Yoga is a discipline with benefits for your body, mind, and spirit. Physically, yoga will improve your muscle tone, strength, flexibility, and balance; mentally you may feel relaxed and energized. With yoga, you work at your own pace, focusing on alignment, breathing, and position.
Yoga is not an exclusive venture, it’s available to everyone, offering alternate poses when illness or injury present physical challenges. Just some of the many potential health benefits of yoga include:
- Increased muscle strength and stamina
- Improved flexibility
- Improved posture
- Mental clarity and renewed focus
- Immune system support
- Improved sleep
- Protection from chronic illness
- Reduction of stress
- Increased feeling of well-being
Your Introduction to Beginning Yoga
While there are many benefits to attending a yoga class or working with a qualified yoga instructor, early in their investigation, many people prefer to practice yoga in the comfort and convenience of their own homes. With so many online and video-based alternatives, it is not difficult to find helpful instruction.
The best, and likely the only, way to know if yoga is right for you is to try a few poses for yourself. You don’t need to buy anything special. Yoga is typically performed barefoot wearing comfortable clothing. Anything will do, as long as you can move unrestricted. Here are seven beginning yoga poses for your consideration.
The Pelvic Tilts for Core Support
Pelvic tilts are quite beneficial for strengthening the muscles that support your lower spine, particularly your abdominal muscles. The following pelvic
tilts can be performed in a standing or supine position, whichever is most comfortable for you.
Start by either lying on the floor or standing against a wall. The backs of your heels, buttocks, mid to upper back, shoulders, and head should be in contact with the surface. Check your position by sliding your hand into the space created at your neck and lower back. If there is not enough space, reposition your pelvis to create more space. Inhale.
As you exhale, tilt your abdomen towards your back. Continue pulling in your abdomen to tilt your pelvis upward, gently stretching your lower back. A tilt will likely result in your lower back making contact with the floor or wall.
Inhale again, and allow your pelvis to return to a neutral position. The goal of this exercise is to work your abdominal muscles, releasing tension in your hip area.
If you are not comfortable standing against a wall or lying on the floor, you can perform pelvic tilts while on your hands and knees, or while lying on your back with your knees bent.
Cat-Cow Stretches to Warm Up Your Spine
The Cat to Cow is an excellent stretch to warm up your spine or relieve back and neck tension. To begin this pose place your hands and knees on the floor. To maintain alignment, your knees should be under your hips with your wrists in line with your shoulders. Your spine should be held in a neutral position and your abdominal muscles engaged. When you are in the correct position, inhale.
As you exhale, arch your spine as if there is a cord pulling from your navel, through your spine, towards the ceiling. Tuck your chin towards your chest, allowing the tension in your neck to release. This is your cat pose.
As you inhale, allow your abdominals to relax, curve your back and lift your head and tailbone towards the ceiling, careful not to put pressure on your neck. This position is your cow pose.
Your goal is to flow freely between the cat and the cow positions. You will adopt the cat position on the exhale and flow to the cow position on the inhale. Repeat ten rounds of cat to cow.
Defying Gravity with Downward Facing Dog
Practicing the downward dog position boosts your circulation and benefits your lymphatic system. Your mental clarity may improve due to the increased blood flow to your brain. This pose is a full- body stretch that will lengthen and straighten your spine, potentially relieving back pain,
To begin the downward facing dog, start on all fours. Place your wrists at least a shoulders distance apart and spread your fingers. Your arms should be in alignment with your shoulders. Your knees should be directly under your hips, not narrower or wider, but at the same distance. Your toes should be engaged on the mat.
Begin the pose by shifting your weight from your knees to your toes, bringing your hips up towards the ceiling by straightening your knees. You will want to settle your weight evenly between your hands and your feet. Push back onto your hands into your hips, lengthening your spine and allow your heels to engage the floor, relaxing your hamstrings.
The downward facing dog may seem challenging at first. Bending your knees and bringing your heels off the floor is a relaxed modification of the pose that may be less challenging and more restorative.
The Side Lunges for Hips and Hamstrings
To open your hips and stretch your hamstrings, the side lunge is a good pose for beginners. This is a standard yoga pose that will stretch these areas, help build core strength, and improve your balance.
Begin in a wide stance and bend forward using your hands for support. Bend your left knee to a half-squat, keeping your right leg straight. Flex your right foot raising your toes from the floor, so you are resting on your right heel.
It is fine to keep your hands on the floor; your goal will eventually be to bring your palms together with your left elbow inside your left knee.
Drop your hands to the floor for support and shift this pose to the other side by bending your right knee to a half squat, straightening your left leg and bringing the toes of your left foot off of the floor.
The Calming Child’s Pose
The child’s pose is a resting pose that has a calming effect on your body and your mind. Named for the resemblance of a child in the womb, this pose begins in a kneeling position, with your legs beneath your body. The child’s pose will relax your head and neck and calm your nervous system and digestive system.
Begin the child’s pose by kneeling on your mat with your thighs apart. As you lower yourself from a kneeling position, sink your bottom towards your heels as you curl your spine and fold your body forward, bringing your forehead to the floor. You can place your arms in front of your with your palms on the floor, or lay them palm side up towards your feet. This pose will relax and open your hips while stretching your spine.
Increasing Hip Flexibility with the Pigeon Pose
The pigeon pose is a hip opening pose. Your hip socket is intended to allow for movement in all direction; Tight muscles can restrict movement and cause strain on your knees. The pigeon pose will increase the rotation of your hips, potentially protect your knees.
To perform the pigeon pose, begin on all fours. Bring your right knee forward, placing your right knee behind your right wrist. Place your right foot in front of your left hip, crossing your lower leg in front of your body to open your hip.
Next, slide your left leg behind you, straightening your knee and pointing your toes, with your heel pointed to the ceiling. Draw your hips toward each other to keep them square. As you inhale, come up onto your fingertips, lifting your upper body. Then draw your tailbone down while drawing your navel in and opening your chest.
As you exhale, walk forward on your fingertips and lower your upper body to the floor, resting your forearms and forehead on the floor. ( or stack your fists and rest your forehead on your fists). You will be lying over the top of your right leg which is bent in front of you.
Come out of the pigeon pose by returning to an all-fours position by pushing back through your hands and returning your extended leg to a kneeling position. Repeat for your left side.
If this pose is not comfortable, you can stay up higher by resting on your hands or elbows as long as you remember not to let your shoulders slump.
The Energizing Mountain and Raised Arm Poses
The combination of the mountain and raised arm poses This will energize your body and ease a stiff upper back and shoulders. It will also help to tone your abdominals, torso, back and strengthen your knees.
The Mountain Pose And Raised Arm Pose
Stand with your feet together. If this causes back pain, keep your feet further apart. Tighten your knees and roll your shoulders back down. Keepin your head straight, draw your tailbone down without engaging your thighs forward. Your arms should be down with your palms turned toward your thighs. Now continue to the raised arm pose.
The Raised Arm Pose
From the mountain position, Lift your arms up in front of you, keeping them straight and your palms facing towards each other. Raise your arms over your head. Extend your wrists, hands, and fingers upwards while pressing your weight into your feet.
You can repeat this pose up to three times. If it is beneficial to you, the mountain and raised arm poses can also be done while standing against a wall.
Pace Yourself and Listen to Your Body
As with learning anything new, be patient with yourself. Yoga is not a competitive sport; it’s a personal experience. Be sure to always be gentle with yourself and listen to your body. While some of these beginning poses may be challenging, yoga should not be painful. Practicing as little as three times per week will likely result in significant improvements in your poses in a short period of time.
While yoga is great for improving strength and stamina, and is believed to be beneficial for a multitude of health conditions, it is always wise to consult with your healthcare provider before engaging in any new fitness adventure.