Really? And they think you can do that? Um, no thanks.
But…Yoga Really IS For Beginners Just Like You
While you may never be able to do a perfect Head-to-Foot-Pose (Sirsna Padasana), there are dozens upon dozens of yoga poses you will be able to do with finesse. As you slowly add to your practice, core strength will improve, and women find their pelvic floor grows stronger (no more worrying about random sneezes or laughing so hard that you…well…you know).
With regular practice, it is easier to handle stress and inherent life upheavals as you learn to be present and breathe through reactive emotional responses.
The western medical world has proven what eastern studies have said for thousands of years; doing yoga for exercise on a regular basis can:
- Increase muscle strength, tone and flexibility
- Burn calories and establish a healthy base weight
- Balance metabolism
- Increase respiratory, heart and circulatory health (naturally reducing high blood pressure)
- Improve overall energy levels
- Reduce stress
- Decrease bouts of depression, anxiety and/or insomnia
The wonderful thing about yoga is that you start where you are now and move forward, little by little, paying attention to breath and postural technique. One day at a time, you will notice small but marked changes in flexibility, strength and focus. Yoga provides an opportunity to explore your limits, and then patiently break through them.
Tips For Cultivating a Regular Yoga Practice
You’ve heard the phrase, “practice moderation in all things.” Yoga is no exception. While enthusiasm is a good thing, over-exuberant commitment will lead to burn-out. Instead, come up with a completely reasonable goal, based on your personality type and previous exercise patterns.
At first, you may simply say, “I will do one yoga pose per day,” or, “I will do yoga for 10-minutes, three times a week.” That doesn’t sound like much, but even those manageable commitments to practice will be of benefit, and are more likely to lead to a steady routine as your body and mind adjust.
In order to cultivate a yoga practice, we recommend:
- Taking yoga classes for beginners. Don’t just take one. Use “first class free” opportunities to experiment with different yoga classes, teachers and schools until you find one that resonates with you.
- Watching beginner yoga sequences on YouTube. There are plenty of wonderful beginner yoga sequences available for free on YouTube. Check them out and explore the options.
- Avoiding the temptation to push limits. Pushing too far can lead to injury – and that’s not good for a fledgling yoga practice. Yes, it can be frustrating to watch a yoga instructor press nose-to-knees in a Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) when you can barely touch fingers-to-knee cap. However, it takes time to get to an instructors’ level. In the beginning, pay attention to your body’s comfortable limits and sustain the poses there. As you progress, you’ll be able to push those limits increasingly further.
5 Great Yoga Postures For Newbies
Below are 5 standard yoga poses that will get you started along your wellness journey.
- Child’s Pose (Balasana). Children are beginners at life, so it’s fitting to begin your yoga practice with a pose named for its simplicity and ability to facilitate rest and relaxation. Child’s pose is often used in between other, more challenging poses, so the body can relax, rejuvenate and restore. It can be used alone, as part of a sequence or to begin and end each day.
To start, kneel on your mat and slowly lower your torso so it rests over the tops of your thighs. Arms should be relaxed, falling back to rest on the floor alongside the torso – palms up – with fingers pointing down towards your toes (like the way a baby or toddler often sleeps). You can rest your forehead on the floor in front of you, or turn your head to either side. For a deeper stretch, keep your toes together but widen your knees hip-width apart. Then lay forward, between your thighs – broadening your upper back. You can also crawl or move your arms around so they rest on the floor, but are reaching upwards, parallel to one another (shoulders-width apart), with the palms flat on the floor, fingers spread apart.
If you suffer from knee pain, modify child’s pose by placing a folded blanket between your calves and hamstrings (relieving pressure on knees). Lay your torso over a couple pillows or a cylindrical bolster. There should be zero strain – only relaxation and a place to take deep, restorative, comforting breaths.
- Cat Pose (Majaryasana). From child’s pose, raise up onto all fours (tabletop position). Knees should be hip-width apart and directly below hips. Arms are straight, shoulder-width apart – elbows/wrists aligned directly below shoulders – palms down, fingers splayed. Gently inhale and round the back up towards the ceiling, letting your head drop down naturally, no need to press chin to chest. Hold for a few breaths and release back to tabletop.
- Cow Pose (Bitilasana). This is the opposite of Cat Pose, also done from all fours, in a tabletop position. On an inhale, lift your sitting bones up toward the ceiling, letting your belly drop to the floor (creating a gentle, sway-backed position), with head lifted to look straight ahead. Try moving fluidly between Cat and Cow pose to create what is referred to as a Vinyasa (flow) sequence.
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana). This pose proves that standing still requires tremendous focus, attention, strength and stamina. Stand with feet together (big toes together, heels slightly apart), distributing weight by pressing heels and toes evenly in the the mat, elongate the spine and neck, square shoulders, chest and ribs elevated and full. Arms should extend down alongside the legs, palms facing thighs, as if trying to reach into the ground, even as the spine/head extend upwards. Inhale/exhale, and continue to feel the energy activated in every muscle fiber. From this pose, you can move into other standing poses, including Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), Tree Pose (Vrksasana), and Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana).
- Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana). From Mountain Pose, spread feet three- to four-feet apart, spine elongated, head facing forward. Arms are extended to the side – parallel with the ground – palms down. Turn your left foot slightly in while moving the toes of your right foot 90-degrees to the right, ensuring heels are in the same line. Anchor by pressing weight down into the left foot. As you exhale, bend at the right hip and extend your body down and to the side, over the right leg. Move the right hand onto your shin or ankle (or floor if you’re naturally flexible). The left arm is now reaching upwards, and the torso moves slightly left so shoulders and chest are perpendicular to the ground. Hold the pose for as many breaths as you can. Then slowly reverse the pose until you’re back in Tadasana. Repeat on other side.
Get Started With Yoga For Exercise
Doing yoga for exercise has multi-fold benefits and does not require you to be anything other than the way you are right now. Start by learning and practicing each of these five, fundamental poses, even if you only do one per day.
The more you do them, the more energy and stamina you will have, creating a natural curiosity to learn more and to take your beginning yoga practice to the intermediate level.