dog is a pose that is ubiquitous in yoga classes and is one of the most fundamental postures in a yoga practice. This pose is performed by starting on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Then, you lift your hips up and back, forming an inverted V-shape, with your heels reaching towards the floor.
But why is this pose so popular among yogis worldwide? For starters, it provides an excellent stretch and strengthens multiple parts of your body. The pose is especially beneficial for stretching your hamstrings, calves, and Achilles tendon, which can become tight due to sitting for long periods or other physical activities. In addition, the pose strengthens your arms, shoulders, and upper back, which can help alleviate tension and pain in these areas.
Claudia Sayer, founder of Myga Yoga, explains why this pose is the most popular worldwide. “The downward-facing dog pose, also called Adho Mukha Svanasana comes from the Sanskrit adhas, meaning “down,” mukha, meaning “face” svana, meaning “dog,” and asana, meaning “pose.” It may seem like one of the most basic elements of yoga practice but it’s far more than a warm up or cool down position. It’s complex and so are its benefits.
“To name but a few benefits, this pose strengthens the upper body and aids blood flow, it tones the leg muscles and elongates the spine. Importantly, it also alleviates stress and anxiety and energises the body and mind. It’s great for hunched up postures too, as it elongates the spine, relieves tension from the neck and upper back and improves circulation.” Claudia commented.
Moreover, the Downward Dog pose can help calm your mind and relieve stress. When you’re in this pose, you’re encouraged to focus on your breath, which can help you let go of any negative thoughts or worries. The pose is also an inversion, which means that your head is below your heart. This can help improve blood circulation and even aid digestion.
Eloise Skinner, Yoga Instructor, added “I can say that Downward Facing Dog has been one of my all-time favourite yoga postures. It actually carries some of the benefits of inversions (generally where your head is below your heart) – for example, boosted circulation. It also improves strength in the arms, shoulders and postural muscles of the back, and gives an added stretch through hamstrings, back and neck. Because it hits so many spots at once, it can be a really lovely pose to ‘regroup’: to reconnect with your breath, your body and your intention for your practice, and to pause before continuing with a sequence.”
If you’re new to yoga, the Downward Dog pose can be challenging to hold for an extended period. But don’t worry; there are variations of the pose that you can try, such as bending one knee and then the other or lifting one leg to the ceiling, also known as the Three-Legged Dog. With practice, you can work up to holding the pose for longer periods and reap the many benefits that this pose has to offer.
Side Plank is the favourite yoga pose across Germany and Italy
The Side Plank, or Vasisthasana in Sanskrit, is a powerful yoga pose that targets your core, arms, and wrists. This pose requires you to balance on one arm while extending your opposite arm to the ceiling and stacking your legs on top of each other.
One of the main benefits of the Side Plank pose is that it strengthens your obliques, which are the muscles on the sides of your abdomen. Strong obliques can improve your overall posture and support your spine, which can reduce the risk of back pain. Additionally, this pose strengthens your arms, wrists, and shoulders, making it an excellent pose for those looking to tone their upper body. Stephanie Newkirk, Yoga Expert and Personal Trainer, added “This one strengthens your obliques like crazy! Add in the need of your shoulders to hold you up as well, and you’ve got an amazing combination of shoulder muscle activation.”
The Side Plank pose can also help improve your balance and stability. Balancing on one arm requires focus and concentration, which can help you develop a deeper mind-body connection. Moreover, the pose can challenge your proprioception, which is your ability to sense the position and movement of your body in space.
Finally, the Side Plank pose can be modified to provide an extra challenge or accommodate different levels of ability. For example, you can lift your top leg to increase the intensity or rest your bottom knee on the ground for added support.
How can the Cobra pose benefit you?
The Cobra Pose is a backbend pose that helps open up the chest, stretch the spine, and strengthen the back muscles. This pose is usually performed by lying on your stomach with your hands placed on the ground next to your shoulders. Then, you push up with your arms, lifting your chest off the ground while keeping your lower body grounded.
One of the key benefits of the Cobra Pose is that it can help relieve back pain and improve your posture. When you’re in this pose, you’re stretching your chest and abdomen, which can counteract the effects of sitting for extended periods. Additionally, the Cobra Pose strengthens your back muscles, which can help support your spine and reduce the risk of back injuries.
Claudia Sayer commented “Bhujangasana commonly known as the Cobra pose, gets the name from two Sanskrit roots – ‘bhujang’ meaning snake or serpent and ‘asana’ represents pose. When you practise the Cobra pose you can open five of your chakras.
Several factors contribute to the stiffness of the upper back muscles, one of which is sitting for long periods in an incorrect position. The pose can help by opening up the shoulders and neck it also relieves pain and reduces stiffness in the lower back. While technically the pose is a back bend, the objective is to form an even and long arch with your back.
Aside from strengthening the back, the Cobra pose also offers many other health benefits. It improves spinal posture, flexibility, and alignment, it opens the lungs and improves circulation, it can massage and regulate the adrenal and thyroid glands, it’s known to reduce stress if practised regularly and helps combat fatigue.”
Another benefit of the Cobra Pose is that it can help improve your breathing. When you lift your chest off the ground, you’re expanding your rib cage and creating more space for your lungs to fill with air. This can help improve your lung capacity and make it easier to take deep breaths. Stephanie Newkirk added “This one is designed to open up the front of your body, but it also strengthens your spine and activates your shoulder muscles!”
Finally, the Cobra Pose can help alleviate stress and fatigue. This pose is often used in yoga classes as a gentle backbend that can help release tension in the upper body. Additionally, the pose can help stimulate the digestive system and improve circulation, which can leave you feeling energised and rejuvenated.
What benefits does the Tree pose bring?
The Tree Pose, or Vrikshasana in Sanskrit, is a standing yoga pose that helps improve balance, focus, and concentration. This pose involves standing on one leg and placing the sole of your opposite foot on your inner thigh or calf. Then, you bring your hands together in front of your chest and focus on a fixed point in front of you.
One of the primary benefits of the Tree Pose is that it can improve your balance and stability. By standing on one leg, you’re challenging your body to maintain its centre of gravity, which can help improve your proprioception and coordination. Additionally, this pose strengthens your legs, ankles, and feet, making it an excellent pose for those looking to improve lower body strength.
The Tree Pose can also help promote mental clarity and focus. By concentrating on a fixed point, you’re training your mind to stay focused and present in the moment. This can help reduce mental chatter and improve your ability to concentrate on tasks both on and off the mat.
Another benefit of the Tree Pose is that it can help stretch the hips and groin, which can be particularly beneficial for those who sit for extended periods. This pose can also help relieve tension in the shoulders and neck, making it an excellent pose for those who carry stress in their upper body.
It’s important to note that the Tree Pose can be challenging for beginners or those with balance issues. If you’re new to the pose, you can start by placing your foot on your ankle or lower leg for added support. As you become more comfortable, you can work on placing your foot higher on your thigh.
Commenting on why these poses are collectively popular around the world, Amber Badger, Qualified Yoga Teacher, said “The wonderful thing about downward facing dog, side plank, pigeon and cobra pose is that you don’t have to be a die-hard yogi to know what they entail. They’re easy to recognise and recall, and so (even for newbies) a student can seamlessly drift into the posture with minimal thought.
“They can, as a result, take the pose more mindfully and totally immerse themselves in it. And from a more anatomical perspective, these asanas are all deeply opening – from the back and shoulders, to the side body, the chest and the hips. This beautiful sense of expansion provides the student with an indulgent feeling of release. We can extend, expand and lift while removing any tension in our connective tissues and sending more energy – more prana – into these vital areas of the physical body.”
Yoga offers a multitude of poses that can improve both physical and mental health. As we’ve explored in this article, the Downward Dog, Side Plank, Cobra Pose, and Tree Pose are among the most popular and beneficial poses in yoga practice.
According to the research, the Downward Dog and Side Plank are the most popular yoga poses globally, with significant search volumes in several countries. These poses offer various physical benefits, including improved core strength, balance, and flexibility.
The Cobra Pose and Tree Pose are also essential poses that offer unique benefits to the body and mind. The Cobra Pose helps alleviate back pain, improves posture, and enhances breathing, while the Tree Pose improves balance, focus, and lower body strength.
Regardless of your level of experience, incorporating these poses into your yoga practice can help you achieve better physical health, mental clarity, and overall well-being. By continuing to explore the various poses and their benefits, you can find the ones that work best for your body and lifestyle and take your yoga practice to the next level.