One of the many benefits of yoga beyond the physical changes is how great it makes you feel! In this post, you’re going to learn easy yoga poses for beginners. This guide also includes lots of practical ideas for weaving yoga into your daily life. Let’s dive right in!
Yoga is thought to be over 5000 years old, originating in India. It has, in the past, suffered from a reputation as being an exercise only accessible to the more flexible among us. However, yoga is, in fact, an endlessly adaptable form of exercise, making it suitable for people of all ages, shapes and abilities. Thankfully it is far more widely understood and practised these days, especially with the introduction of modified versions of yoga, such as chair/seated yoga, proving that anyone can get involved.
Few types of exercise embody mindfulness as much as yoga. That’s because to many, yoga is far more than just a workout. Sure, you’ll strengthen muscles like your abs, arms and calves while increasing flexibility and improving balance. Some practices will even have you working up a sweat.
Yoga vs Strength Training
Yoga actually counts as one of your two recommended weekly strength sessions to help keep your muscles healthy. It also allows you to improve your flexibility, balance and co-ordination. Because of its attention to breathing, posture and stillness, yoga is a mindful form of exercise. There is also some evidence that shows it can help to reduce stress and anxiety, be used to manage back or muscle pain, and could even be beneficial for those with high blood pressure or heart conditions.
But at the end of the day, yoga is about achieving a balance between the body, mind and spirit. In fact, the actual yoga postures (called asanas) are just one part of the practice. “Yoga links the mind and body through breathing; every breath that we are aware of and take notice of immediately brings us into the present moment,” explains Kristin McGee, a New York-based yoga instructor and the author of Chair Yoga.
[bctt tweet=”Yoga is a light which, once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter your flame.” username=”dianescorpion”]
What is the Best Yoga Routine for Beginners?
There’s no shortage of styles, from super-slow to a fast-pace flow. Check out the different options at a studio near you or find some video classes online. In the meantime, try these essential yoga poses to build strength and flexibility in all directions. As always, please consult your doctor before changing your lifestyle.
“In addition to building strength inside and out, yoga can help fight a variety of ailments, from heart disease to depression.”
Essential Yoga Poses for Beginners
Discover how to build strength, flexibility and mental wellbeing with this ancient form of movement. It is definitely worth making yoga part of your fitness regime, and here I look at some of the best poses to get you started.
Best for: Strengthening arms, legs, core; stretching back, shoulders, hamstrings and calves, increasing blood flow to the brain. This is one of the most common yoga poses, thanks to its full-body strengthening ability.
- Begin on all fours, wrists directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Point middle fingers to the top of the mat and spread fingers wide.
- Lift hips toward ceiling, forming an inverted “V.” You may have to bend your knees if your hamstrings are tight, and your heels can lift off the ground when you first start.
- Continue to press away from the floor as you lift hips and draw heels down. Your heels can lift off the ground when you first start. You’re aiming to create straight lines and form a triangle. Hold here for 5 to 10 breaths.
Best for: Stretching the back and hips, as well as strengthening the muscles in the spine and neck. It’s a good pose for mornings, to release any tension built-up from lying in bed at night. For women, it can also help alleviate pain associated with menstrual cramps.
- Start on your hands and knees, with wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips, lining up at 90-degree angles.
- When you breathe out, you round your spine, pulling your head towards your navel.
- As you breathe in, you turn your head towards the sky and open the chest, creating a curve in your spine.
Seated Spinal Twist
Best for: Opening the hips, improving mobility in the spine.
- Sit with legs extended. Bend left knee, placing left foot outside right thigh. Keep right leg extended or bend it and place right heel under the left side of your bottom.
- Turn torso to the left, bringing right elbow to the inside of the left knee while keeping the left hand on the floor behind you.
- Inhale deeply, sitting up tall, then twist further to the left as you exhale, gazing over the left shoulder and using the right elbow to deepen movement. Inhale, sitting all again, and repeat twist. Do 3 to 5 breaths; switch sides.
Warrior II Pose
Best for: Building standing leg strength. It can also boost mental wellbeing by creating feelings of empowerment. The pose targets the hips, inner thighs and groin areas, opening them all up in a powerful full-body pose.
- Stand with your feet wide apart. Start with your right foot and turn it 90 degrees to the right. Your left foot should turn about 45 degrees to the right.
- The heel of your right foot should be in line with the side arch of your left foot. Bend your knee towards the right foot so that your knee sits directly over your ankle, but keep your core centred between both feet.
- Your arms stretch out to both sides, and you look forward towards your right foot. Repeat on the left side.
Best for: Opening up chest and shoulders to counter the rounded-forward position we often hold much of the day; strengthening the entire back of the body.
- Lie face down with palms on the floor next to your chest, elbows near sides.
- Press hands into the floor and straighten arms as you lift chest forward, feeling the muscles along your spine engage and pressing shoulder blades toward each other as your chest opens up. (If your back feels uncomfortable, keep elbows bent and don’t lift as far.)
- Hold here, breathing evenly for five full breaths; gently lower down to the floor.
Best for: Releasing tension in the body, as well as helping your back to stay healthy and flexible. This is a straightforward, relaxing pose and is often used in yoga practice as a rest pose to release muscles in between more intense poses. But it’s also a powerful pose in its own right and can be a great way to start or end the day.
- Kneel down and tip forward, bringing your arms in front of you, forehead to the floor and push your chest down.
- Keep your bottom moving towards your heels and lengthen through your spine.
- Take deep breaths as sink into the pose and hold.
Best for: Improving balance, concentration.
- Stand tall with weight evenly distributed. Shift weight to the right foot, lifting left foot off the floor.
- Place bottom of the left foot against the inside of the right thigh, pointing left knee to the left side. To make it easier, place foot below right knee, either on the side of the left calf or ankle. (Just not on the right knee itself.)
- Press palms together in front of your chest. Balance here as you continue to press the left foot into right leg, for up to one minute. Lower to floor and repeat on the opposite side.
Standing Forward Bend
Best for: Helps the hamstrings, relieving tension and creating length in your body.
- Start in a standing position, with feet firmly planted hip-width apart. Draw your spine to its full length, then bend forwards, hanging at the hips.
- With each breath, try to relax the neck and shoulders. Your hands can hang, grasp your ankles or lightly touch the floor for support.
- Your knees should be bent as much as you need for comfort, and you can start to work on straightening them over time.
If you can’t invert your head in this way, try a Seated Forward Bend instead, with your legs out in front of you as you sit on the floor, and hinging from the hips towards your feet.
Other easy yoga poses for beginners include upward-facing dog, cow, plough and high lunge.
Best Online Classes
Gaia: Features live classes and a vast online library (£14.99/three months; gaia.com)
Yogaglo: Thousands of classes ranging from five minutes to two hours. (£14/month; yogaglow.com)
Do Yoga With Me: Find sessions for prenatal, stress, back pain and more. (Free; doyogawithme.com)
Yoga Journal: Check out free videos on YouTube from the pre-eminent yoga publication (free; youtube.com/user/YogaJournal)
How to Find the Style Perfect for You
Hatha: Actually a catch-all term to describe all physical forms of yoga, Hatha classes usually mean a broad, beginner-friendly style that offer up a variety of the more basic postures.
Vinyasa: Also known as the “flow” series, these postures coordinate movement and breath together, each one flowing to the next as you move through a sequence.
Iyengar: Founded by teacher B. K. S. Iyengar, these classes have hyperfocus on alignment and precision through all of the postures. The poses are generally held for a more extended period, so you can go deeper into them and also experience a more significant release.
Ashtanga: The rigorous practise follows a set sequence of postures (almost always the same exercises in the same order each time), but it’s considered to be physically demanding, so beginners might want to take note.
Bikram: Like to sweat? This might be the practice for you. Most Bikram classes (founded by Bikram Choudhury) are a series of set poses done in a room that’s heated to about 105 degrees; the higher temperature is supposed to help you go deeper into your poses. Bring a water bottle; you will be dripping.
Note: You can find hot yoga classes in rooms that aren’t quite as hot and do a greater variety of postures.
Restorative: One of the best ways to relax and unwind, these classes are done using comfy props like blankets and eye pillows that help support your body as you melt into the floor.
It can be daunting attending your first class; even just going to a new studio can be pretty scary. There are three things to consider to make it easier.
Don’t worry; everyone here with you has been in the same boat as you, maybe last week, perhaps several decades ago, but everyone had to have their first class.
Try to leave your expectations at the door and embrace the new experience; it’s going to be tough, but fun and super rewarding.
Finally, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Take your time; you don’t need to do every posture, just do your own practice.
Weaving Yoga Into Your Daily Life
Modern life is exhausting. Here, I present some ideas to ensure you integrate yoga into even the busiest of days.
The practise of yoga is definitely one of the most uplifting, healing, and energising concepts you can add to your everyday life. Also, this philosophy is much more than just stretching and busting out some cool poses to impress all your friends on Facebook or Instagram. Yoga reaches far beyond, to include awareness and mindful transformation in all aspects of your life. You will also gain heightened perception and mental clarity which will reward you with enhanced consciousness.
This newfound awareness will inspire direction within your physical, mental and spiritual presence of existence; motivating you to improve on a healthy diet, cross-training and other areas.
One challenge some students and teachers have expressed is finding the time to integrate this incredible healing and transformative philosophy into daily life. But with a little creative thinking and time management, you will quickly discover success. And your everyday life will take on the essence of controlled energy flow, which will create more balance and inner peace. Here are some practical ideas for weaving yoga into your daily life:
- Add a short sequence when you wake up or before bed. In the morning, set aside 10 to 15 minutes for practising a few sun salutations and some standing poses, then finish with some alternate breathing and a vision for your successful day. This simple routine will reward you with an energy-boost and give you a peaceful sense of inner calm to start your day on the right foot.
- Just before you go to sleep try a few light stretches, for example; one cat-stretch, one forward bend, one comfortable backbend and a spinal twist. Finish light breathing and deep relaxation in corpse pose. This evening routine will assure a pleasant sleep and clear mind.
- During your day, you can also use a few minutes to align your more progressive intentions for the day. Envision success with your work tasks, improved diet or communication skills. History has proven that positive thinking and meditation are some of the most productive methods to enhance your life in many ways.
- Home practice/self-practice. If you don’t have time to fight the traffic in search of finding a yoga studio to practice in then create a sacred space within your own home or office and put a few plants in the room for company. This self-practice is a great way to know oneself better and to cultivate a very spiritual atmosphere.
- Online classes or videos. These are also another option. There are many excellent choices and a variety of styles to choose from. Choose from short and easy routines to more challenging and longer practices. The expense is quite reasonable and well worth the excellent results for your body and mind.
- Divide your practice. Divide your routine into five parts; each section will be about 15 minutes’ duration, and then you simply practice one session each day, for five days. This will fit quite nicely into a busy lifestyle.
- Focus on the breath. When you are confronted with stress, drama or an angry boss, focus on your slow, deep yoga breathing. No matter what else is going on, embrace energy with inhalations and then release stress and tension on exhalations. It is not necessary to be doing yoga to get the benefits of this mindful practise of breathing.
- The same conscious breathing also works when you are stuck in traffic to create more awareness and avoid road rage.
- Be kind and have empathy. Much of yoga is found within, challenging yourself to think peacefully. You can practice this any time during your day or night. Just take a few moments in between meetings or between physical tasks to sit in silence and refocus your mind and be one with your thoughts.
I hope you enjoyed my introduction to easy yoga poses for beginners, and that it inspires you to try this mindful form of exercise. As always, please consult your doctor before making any lifestyle changes. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, please leave them below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.