Countless types of yoga are being practiced all over the world, including plenty of advice for those who are beginners. Some of the best yoga poses for beginners include the plank, triangle, warrior 1, downward-facing dog, and bridge. Moreover, holding those intricate yoga poses in a sweltering room for minutes may seem like torture. Therefore, if you’re a beginner to yoga, or have a child who is interested in learning more about yoga, it is critical to understand this form of exercise, its origins, and some of the best poses for those just entering the world of yoga.
Basics of Yoga
Defining yoga can be difficult without delving too deeply into the spiritual and philosophic side of this personal practice. Most importantly, yoga is a combination of the mind, body, and spirit, a “union” of sorts, which is what yoga means in Sanskrit. Having originated for more than 5,000 years ago, yoga is a philosophy that has been carried through the millennia and is now practiced by approximately 2 billion people around the world.
At its core, yoga is about clarifying the mind and attuning the body to the movements of your spirit. There are libraries full of books written about hundreds of different recognized styles of yoga. However, most people think of yoga as adopting different postures over the course of a yoga session. These postures are known as asanas and are specifically designed to create dynamic tension and improve the balance within the body. Some of these specific postures have been used around the world for thousands of years and are intended to align the body’s energy flow, detoxify your organ systems, and focus on breathing.
Each asana is different and intended to target different parts of the body. These postures can be rotated through quickly, forming a type of “flow”. Also, one can slowly move from one position to the next, focusing on increasing stamina and strength. There is no right or wrong way to approach yoga, as it is a practice-based and driven by personal goals and rejuvenation of personal philosophy. Furthermore, your “practice” should only include activities that allow you to be comfortable, as any potential benefits will be lost if you are anxious, self-conscious, or straining your body, which can cause inflammation and possible injuries.
Yoga Poses for Beginners
If you are in your first few months, or even days, of your yoga practice, some of the best yoga poses include the plank, triangle, downward-facing dog, warrior 1, and bridge. These are simple poses that are used commonly in most yoga classes, and provide an excellent foundation for more advanced poses as you progress.
Start on all fours, and then curl your toes under and raise yourself up into a push-up position. Your goal is to create a completely straight line from your feet, up through your spine and neck. You can hold this position for as long as you want, but it is recommended to be held for at least 8-10 deep breaths.
This pose helps to improve balance and strengthen the core abdominals. It can also help build endurance in the arm muscles and the back, all of which are engaged during this pose.
To begin with, stand with your legs spread and stretch your arms out at shoulder length. Then, turn your right foot out 90 degrees and slightly angle your left foot in towards your right leg. Next, lean slightly over your right leg, resting your right hand on your knee, thigh or calf (depending on your flexibility). Then, extend your left arm straight over your head for 8-10 deep breaths. You should then repeat this on the opposite side (leaning over your left leg and adjusting your feet accordingly).
This posture is excellent for opening up the hips and stretching the upper leg muscles, while also engaging your balance and opening up your lungs for deep, refreshing breaths.
Downward-facing Dog Pose
This is the most well-known yoga pose. It begins on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Lift your hips off the ground as you roll back onto your heels. Simultaneously, walk your hands forward to form a pyramid with your body. You should feel the pull in your hamstrings, while also keeping your arms straight. Keep your hips back and rotate your inner elbows to face the ground. Hold for 5-8 deep breaths.
These yoga poses can stretch out your lower back and hamstrings, while also strengthening the core.
Warrior 1 Pose
This simple posture requires you to take a large step back with your left foot, placing your right leg in a lunge, and then angle your left foot forward between 70-80 degrees. Press your hands together and raise them over your head, stretching out the chest. Hold this pose for 5-6 breaths before switching legs and repeat the process.
This pose is excellent for loosening up the hips and hamstrings, while also opening up the chest for optimal breathing.
Start by lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground, spread to the width of your shoulders. Lift your buttocks off the ground, forming a flat plane from your head to your knees. Clasp your fingers beneath you and press down into the ground, you will feel a strong stretch in your chest. Hold for 5-6 breaths and then return to the mat before repeating.
This yoga pose stretches the front of the body, primarily the chest and abdomen, while strengthening the back muscles, particularly the lower back and buttocks.
Yoga Poses for Kids
Yoga for children is becoming more and more popular. Some of the best yoga poses for youngsters include the tree pose, cat pose, cloud pose, and child’s pose. These are not only great introductions to the physical movements of yoga but are also tied to the philosophy behind the entire exercise.
Let your child start on all fours and inhale deeply as they look at the ceiling, with their chest dropped low. Then, as they exhale, arch their back and lower the head, pressing the chin to the chest. This cat-like yoga pose can improve breathing and works as a great calming technique if your child is irritable or overtired.
Start by having your child stand up straight, eyes open and take a few deep breaths, standing firm and still. Then, they can slowly raise one of their feet to rest against their inner thigh or against their knee. Encourage them to hold this for as long as possible. This pose will significantly improve balance and concentration, both mentally and physically.
Starting in a standing position, have your child slowly squat. Then inhale and “pick up” the clouds in front of them. Let them slowly return to a standing position as they exhale, raising their arms above their heads to “release” the clouds. This pose is great for settling tantrums and providing a healthy metaphor for eliminating problems or clearing the mind.
As the name implies, this pose brings children back to their youngest, most innocent self. Begin on all fours, then scoot the butt back of your child onto their heels, allowing their chest to fall onto the thighs. Stretch their arms out behind and place their forehead against the ground, allowing the body to completely rest and recharge.
There are millions of yoga instructors all over the world, trained to educate students and encourage them to adopt the beneficial practice of yoga. Mostly, formal yoga classes last anywhere between 30-60 minutes but advanced courses for yogis may last for hours. Many people say yoga is addictive, so for any of you beginners out there, open yourself up to the potential benefits this ancient practice can provide.