If you have an interest in yoga and are new to the practice, or if you need a refresher on the basics, this blog post is for you!
Keep reading to learn ten easy yoga poses that will help you to increase flexibility, improve coordination and build muscle.
1. Downward Dog
Downward dog is an essential yoga pose that is wonderful for opening up the shoulders, hamstrings, calves and arches of the feet. This pose also helps to strengthen the arms, shoulders and back. In addition, downward dog heightens alertness as a result of how the pose results increases blood flood (the heart over the head increases blood flow to the brain).
How to: Begin in a tabletop position with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Lift your knees off the floor while positioning your butt toward the ceiling. Engage your thighs and reach your heels towards the floor. Try to straighten your knees as much as you can. Press through your fingertips push into the stretch. When you are ready, come down from your stretch and rest in child's pose (pose #2).
2. Child's Pose
Child's pose is restorative yoga pose that is great to use as a resting pose in between more difficult positions. Child's pose is also a great shoulder opener. For maximum benefits, try as though you are reaching towards the opposite end of the room. Come back to this position throughout your practice for a brief moment of relaxation.
How to: Begin in a tabletop position with your feet touching. Sit back on your heels and position your heart on your legs. Stretch your arms straight in front of you with your palms towards the floor. Embrace the stretch by sitting back on your sit bones and stretching your arms forward.
3. Warrior I
Warrior I is very helpful at promoting flexibility in the hips and strengthening leg muscles. In addition, Warrior I helps to open the front of the hip flexors and the shoulders.
How to: Begin by standing over the long side of your mat. Rotate your hips and torso toward your right foot and bend your right knee to 90 degrees as you sink your hips toward the ground. Be sure to keep your right knee in line with your right ankle and keep your left leg strong. Next, raise your arms overhead. Hold the stretch and repeat on the other side when you are ready.
4. Triangle Pose
Triangle pose does it all: it stretches your hips, hamstrings, calves, chest, shoulders and your spine. In addition, triangle pose strengthens your knees, quads, and ankles. While it may appear challenging at first, it is actually rather simple. Follow the instructions and you will be just fine!
How to: Begin by standing over the long side of your mat. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and keep your palms facing down. Angle your right foot to the front of your mat and your left to a 90-degree angle to the right. Keep both heels in line with one another. Extend your torso over your right leg, bending from your hip. Rotate your torso to the left and rest your right hand on your right shin, ankle, or the floor on the outside of your right foot (where your right hand rests will depend on your level of flexibility). Reach your left arm toward the ceiling and look up at your left hand. Repeat on the other side when ready.
5. Cat/Cow Pose
Cat and cow pose is an engaging way to warm up the spine. This combination of poses is also a great way to warm up before other more arduous poses. Plus, its fun to do! If you are doing yoga with kids, add some animal noises (which are also acceptable by yourself).
How to: Start in the tabletop position with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Exhale and enter cat: Round your spine to the ceiling and gently release your head toward the floor. Inhale and enter cow: Lift your chest, head and butt to the ceiling while pushing your stomach to the floor. Transition between cat and cow several times to warm up your spine.
6. Bridge Pose
Bridges are a great way to strengthen your glutes and open up the chest and shoulders. The bridge pose is a beginning step to the wheel pose, a more intense version of the bridge in which which you back bend into an upside-down “U" shape.
How to: Begin on your back with your feet on the ground and knees pointed toward the ceiling. Bring your heels as close to your butt as possible without hurting your knees. Squeeze your glutes and lift your butt off of the floor. While in your bridge, remember to keep your knees over your ankles. Clasp your hands beneath you and stay on the tops of your shoulders. Pinch your shoulder blades together and hold your bridge for as long as is comfortable.
7. Warrior III Pose
Warrior III is particularly demanding in regards to balance and coordination and is a great way to strengthen the legs, upper back and ankles.
Begin with a pair of blocks in front of your feet (if you don't have a pair of blocks, you can use a stack of books). Exhale and reach for the blocks while extending your right leg. Try to align your spine and raised leg in one line. Actively press through the heel on the grounded foot. If you are able to maintain your balance, raise your arms in front of you so they are aligned with your right leg. Doing this with your arms will strengthen your upper back. Hold the position and then repeat on the other side.
8. Seated Forward Bend
Forward folds are very helpful at increasing flexibility in the spine and hamstrings. This pose can also be done in a standing pose in which you bend forward while your feet are touching on the floor and try to put your hands on the ground.
How to: Begin by sitting on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Keep your hands grounded by your hips while pressing your heels forward and pushing your thighs into the floor. Lean forward from the hip joints and try to grab your big toes or the outside of your feet. Do not force your body into the stretch, your flexibility will develop overtime.
9. Tree Pose
Tree pose stretches the groin, thighs, torso, and shoulders as well as your ability to balance. Use this pose to "find balance" and refocus and center yourself.
How to: Begin by standing on your mat with your arms at your sides. Shift your weight onto your right foot and lift your left off the ground. Grab your left foot and place it to the inside of your right leg. Be careful to avoid placing it directly on the knee. Stare at an fixed point in front of you and bring your arms to a prayer position at the center of your chest. Hold the position and, when you are ready, lower your leg slowly. Repeat on the other side.
10. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose is a great position that will help you to increase hip mobility/flexibility. Pigeon pose is particularly helpful for those who might be sitting for a long time. Go slowly and explore the position, as it can feel intense depending on your hip mobility.
Begin in downward dog and then shoot the right leg behind you and bring your right knee toward your right wrist. Rotate your right foot toward your left arm. Next, rest your right leg on the ground with your shin perpendicular to the front of the mat (at a 90 degree angle). To increase the intensity, extend the left leg behind you. When you are ready, return to the tabletop position and repeat on the other side.
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