Yoga has something for everyone. It begins by making you focus on your breathing, which plays a crucial role in helping you cleanse the body, mind and soul. What work in tandem are the many flexibility-enhancing, muscle-building, fat-blasting postures that fortify the stamina and up your fitness level. Watching yoga gurus and experts performing some unnerving poses can get intimidating but the truth is that everybody starts from scratch. The basics are always of the utmost importance in order to master any art.
If you have not been to a yoga class yet and can't muster the enthusiasm to do so, here are some of the easiest poses that can safely be done at home.
As mentioned earlier, breathing plays a pivotal role in yogic practice. While practicing it, we perform Ujjai or the victorious breath. You begin by making a soft whispering noise with long and even breaths while the air catches the back of your throat. Ensure that your lower belly is drawn during inhalation as well as exhalation. This breathing technique helps enhance the movement in the diaphragm and lengthens the spine. It also facilitates increased oxygen supply to the body which will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated post practice.
1. The Downward Dog
Start on your feet, then push yourself down to make your hands touch the ground, pushing your back and hips up. This way you will make an inverted 'V' with your body. You can try pedaling out your feet bringing the heels back to the floor one at a time. Eventually, the heels will come back to the floor. You should be looking back between your legs and ground with your palms on the floor. Focus on lengthening your arms and keeping the shoulders broad. Repeat the posture after other postures, hold it for 5 breaths.
2. The Dolphin Pose
The pose is a departure from the Downward Dog, in the sense that here you come down onto the elbows. Push into the floor with your forearms and keep lifting your hips up. The posture works on your shoulder girdle and prepares you for more advanced postures and transitions.
3. The Rag-doll Pose
This is great for a gentle hamstring stretch. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Now, gently rock your upper body from side to side holding the elbows. Make sure that your upper body hangs loose and is relaxed. Your head and neck should not be tensed. Bend your knees in case you find it difficult to get into the pose. Don't stand up with a jerk, roll up one vertebra at a time, with your head coming up at last.
4. Tree Pose
There exists a range of yogic postures that are great for balancing. Tree pose is excellent for beginners. Start by taking your hands in prayer position. Transfer your weight onto one leg and slowly pick up the other foot resting the sole against the other leg. Now, take your hands over your head. Practice on both sides, count for 10 long breaths and release. Try to keep the mind calm and focus on your breath and one fixed point in front of you. This pose involves a great deal of balancing, and is therefore imperative for the mind to be calm and at peace. You can take support from the wall.
5. The Sphinx Pose
Various yoga postures work on different parts of the body. From gentle stretches to backward and forward bending poses, twisting postures and others, the idea is always to let your body explore the unknown. Backward bending poses are great for the stomach. They enlarge the diaphragm and help release tension from the back. The sphinx pose is one of the easiest postures to try at home.
Begin by lying flat on your stomach and bring your elbows directly underneath your shoulders. Bring your chest up and forward. Hold for 10 breaths and release.
6. The Cobra Pose
This pose involves your arms to rest on the floor with hands resting by the armpits. Stretch your legs and lift your torso up, don't use the power of the arms. This pose actively engages the back muscles.
7. The Bridge Pose
This one involves you to lie flat on your back. Bend your knees with your arms resting on the side. Shoot your hips up with your head and shoulders on the floor. Clasp your hands into a fist underneath you.
All backward bending postures are great for the health of the vertebra, the spine and the general strength of the back.
Every pose has a counter posture. It is important to release the tension by making your body stretch and bend the opposite direction to achieve maximum benefit.
8. The Child's Pose
Sit on your thighs - in Vajrasana - and sink your weight onto your heels with your hands reaching out on the floor in front. Relax your head on the floor. Count for 10 breaths and release.
Inversions are before you cool down and relax. The posture restores the vigour and facilitates the draining of all the toxins and cellular waste out of the body. Lie down on your back and stretch your legs up vertically against the wall. Get as close to the wall as you can. Hold for 10 breaths and release.
Savasana is a great way to cool off and call it a day. It lets the benefits of the practice absorb and integrate into your body. Lie flat on your back with your legs apart and arms resting wide on each side. Stay with your eyes closed for 5-10 minutes. Keep your mind free of any thought. Focus on your breathing and remain undistracted and undisturbed.
Though these postures are great and hassle free to try at home, make sure that you do them under supervision. Get in touch with a certified practitioner to guide you further. You should never feel any discomfort or pain while practicing the aforementioned poses. Listen to your body and don't push unnecessarily, make it a part of your daily routine, be consistent and you will master the art eventually.
Please note, Imogen Parry is not a trained healthcare professional. Please check with your doctor for any additional health advice.
Article provided by Imogen Parry, Yoga instructor.