Yoga is a widespread practice throughout the world that combines breathing, movement, and meditation. Imported to India’s the United States over a century ago, yoga has long been admired for its physical and spiritual benefits.
Research shows yoga can help manage stress, ease depression and anxiety, improve mood, and enhance sleep quality. Also, yoga has increased flexibility, improved balance and coordination, reduced pain, and increased strength.
It’s time to roll out your yoga mat and discover the combination of physical and mental exercises that have hooked yoga practitioners around the globe for thousands of years. The beauty of yoga is that you don’t have to be a yogi or yogini to reap the benefits. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen the body. Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy yoga studios, and complicated poses. Yoga is for everyone.
Is Yoga Right for You?
Yoga is in no way exclusive—being able to practice yoga does not matter how old you are, how much you weigh, what you do for a living, where you live, or what religion you practice. Yoga is accessible for just about everyone.
If you have a medical condition or a recent injury, it can be challenging or dangerous to do certain types of yoga, specific poses, or breathing techniques. Usually, some alternatives or modifications can allow you to practice safely, and many common complaints have specific yoga therapy remedies.
If you are recovering from an injury or are in poor health, we recommended consulting with a physician or other qualified health care professional before beginning yoga.
While you may feel some intensity in your muscles’ belly while in a yoga pose, you should never feel pain, especially in the joints. Sharp or intense pain is your body’s signal to tell you to stop, back off, and take it easy.
What Is the Best Yoga for Beginners?
If you are out of shape or extremely inflexible, we recommend you begin with gentle practice until you have built up the strength and flexibility for more challenging sequences. If you are a relatively fit and flexible person, you should be able to jump right into a regular hatha yoga class.
Once you are familiar with the basic postures, you can explore a vinyasa or flow class. We recommend you avoid Ashtanga, Bikram, or hot yoga until you have built up some physical strength and endurance. It is always best to an error on the side of caution and safety and approach yoga slowly and carefully. The best way to know if yoga is for you is to give it a try!
How Often Should I Do Yoga?
If you can practice yoga 3 or more times per week, you will see significant improvements in your flexibility, range of motion, strength, balance, inner peace, and overall well being. Ideally, we recommend shorter and more frequent sessions, 20-45 minutes long, and for a total of 3-4 hours spread over several days. Practicing yoga less than this amount will still be beneficial, but you will see smaller improvements over a longer period of time. Like most things, the more time you can dedicate towards it, the more benefits you will receive.
The Benefits of Practicing Yoga
The benefits of yoga are almost endless! Practicing yoga helps build healthy virtues and good values, such as discipline, honesty, devotion, self-inquiry, mindfulness, and non-attachment. Yoga empowers you to make conscious choices toward living a more healthy and fulfilling life. Yoga also helps you:
- Keep your mind healthy and strong
- Reduce stress and promote relaxation
- Get a better night’s sleep
- Boost your immune system
- Help heal common aches like back pain
- Increase happiness and well being and reduce depression
- Lose weight and change your body shape
- Improve and maintain the health of muscles, joints, and organs
- Prevent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and auto-immune disorders
- Improve flexibility, strength, stamina, mobility, range of motion, and balance
Yoga poses for beginners
Why learn yoga? Most beginners to yoga are looking for a way to relax to cope with their stressful lives.
At the beginning of the yoga class, the yoga student lies on the back in the relaxation pose, breathing deeply, before being guided through an active relaxation exercise where various parts of the body are alternately tensed and released. This combination of deep breathing and active relaxation helps calm the mind and relieve tension in the body – the optimum start to every yoga class!
4–6 slow Sun Salutations
The Sun Salutation, a classical sequence of twelve yoga positions, is an energizing warm-up routine performed at the start of every yoga class. Dozens of muscles are stretched and toned in this yoga exercise.
Between yoga exercises, the beginner yoga student rests on their back in the so-called “corpse” pose, breathing deeply and feeling the positive effects of the previous yoga pose.
Single Leg Lifts – Are not proper yoga poses but serve to stretch the leg muscles and warm them up for the subsequent yoga exercises.
Double Leg Lifts – Strengthen the abdominal muscles, which helps hold the yoga poses longer.
This yoga asana is an inverted pose that increases the blood supply to the brain. The yoga pose uses gentle pressure on the neck region, regulating the thyroid gland’s functions (which governs metabolism).
When implementing this yoga asana, you breathe adequately, increasing the lungs’ vital capacity and improving respiratory problems. This yoga pose energizes the thyroid gland and enhances the flexibility of the upper back.
This yoga pose stretches the entire back of the body, strengthening the lumbar spine’s flexibility and improving postural alignment. The yoga asana gives a nice massage to the abdominal organs, helping relieve such complaints as constipation.
This yoga pose entails a sideways bending movement that simultaneously stretches, contracts, and relaxes all major back muscles. This makes the spine more elastic.
The most rewarding part of beginner’s yoga! The yoga sequence’s full benefits unfold during these 10 to 15 minutes at the end of the yoga session. Through active relaxation (tensing and releasing muscles), deep breathing, and a visualization exercise, profound peace can be experienced on three levels: physical relaxation, mental relaxation, and spiritual relaxation.
A guide to foundational poses
It can be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the main foundational poses that most physical practices use. Check out this list of poses with alignment cues that you can practice in the comfort of your own home.
- Come onto your hands and knees.
- Straighten your arms and relax your upper back between the shoulder blades.
- Keeping your knees bent, lengthen your knees, and lift your hips high. Your aim here is to form the shape of an upside-down “V.”
- If you have the flexibility in your hamstring muscles, straighten your legs and let your heels drop down toward the floor while maintaining the length in your spine.
- If you notice your spine start to curve as you straighten your legs, bend your knees enough so that you can keep the range long.
- Hold for 5 breaths.
- Lie on your stomach with your legs straight.
- Firm up the muscles in your legs and have your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing behind you.
- Push down through your pubic bone to avoid collapsing into the lower portion of the spine.
- Place your weight onto your forearms as you lift your chest away from the ground.
- Make sure that your neck is long as you look straight ahead.
- Hold for 5 breaths.
- Stand up straight and step your right foot back.
- Keep your front foot pointing straight forward and position your back foot at approximately a 45-degree angle.
- Position your feet hip-width apart, so you’re able to square your hips to the front of the mat.
- Bend into your front knee. Make sure your knee is directly above your ankle or behind it.
- Keep your back leg healthy.
- Raise your arms straight above your head and relax your shoulders.
- Hold for 5 breaths before switching to the other side.
- Stand up straight. Shift your weight onto the left foot, keeping the inner part of your left foot firmly on the floor, and bend your right knee.
- Draw your right foot up and place the sole against your inner left thigh, internal calf muscle, or inner ankle with your toes touching the floor.
- Place your hands on the top rim of your pelvis to make sure that it’s parallel to the floor.
- Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor.
- Firmly press the sole of the right foot against the inner thigh, calf, or ankle, and resist with the outer left leg.
- Raise your arms straight above your head. Ensure that you keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Hold for 5 breaths before changing to the other side.
Seated Forward Fold
- Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. If you have tight hamstrings, bend your knees.
- Keep your feet flexed with your toes pointing toward the ceiling.
- Sit up tall, lengthening through your spine.
- Leading with your chest, keep your spine long as you fold forward.
- Place your hands in a comfortable position on your legs.
- Hold for 5 breaths.
- Lie on your back.
- Bend both knees and position your feet hip-width apart with your knees stacked over your ankles.
- Place your arms on either side of your body with the palms of your hands turned down to the ground. Spread your fingers wide.
- Lengthen the skin of your tailbone toward the front of your mat.
- Lift your hips and hold the pose for 5 breaths.
How to improve after starting
Repetition and consistency are the keys to moving forward. After you’ve found a style, teacher, and location that works for you, try these tips:
- Begin a home practice once you feel comfortable in the foundational yoga poses.
- Attend local workshops where teachers can break down certain aspects of the yoga practice in more detail.
- Notice the effects a consistent yoga practice has on you by observing how your body feels and how interactions and relationships outside of your yoga practice feel.
- Take note of how you feel during times away from the practice. This can help you recognize yoga’s benefits more.
Do one thing at a time, and while doing it, put your whole soul into it to the exclusion of all else.
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