Shifting Your Energy with Yoga

November 2021

By May Louie, 200 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher, Contributing Writer for The New Jersey Yoga Collective


Having been a regular yoga practitioner for about two decades I’ve always been grateful and eager to spend time on the mat. But lately, after living through almost two years of a pandemic, I’ve had to shift my perspective in order to summon the inspiration I once found so effortlessly in a pre-COVID world.

Life during a pandemic has been so mentally exhausting that I sometimes find it hard to move at all. Yet, when boredom sets in, as it often does, my nervous energy can barely be contained. To modulate these extreme fluctuations, I’ve had to find ways to recalibrate my yoga practice to focus more on regulating my energy levels.

During these challenging times I find myself vacillating between a need to mentally and physically amp things up and a desire to just find some soft comfort on my mat. To counter my lethargy, I seek out yoga poses and practices that help me draw in energy and keep me open to possibilities. And, when I’m feeling anxious and antsy, I rely on practices that help direct my attention inward to slow down the mind chatter so I can down-regulate. Specifically, here are a few of the simple adaptations I make in my yoga practice that may also be helpful to you in finding more balance in your mood and energy levels.


Activate and Energize

  1. Start the practice on your feet. Get into mountain pose to center yourself rather than starting seated. Focus on grounding the feet and lengthening your legs and spine. Move on to side bends or standing cat/cow to energize the spine.
  2. Raise your energy level with shoulder openers and backbends. These movements can lift your mood and encourage you to trust in your own vulnerability. Start gently (maybe with a mini standing backbend with hands on your lower back or a supported bridge pose, with a yoga block supporting your lower back) and add more expansive poses (backbends from your belly, such as cobra pose or locust pose) as your body warms up.
  3. Try some energizing breathwork. Kapalabhati or “breath of fire” comes to mind (rhythmically pumping the belly to exhale sharply and allowing the inhale to come in passively). It generates internal heat and signals your body that it’s time to move.
  4. Create energy with a balancing pose. Balancing on one leg, on your arms, or on your seat in a boat pose requires not just concentration and an active mind but also activation of the core, the leg and arm muscles.
  5. Speed up your pace and try a variety of poses, including those you rarely do. Faster movements will warm your muscles more quickly, and changing up your poses will keep the mind active. Try transitions that are different from the ones you typically rely on to challenge the body and the mind.
  6.  Add some jumps into your flow. From standing forward fold, try some jump backs into downward facing dog or plank with bent elbows. Alternatively, jump your feet apart when moving from mountain pose to a wide-leg position. Jumping adds a cardiovascular aspect to your practice to boost your energy and mood.
  7. Add some jumps into your flow. From standing forward fold, try some jump backs into downward facing dog or plank with bent elbows. Alternatively, jump your feet apart when moving from mountain pose to a wide-leg position. Jumping adds a cardiovascular aspect to your practice to boost your energy and mood.
  8. Get off your feet and go upside down! I can’t swear that inverting will reverse the blood flow, but it will give you more courage to try a new perspective. Go to a wall (or not) and if headstand, forearm stand, or handstand are in your practice, kick up into one of them. If that’s not your thing, try a three-legged dog (down dog with one leg lifted straight up in the air) or a dolphin pose (basically a three-legged dog on forearms).
  9. End with a Savasana that opens you up: Reclined butterfly on a bolster under your back and blocks under your knees allows you to relax with your heart and hips open to receive energy.


To Downshift and Relax

  1. Devote more time to centering. Give yourself the space and permission to spend extra time at the beginning of practice just sitting (or lying down), breathing, and focusing. Don’t rush to start moving into your poses until you’ve calmed your mind. Set a simple intention. It can be as basic as “I am.”
  2. Forward fold to feel more connected to your inner self. Forward folds tend to instill more feelings of safety and invite calmness, by protecting the front of your body. Think of poses like standing forward folds and seated forward folds (legs together, crossed, one leg in, both legs spread apart, legs in butterfly), or child’s pose. Allow your head to drop and rest your brain.
  3. Add some soothing pranayama (breath practices): Three-part diaphragmatic breathing or 4-4-4 breathing (inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4) are the simplest breath practices to drop into; but practices like alternate nostril breathing also help to focus the mind, relax the nervous system, and, of course, instill more balance.
  4. Utilize foam blocks, blankets, pillows, or bolsters as support: When your body parts feel supported, your nervous system receives a signal that it’s safe to relax. Place a prop under your chest, your forehead, your hips, your lower back, or your knees in seated or reclined poses to allow your body to relax and let gravity do its job.
  5. Slow down your flow and refrain from going to your edge: For me, flowing at a more moderate pace and not pushing myself to 100% capacity allows me to step back and explore the specific placement of my body parts and the more subtle actions of my muscles. This helps encourage more space and ease. Focusing on the transitions between poses is especially centering, allowing me to embrace the journey as much as the destination.
  6. Include a child’s pose to your flow: Try moving in or out of your downward facing dogs with a child’s pose. It serves to slow down your movements and the folding inward invites introspection.
  7. Try a supported inversion: Legs up the wall or a wide-legged forward fold with head resting on blocks will allow you to stay grounded while shifting your perspective.
  8. Flip your Savasana: Try lying on your belly with a support under your forehead rather than lying on your back. Turn your toes inward to allow the lower back to relax. You’ll most likely feel less exposed with the front of your torso facing the earth.

With the current state of the world, I must admit, my moods still fluctuate more than I’d prefer. Yet, I know I can draw on my yoga practice to bring me not just a physical release but also a better energetic balance. If you too have been feeling out of balance, I invite you to acknowledge that feeling and try any of the suggestions above that speak to you. My hope is they help you to find a better harmony between calm and energy.



May Louie first took yoga in college to fulfill a Phys-Ed requirement and immediately fell in love. She, unfortunately, did not continue with her practice but reconnected with it when she retired from her corporate job in 2002 and has since become a serious yoga enthusiast. After her second retirement in 2017, she completed her 200-hour RYT certification, studying with Dina Crosta, Ellen Mosko, and Jamie Segal Hanley, with a focus on align.