Beginner-Friendly Yoga Poses to Kickstart Your Practice
Are you ready to dip your toes into the world of yoga but feeling a tad bit nervous or don’t know where to begin? Don't worry; you're not alone! Many beginners find yoga a bit intimidating at first, wondering if they're flexible enough, fit enough, or if they'll end up looking like a pretzel gone wrong.
But hey, let me let you in on a little secret – yoga isn't just about those jaw-dropping, arm-balancing poses you see all over social media. It's a journey that starts with simple steps and gradually takes you to more advanced postures. And if you never get to those advanced postures? That’s okay, too!
Whether you want to ease into yoga before joining a class, set up your own home practice, or simply improve your flexibility, we've got your back! In this blog post, we'll walk you through a beginner-friendly sequence that forms the foundation for sun salutations, a staple in Vinyasa or flow classes.
Let's dive in! 🧘♀️
Mountain Pose (Tadasana):
At first glance, this pose may seem deceptively simple – just standing there. But don't be fooled! It serves as the fundamental building block for all other standing poses and inversions in the yoga world.
Engaging in this pose actively, you'll find yourself working those torso and leg muscles, while also creating a deep sense of grounding. This little act of standing tall can work wonders for boosting your confidence and easing any pesky anxiety that might be hanging around. So, don't underestimate the power of this seemingly easy stance – it's the key to unlocking a world of strength and serenity! Try it:
- Stand with your big toes barely touching, and your heels slightly apart. A good way to gauge your stance is to see if your second toes are parallel.
- Press into all four corners of your feet: big toe, little toe, right side heel, left side heel. As you push into your feet, feel how that engages your entire leg and keeps those muscles active.
- Take a deep breath and roll your shoulders up and back, releasing them down, so your shoulder blades are resting toward each other and your neck is long.
- Take a few deep breaths here. Close your eyes if you like.
Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Take a deep breath and get ready to move on to the next post.
- As you inhale, gracefully lift your arms to the sides and up, reaching them over your head like a soaring bird.
- Exhale, releasing your arms either in front of your body or out to the sides in a graceful swan dive, folding your torso gently over your legs. Remember, for the first round, keep a slight bend in those knees. Even the most flexible among us need a little TLC for our cold hamstrings at the beginning.
- As you settle into the pose, gradually straighten your legs as far as it feels right for you. Listen to your body; any pinching or shooting pain calls for an immediate halt. Let gravity work its magic here – no need to yank yourself down or force the fold.
- Find your comfort zone as you decide where to place your hands – on your shins, your feet, or the floor. This passive lengthening of your spine and hamstrings will leave you feeling both relaxed and balanced. Pay attention here, as well. If you are working on flexibility and can only touch your shins, notice the more you do this pose, how you eventually progress from your shins to your calves, and eventually to your feet, then the floor.
- Inhale to halfway lift, creating a flat back and sliding your hands a bit higher up your legs, and then fold right back into the pose. You can do this back and forth, getting used to the rise and fall of your body along with your breath as many times as you need it.
Moving from the calming Forward Fold, let's transition into a powerful and foundational yoga pose.
Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)
This is a very active pose that works all the muscles of your front body.
- From forward fold, place your hands flat on the floor, directly under your shoulders, and remember to bend your knees as much as necessary to achieve this position comfortably. Step back one leg at a time until you find yourself in the mighty High Plank Pose.
- Once you're in position, press firmly into your palms, keeping your legs parallel and activated while gently drawing your belly button toward your spine. Take a moment to catch your breath here, as you engage both your core and your arms.
Now, a word of caution – it's quite common for beginners to unintentionally form a "banana back" or hunch their shoulders. To tackle this challenge, consider enlisting a friend's help or even a mirror. Have them check your form from the side to ensure your upper body, from your hands to your hips, forms a relatively straight line, with some allowance for the natural curves of your spine.
Give yourself permission to feel the strength and stability in this pose as you hold it for a few breaths. Embrace the power within you, and remember, each time you revisit High Plank Pose, you'll get better and stronger!
Time to transition gracefully from plank to the rejuvenating pose I know you’ve heard of.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This pose works wonders as it lengthens your spine, providing a soothing stretch to your back leg muscles, and even lending a helping hand to your digestion. Plus, its gentle inversion nature is fantastic for releasing stress, soothing headaches, and bringing a sense of calm to your nervous system.
- As you transition from Plank Pose, inhale and press firmly into your palms, lifting your hips up and back to enter Downward-Facing Dog gracefully.
- Engage your shoulders, but don't overdo it! Finding that sweet spot where your shoulders are active yet relaxed can be a little tricky, but you'll get the hang of it with practice.
- Aim for a neutral spine – neither overly arched nor rounded. Keep that back aligned and happy!
- Straighten your legs, working those heels toward the floor. Don't worry if there's a gap between your heels and the ground – it's perfectly normal, especially if you have longer legs. Just keep those legs active and let your heels reach toward the earth.
- If you're new to this pose, warm up your leg muscles by gently pedaling your feet. A little leg workout never hurt anyone!
- Take 3-5 big deep breaths here, inhaling through your nose, and exhaling out of your mouth, letting it all go.
As a beginner, if you find this pose hurting your wrists or you want to try to get your heels closer to the floor, incorporate blocks under your palms or heels.
Coming from the grounding Downward Dog, let's transition into a comforting pose.
Child's Pose (Balasana)
Now, whether you're in a yoga class or practicing at home, Child's Pose is your go-to pose for finding solace and giving your nervous system a much-needed rest and reset.
Sink into this nurturing pose, take a moment to connect with your breath, and let the tranquility wash over you. It's a little moment of zen in the midst of your practice!
- Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, gently release your knees to the floor, gliding your hips back to rest on your heels, and lovingly lower your forehead to the floor or a block.
- In this restorative pose, you have the choice to extend your arms forward or draw them alongside your body, palms up, near your feet – whatever feels most comforting to you. You can also take this into a more advanced posture and take your palms into reverse prayer up and over your head, resting on the back of your neck to give your shoulders a bit of a stretch.
Remember, Child's Pose is all about catering to your needs. Feel free to adjust the width of your knees if that brings you more ease and relaxation. Like a warm, nurturing hug, this pose is meant to soothe your spine, shoulders, and neck, while also giving your internal organs a gentle massage.
We suggest going through this sequence 5-10 times to ignite a gentle warmth in your body and become at ease with the rhythmic flow of your breath and movement. This is a simple yet effective Sun Salutation A Vinyasa, serving as an excellent starting point to familiarize yourself with the practice.
Keep in mind that while some instructors might add their unique flair to the sequence to make it authentic to their style, the core foundation remains intact to ensure you feel confident and comfortable as you begin your yoga journey. So, embrace the flow, find your rhythm, and let the journey of self-discovery and inner harmony unfold.
Now go on and roll out your mat, slip into your comfiest leggings, embrace your yoga journey, and give yourself permission to be present.
— Lindsey Escaja