Yoga is a great, low impact exercise that can help lower blood pressure, lessen chronic pain, reduce insomnia and increase flexibility. However, it can also be pretty intimidating to start. The following 10 yoga poses are important to learn to build confidence and flexibility in your practice.
- Mountain pose. This pose is the base for all standing poses. Start with your feet together, evenly distributing your weight through your feet. Draw your abdominal muscles in and up as you lift your chest and press your shoulders down. Drawing your whole body upward. Hold for 5-8 deep breaths, and look straight ahead.
- Downward facing dog. Downward dog stretches and strengthens the entire body, and is used in most yoga practices. Start on all fours, with your knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Curl your toes as you push upward and lift your hips off the floor. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees slightly or walk your hands forward to give yourself more length. Hold for 5-8 breaths before returning to your hands and knees.
- Plank. The plank is a great way to strengthen abdominal muscles. From all fours, slide your legs back until you are in a straight line, and tuck your toes under. Spread your fingers wide to distribute your weight and engage your lower abdominal muscles. Hold for 8-10 breaths.
- Triangle. This standing pose helps stretch your waist and open up your lungs. Start by standing with your legs spread apart. Stretch your arms out to your side at shoulder height. Point your right foot, and turn your left to the side. Stretch your right arm down your right leg onto your shin or knee, and lift your left up arm to the ceiling. Look up to your hand and hold for 5-8 breaths, switch sides, and repeat.
- Tree. This pose is great for beginners to work on focus and balance. Start in mountain post, and place your right foot on your inner left upper thigh. If you can’t reach your thigh, try your calf or knee. When centered, bring your hands together in prayer and fix your gaze forward. Hold for 8-10 breaths, and switch sides.
- Warrior one. Warrior one strengthens your hips, legs, core and upper body. Take a giant step back with your left foot, and angle it sideways, with your right knee bent in a lunge, toes pointing forwards. Lift your chest, and press your palms overhead. Hold for 5-8 breaths, then step forward and switch legs.
- Warrior two. This is a great starting point for side postures and is an external hip, thigh and groin opener. Stand with your feet one leg’s-length apart. Turn your left foot to the side. Bend your right knee until it is over your right ankle, and stretch your arms out to your sides and look forward over your right hand. Hold for 5-8 breaths and repeat on the left side.
- Seated forward bend. Use this pose to open the body and learn to breathe through discomfort. Start by sitting with your legs together in front of you, feet pointing up. Hinge forward from your waist, looking down at your legs. Fold as far as you can and hold for 8-10 breaths.
- Bridge pose. Bridge pose is a good pose to stretch your front body and strengthen the back. Start by lying down on your back, with your feet apart. Press firmly onto your feet and lift your but off the mat. Interlace your hands together underneath your “bridge” and open your chest even more. Hold for 8-10 breaths.
- Child’s pose. This pose is great before bed or when you need a mental break. Start on all fours, and then bring your knees and feet together. Sit your butt back to your heels and stretch your arms forward. Lower your forehead to the floor, and let your body relax. Hold for as long as you would like.
When practicing yoga, listen to your body, and modify the poses as needed. While you should feel a stretch in some of the poses, yoga should never hurt.