As you may or may not know, I am a big lover of yoga. In fact, I got my yoga teaching certification a few years ago and taught at a studio for a while before we moved. I really miss teaching and practicing in a studio, but unfortunately there just aren’t many options for me where we live and with my work schedule at this time.
Yoga is something that can benefit everyone, no matter the fitness level, age, the other activities. There is something for everyone. And I think something that happens a lot of times is that you try ONE class ONE time and decide you don’t like yoga. There are a ton of different styles of yoga and the teacher can make all of the difference.
Whether you go to a studio or practice at home, there are a few moves that are beneficial to everyone. I strongly recommend going to a studio for a while (not a gym that has yoga classes) because a teacher is going to be able to tell you what you might not be doing quite right and how you are supposed to feel.
These are a few beginner moves that I think you should try. I am going to include some instructions, modifications and ways to make it a little more challenging too. *Please remember that if something doesn’t feel right or you are in pain, don’t do it. A little discomfort is OK, pain is not OK.*
Child’s pose is a great way to begin a practice, and the way I always start my home practices and classes. It really helps you focus and clear your mind before you begin.
Sit back on your heels, big toes touching, knees are spread apart. The wider your knees are, the more you are going to open your hips. Reach your arms out in front of you, resting them on the ground, rest your forehead on your mat, and close your eyes. Inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth. Take 10 deep breaths in and out.
If you want to go a little further afterwards, tent your hands so that just your fingertips are on the mat and your arms are lifted up off the mat. This allows your shoulders to open up a little bit.
Cat / Cow
Press up to your hands and knees, spine and neck are neutral. As you inhale drop your belly down towards the mat, lift the head up. As you exhale, round the spine up (like a mad cat) and drop the head down. Repeat 8-10 times to warm up the spine.
Downward Facing Dog
Press your hands into the mat and straighten your arms and legs so your body is in sort of an upside down V. Don’t worry if your heels don’t touch the ground. Ideally, the distance between your hands and feet should be such that when you straighten out into a plank, you don’t have to move your hands or feet at all. Bend one knee and then the other (this is called walking your dog). After you do this a few times,
For more of a challenge, straighten out into a plank from down dog. Hold for 10 seconds. Then press back to down dog. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times (or as many as you want).
Come back to all fours, palms planted on the ground knees on the mat. Bring your right leg up, foot planted on the ground in front of you, knee stacked on top of the ankle. Make sure your knee doesn’t extend past your ankle – it can cause a lot of stress to your knee. Square your hips forward and slowly sink into the pose. This really opens up your hips. Stay here for 6-8 breaths.
If you want to go a little further, when you inhale, shift your hips back and straighten the front leg. When you exhale shift back into the low lunge. Counter stretches are great to pair together like that. Do this for 5 – 10 breaths.
Further than that, you can come up off the back knee to a high lunge. You can either have the hands planted on the floor, or if you feel stable lift the chest and the arms up. Really pull your tummy into your spine if you are doing this for extra stability. In both variations, pay close attention to the knee and the hips – knee stays on top of the ankle, hips are squared to the front.
Repeat on the other side.
Tree pose may seem simple, but all balancing poses are challenging. But tree is a good one to start off with because you can make it increasingly more difficult as you progress. Balancing poses are really good for stability as well as building core muscles.
Start by standing up straight. Move your shoulders down away from your ears. Elongate your neck. Pull your tummy in towards the spine. Ground through the left leg (some of this is mental, just really root down and firm up the leg). Then to start, place your right foot on the inside of your left ankle, so your toes are still on the ground. You can leave your arms by your side, or try bringing them to prayer position in the center of your chest. Take several deep breaths here. If you fall out, come back and try it again.
To go further, bring your right foot to the inside of your left calf. And the most challenging is to bring your right foot to the inside of the left thigh (don’t put it at the knee, as people have a tendency to press too much on the knee and create too much stress there). You can also try lifting your arms overhead for more of a challenge.
Repeat on the opposite side.
Savasana is at the end of every practice. It is also known as corpse pose. You lay on your back, everything is relaxed, eyes are closed, take slow and steady breaths. And you just spend a little time letting your practice sink in. Ideally you aren’t thinking about anything. If you struggle with this (like I do), try concentrating on your inhales and exhales. If your mind wanders and you think about other things, that is ok. When you realize it, just concentrate on the breath again.
Savasana can last anywhere from around a minute to 6 or 7 minutes. Since it isn’t my favorite, I tend to limit mind. In class, it was about 2 minutes. At home, I try to go for about 20 breaths. There are just so many distractions, unfortunately.
If you are interested in reading more about yoga, check out my post on the 5 things I think you should know about yoga.
March Wellness Check In
Last month’s wellness challenge was all about eating healthier in some way. How did you do?
I like to think that Charlie and I eat pretty healthy (although I did make some delicious cupcakes … balance, right?) But there are always things I can do better. I tried a new recipe for Blueberry Banana muffins. Are they the best thing ever? No. But they are are quick and pretty good and healthier than a lot of other things. The recipe is actually for a loaf, but the muffins are much easier for me to grab in the mornings on my way out the door.
So this month’s challenge is to try a few of these yoga moves, even if you aren’t doing any other exercise. Just give it a try! If you have questions or concerns leave me a comment or send me an email and I would love to help you.
And if you like the yoga moves, please let me know, and maybe I will do some more in the future.