Yoga can be a great way to get back into movement, even if you’ve been pretty sedentary lately (or for a while). Yoga comes from the verbal root “yuj” which means “to yoke, or to join”. It is often translated to mean “union”. What makes yoga different among physical movement practices is this idea of union. Yoga helps us join the body and mind experience. In doing so, we can experience calmer minds, reduced stress, become more internally clear, even as we reduce physical pain, become physically stronger and more flexible. Tuning into what you are experiencing in your body is particularly important for beginning yogis. This can help those who are new to the practice, or returning after a gap, begin to get back to movement in a way that doesn’t lead to injury and pain. Yoga philosophy encourages this observance of the body in the poses and emphasizes discernment. It isn’t about the pose – the purpose is not to “nail” the pose, or to get it “right”, but to feel the benefit in YOUR body. The goal for yoga in the way I teach and practice, is to find the place in each pose that helps you grow just beyond where you were yesterday, but not to the point of pain or discomfort. Being aware of the sensations you are feeling in each pose and noticing what you feel is what it’s all about for me. If you are starting out your yoga journey, here are 5 poses you can start with:
This pose looks easy, because it’s basically just standing. But it’s the basis for all the other standing poses and inversions.
1. Doing this pose actively will work your torso and legs, and you’ll be grounding yourself. This can be great for confidence and easing anxiety. Stand with your big toes barely touching, and your heels slightly apart. A good way to gauge your stance is to see if your second toes are parallel.
2. Press into all four corners of your feet: big toe, little toe, right side heel, left side heel. As you push into your feet, lift your kneecaps and feel how that engages your entire leg and keeps those muscles active.
3. Take a deep breath and roll your shoulders up and back, releasing them down, so your shoulder blades are resting toward each other and your neck is long. The tops of your shoulders stay relaxed.
4. Take a few deep breaths here. Close your eyes if you like.
1. Inhale and lift your arms to the sides and up, over your head.
2. Exhale and release your arms out to the side like a swan dive as you hinge at the hips and fold your torso over your legs. On the first time through, have at least a slight bend in your knees. No matter how flexible you are, your hamstrings will be cold when starting out, and you’ll want to be gentle with them.
3. Begin to straighten your legs as far as feels good as you relax into the pose more. Anything that pinches or is a shooting pain should immediately stop your movement. Let gravity do the work — don’t pull yourself down and try to force the fold.
4. You can put your hands on your shins, your feet, or the floor. This passively lengthens your spine and your hamstrings, and it’s also a great way to work on balance.
This is a very active pose that works all the muscles of your front body.
1. From Forward Fold, put your hands flat on the floor, bending your knees as much as needed to do so. Step back one leg at a time, until you’re in a high Plank Pose.
2. Press into your hands, keep your legs parallel and engaged, and pull your bellybutton toward your spine.
3. Take a few deep breaths here, working your core and your arms.
It’s easy to drop a little too much in the low back and get “banana back”, or oppositely to hike the hips up too high, or also to hunch your shoulders and sink into them too much. A good way to figure this pose out as a beginner is to get a friend to look at the shape you’re making from the side. Your upper body, from your hands on the floor, up to your hips, should be relatively straight, allowing for some curves due to natural spine curves. You should feel your pelvis tucked under, and your shoulder blades widening left to right.
This pose elongates your spine, stretches your shoulders as well as your back leg muscles, and aids in digestion. Since it’s a mild inversion, it can release stress, help with headaches, and calm the nervous system
1. From Plank Pose, push into your hands and lift your hips up and back on the inhale. One thing that can be tricky with this pose is, again, keeping your shoulders engaged but not working too hard, and keeping a neutral spine.
2. Your legs should be straight, and your heels working toward the floor. There will probably be some space between your heels and the floor. You could be very flexible, but if your legs are a bit on the long side, you probably won’t have your heels all the way to the floor. That’s fine. Keep your legs active and heels reaching toward the ground.
3. Your first time in this pose on any given day, pedal out your feet a little to warm up your leg muscles.
This is a good pose to come to if you want to rest and reset your nervous system. You can use this pose as a pause anytime it’s needed during a yoga class.
1. On the exhale, release your knees to the floor, pull your hips back to your heels, and rest your forehead on the floor.
2. You can either leave your arms stretched in front of you or pull them next to your body, hands resting palms up near your feet.
3. This is a restorative pose, so adjust it to your needs. If you want to widen your knees a bit, do so. Like all forward folds, this pose is nurturing. It relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck, and massages your internal organs.