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So you’ve decided you want to try yoga. You have your leggings on and your yoga mat in hand. However, something is still holding you back.
Perhaps you are confused on where to begin. There are a lot of yoga postures after all. How do you know which ones are best for you?
Maybe you are intimidated at the thought of walking into a yoga studio full of advanced students. These are all perfectly natural feelings to have. Each and every yogi once sat where you are now.
Think of this as a new beginning. The start of a wonderful journey, along which you will have plenty of guidance and support. Once you begin to build your personal practice the positive effects of yoga will appear.
Let’s begin with the basics before we even step onto the mat. Having an understanding of exactly what yoga is will lead to a deeper appreciation and a stronger practice. Simply put, yoga is a mind body practice.
Yeah, sure, yoga exercises have taken over the western world and your yoga instructor sure does look fit…
…but to practice yoga means to embody all eight limbs of yoga.
This ancient practice originated in India and has spread throughout the world. Yoga combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. Traditionally, the yoga asanas (poses) were developed to prepare the body for long periods of meditation. While most of us may not meditate for long periods anymore, the benefits received from yoga are plentiful.
And if you’re not into all the other stuff that yoga has to offer, then you can for sure enjoy these benefits:
- improved core strength
- a better night’s sleep
- stronger wrists, knees, and ankles
- weight loss
- seriously improved flexibility
The best part?
Yoga is for everyone. You just gotta find the right yoga sequence for you.
With various styles available it can be hard to know which one to choose. Hatha yoga, kundalini yoga, ashtanga yoga; what are these and how are they different? Some styles focus on meditation and relaxation, while other yoga workouts are more physical.
I believe there is a place for each and that a combination of styles makes for a well-rounded yoga practice. Explore all of them. Find out what resonates with you. Listed below are a few styles that are most suitable for beginners…
…but if you’d like a little guidance then definitely check out my 2019 calendar with daily yoga routines.
I like to think of hatha as the mother of all yoga. It is out of hatha which all other styles were born. This is the true foundation of any yoga workout. As a beginner, this is what you want to focus on.
In fact, it is recommended that a yogi practice hatha for several years before moving on to a more advanced style. In hatha yoga, the poses are held longer which is helpful in learning the proper alignment.
In the beginning, you will want to find a yoga teacher that explains each pose in detail. It is very important to learn them the proper way. Having the correct alignment will give you the full benefits of each posture and reduce your chances of any injury.
Yin is a more passive style of yoga which targets the deep connective tissues of the body. To get into the deeper muscles, yin yoga poses are held for a longer period of time. You are likely to do more passive seated postures in a yin class.
Those just beginning a yoga practice are more likely to have tight muscles. Starting with yin can help soften your muscles and increase your flexibility. This will not only make you feel better, but it will serve you well throughout your yoga journey.
Perfect for someone of any age or activity level, restorative yoga is exactly what the name might suggest. It is intended to relax and restore the body. In a restorative class, you will be performing passive poses and relaxing into them.
For someone who also wants to begin a meditation practice, I would recommend trying a restorative class first. This will help you to release tension in your body and clear your mind in preparation. Before going bed is also a great time to do some restorative poses.
Starting a beginner yoga routine is a bit like building a house. You have to start with a strong foundation. Focus on some basic yoga poses and get comfortable with them. From there you will build strength and be ready to move to more advanced poses.
Remember that it’s not all physical movements. You need to focus on your breathing. Use each inhale to see where you hold tightness. Each exhale will help you relax deeper into the posture. In more physical practices, you will link your movements to your breath.
Listed below are some of the best yoga poses for beginners. For more hands on guidance you may choose to attend a beginner class at a studio. If practicing at home suits you better, find a yoga DVD you like or look up one of the many yoga videos available online.
Before you begin it’s important to release any expectations you have. Don’t force yourself into a pose. Think less about the shape you are making and more about the sensations you are creating.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Sit on your feet with your knees apart and toes together. Extend your torso forward and reach your arms long. Rest your forehead on the ground and relax down. Keep your arms active to feel a stretch in the shoulders.
Think of energetically reaching your tailbone back behind you. This will lengthen the spine and help to release the low back. Hold for 5-10 breaths, relaxing down more with each exhale.
Balasana is an important restorative pose. You can return to this during any yoga class. If you ever feel out of breath or like you need a break during a class, come into child’s pose and do some deep breathing.
Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)
From a standing position, step your left leg forward and keep the right leg back. Point your left foot straight forward and keep your back foot on a 45 degree angle. Square your hips to the front of the mat.
Lean your torso keeping the spine straight. Lean down as far as you can keeping the spine straight. Press your fingertips into the floor on either side of the foot. If touching the ground is not possible you can use blocks.
Feel this deep stretch in the hamstring and breathe into any tightness. As you gain flexibility you will be able to bring your torso closer to your leg. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog)
You will probably not attend a yoga class without doing a downward-facing dog. It is one of the foundational postures and a part of the sun salutation series. In this posture, the body takes the shape of an inverted “V”.
Root the palms of the hands and the feet into the earth. Think of evenly distributing your weight between your hands and feet. Keep your arms straight with the crease of your elbows facing forward. Square your shoulders to the earth and broaden through the collarbone.
As you press into your hands, lift your sitting bones up to the sky. Your neck should be relaxed with the crown of the head pointing towards the earth. Keep your gaze down and slightly forward.
Work your heels towards the ground. Yogis with tight hamstrings can lift the heels slightly off the ground or place a small bend in the knees. You should feel a stretch in the shoulders, hamstrings and calves.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Stand on the mat with your feet hips distance apart. Fold over at the crease of the hip with the spine long. Relax the neck and the crown of the head towards the earth. Allow the weight of your head to stretch and elongate the spine.
Keep your feet rooted evenly into the ground and your legs active. Lift the kneecaps up to engage the quadriceps. The chest and thighs should aim to touch. Think of lifting your tailbone up towards the sky.
Rest the fingertips onto the ground. If your hamstrings are tight place a small bend in the knees. Breathe deeply here feeling a stretch in the hamstrings and a lengthening in the spine.
Start with these basic yoga poses and observe the changes you feel in your body. Enjoy this time as you explore and build your practice. Once you have this strong foundation, your practice will blossom.