Fitness

6 Basic Yoga Poses for Beginners

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Yoga is a 5,000 year old physical, mental and spiritual practice rooted in both Hindu and Buddhist cultures. It has gained popularity in mainstream fitness as a way to promote overall wellness. The meditative nature of the practice eases your mind while the challenging poses chisel and tone your body. Even athletes are now looking at yoga as an integral part of training.

The best thing about yoga is the gradual or “ebb and flow” nature of it. So no matter what fitness level you are in, you can simply ease into the practice. Below are some of the most fundamental poses in yoga that are easy enough to be accomplished by complete beginners.

STANDING MOUNTAIN

Tadasana 

The standing mountain pose is the foundation of all the standing poses in yoga. This pose promotes groundedness, stability and good posture. Besides being relaxing and promoting good posture this pose is actually a pretty good diagnostic tool of shoulder misalignment. While in the standing mountain pose, bring your hands to the side of your body and notice how your hands fall naturally. If your hand is turned in too much or if your hands aren’t symmetrical in this position, you might need to work on a few things with your shoulders.

How to do it?

Stand tall with feet together or hip-width apart. Make sure your weight is equally balanced between your feet. Strengthen the thighs, tuck your stomach in and point your tailbone down. Open up your chest. Breathe deeply. Your hands can either be on your sides, extended upward or gathered on your chest in prayer in Anjali mudra.

TREE POSE

Vrksasana 

This pose improves balance, strengthens your spine as well as your calves, thighs and ankles. The tree pose allows the body to stretch from your heels upwards to the tips of your fingers. Vrksasana encourages rejuvenation – after this massive whole body stretch you will feel instantly invigorated.

How to do it?

For this pose, stand with your both feet together and your back straight. Bring your hands together in prayer and raise them over your head, stretching as far and as tall as you can. Shift your weight to your right foot, slowly bend your left knee and press your foot on the inside of your right ankle. You can press your foot higher to your shin, knee and thigh as you get better at it. Do the same thing on the other side.

Tip: to make balancing easier, suck in your gut and tense your abdomen.

CAT/COW POSE

Marjaiasana/Bitilasana (Marjay – meaning cat; Bitil – meaning cow; Asana – meaning posture)

The cat and cow pose often come together, as each pose is a sort of a transition into the other. According to Dr. Weil, M.D. this pose is good for a number of things including opening up the lungs for better breathing. Both the cat and cow poses promote a healthy spine and good posture by stretching the core, back, lower back and hips. These poses may relieve lower back pain and sciatica, improve breathing by stretching the chest and stimulate the digest tract.

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How to do it?

To do the cat pose, start on your hands and knees. Make sure your arms and knees are perpendicular to the floor and that your back is straight, like a table. Fix your gaze to a spot about 3 feet from you. Slowly curve your spine towards the ceiling, slowly letting your head down without forcing it. This is the cat pose. To do the cow pose, lower your back from the cat pose until your spine is straight. Lift you head and tailbone to the ceiling while curving your spine downward. Fix your gaze upward but don’t strain your neck. And that would be the cow pose. Repeat this 10 to 20 times.

DOWNWARD FACING DOG

Adho Mukha Savasana

Nothing gets your whole body circulation going like downward facing dog. This pose basically stretches everything from your neck muscles down to your Achilles heel, and that is why it feels so energizing to do it after a long run or a hard workout for example. The slight compression that happens in your abdominal area as your body folds also enhances the digestive functions of the liver, spleen and kidney.

How to do it?

You can start by placing both of your palms on the mat with your arms completely outstretched before you. Place your knees on the ground and your toes digging into the mat. First lift your knees off the ground and then lift your buttocks and hips towards the ceiling. The goal of this pose is to look like an inverted V-shape, so push your thighs back with your heels stretching towards the floor. Keep your head in between and aligned with your arms.

PIGEON POSE

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

The pigeon pose is meant to open up your shoulders and chest. It is also meant to stretch the quads, making it a favorite among runners. It also improves hip flexibility and opens up your glutes and lower back, which improves a runner’s stride and prevents injury. This pose is also effective for loosening up the hips.

How to do it?

Start the pigeon pose in good push up form and place your right knee on the mat right below your shoulder. Your right heel should be below your left hip. Push your palms down on the mat, stretch your arms and open up your chest. Sit down and lean back as far as your body will allow.

CHILD’S POSE

Balasana 

If you are new to yoga, this is going to be your favorite pose. After 45 minutes of body twisting and body aching yoga poses, this relaxing posture will surely be met with a sigh of relief. This pose stretches the lower body especially the ankles, thighs and the hips. Child’s pose can also help soothe chronic back and neck pain especially after a long day at work.

How to do it?

Start the pose by sitting comfortably on your heels (sit upright). Bring your body forward and rest it as close to your knees as possible. Stretch out your hands as far as you can and rest your palms on the mat. Relax your neck muscles and let your forehead rest on the ground.

Some more reminders for beginners: Breathing is just as integral to yoga as the postures. It is important to know when and how to breathe to maximize the benefits of the poses. Here are some basic yoga breathing principles:

  • Breathing should be deep, slow and steady.
  • Inhale during upward movements and exhale during downward movements.
  • Exhale during the most strenuous part of the pose.

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