Every time you follow another supermodel on Instagram you’re subscribing to another daily #fitspo picture in your feed. Specifically, these women–with their long limbs and otherworldly flexibility–often credit daily yoga practice for their perfect figures.
So, what exactly are they doing in their yoga class that you’re not, you ask? We spoke to celebrity instructor Chad Dennis–who works with the likes of Victoria’s Secret model (and Leonardo DiCaprio ex) Bar Refaeli–to find out some practical tips.
Even the most inexperienced yogi knows the practice comes with a bunch of benefits, but Dennis is particularly interested in what the exercise can achieve for you mentally.
“When you’re mindful, your mental chatter slows down and your mind begins to quiet,” he said. “When your mind quiets down, your cardiovascular system shows down, and in turn your breathing slows down. The longer you practice, the more mindful and peaceful you become, as your brain becomes calmer and your heart becomes calmer.”
Let’s be real though, we want the mental and physical benefits. For that, he recommends training as often as you can, which for him is 30-90 minutes every day, and to follow these four tips.
1. Follow this five-step yoga sequence to create change in all areas of your body.
1. Chair pose: “This is a great pose for women to tone their lower torsos and buttocks,” Dennis explained.
2. Downward facing dog: “This pose helps to warm up your shoulders and tone your arms. It’s an all-body pose that engages the abs and awakens and activates the abdominal muscles. It stretches all the muscles of the back of the body, from your heels to your seat, and from your seat to your hands.”
3. Plank. “This is an all-body-engaging pose. All the body’s muscles are engaged. Hold the pose as long as possible.”
4. Warrior II. “This is a wonderful pose to tone the arm muscles as well as the legs and is a mild hip-opening pose. Hold the pose for an extended time.”
5. Bridge Pose. “This is a mild backbend and a very important pose. Interlace your hands under your body and lift up. It engaged your buttock muscles. For added benefit, place a block or towel between your thighs and squeeze to tone the thighs as well.”
2. Do yoga stretches before bed.
Dennis recommends yoga before bed to ward off insomnia or a restless night: “Do a mild form of bridge pose to reopen your chest and expand your lungs, which helps with breathing. Also, lay against a wall, put a blanket next to the wall, and elevate your legs. This takes the edema out of your feet and is also very restorative. Finally, take two or three minutes to close your eyes and do a seated meditation while seated comfortably on the edge of the bed. Put on a clock for five minutes and close your eyes. Your only responsibility for this time is to breathe in and out of the nose. If your mind chatters, say, ‘I’m thinking,’ and come back to the breath,” he explained.
3. Do quick yoga stretches first thing in the morning.
While a full yoga class, or the sequence recommended above is a brilliant way to start the day on a healthy foot, Dennis also recommends simply doing gentle neck stretches first thing in the morning if you don’t have time.
4. Practice wherever, whenever you can.
Sitting at a desk all day or driving long distances for work can be harmful for your body. Dennis recommend to combat this with a simple move: “While seated, you are rounding your back, so do mild back extensions. Stretch open the muscles at the front of the chest.”
If you’re new to yoga–or even a first-timer– Dennis stresses that it’s important to take the time to find a great teacher by trying different classes. Also, he urges learners to take their time with the sequence to to “concentrate on form before range.”
Chad Dennis and Bar Refaeli collaborated with Buick on a 24 Hours of Happiness Test Drive series, including a video offering more yoga and stretching tips, which you can watch here.