March 18 | Beginner Yogi |
Spring has finally arrived, and with it, spring cleaning. But instead of diving straight into the grime-scraping and dust-mining of the season, why not think about your progress on your personal fitness goals for the year? You might find that you’re not where you want to be, but even if you are, we have some ideas for you.
As the months grow warmer and your quest for total body fitness continues, we suggest you think about one word: yoga. If you’re a newbie to the practice, then keep reading — this is the blog post for you.
Yoga, an ancient practice of poses, stretching and mind-body connection, is eminently approachable, with neither a minimum fitness level nor a mental plateau one must reach acting as a barrier to entry. That can’t be said for most other exercise programs for adults (or anyone, really).
There truly is nothing to dread as a newcomer to yoga. If you’re walking in for the first time holding a brand-new mat, you don’t have to fear the size-you-up side-eye by your classmates — iron-pumper competition this is not. You’ll be learning yoga from a patient instructor who will give you the individual attention you need to do the moves safely and effectively.
If you’re still feeling queasy about yoga, here’s an idea to help you build the requisite confidence prior to your public debut at yoga class: Teach yourself to do some easy yoga poses. In fact, you can try three incredibly simple ones in the comfort and privacy of your own living room (the house pets won’t care — remember: Rover the dog and Jingles the cat lack the capacity to either judge or mock you).
Child’s Pose, Downward-facing Dog Pose and Tree Pose are three poses that are among the ones taught to almost every yoga neophyte, and we’ll bet our bottom dollar that you’ll find their benefits of relaxation and tension-relieving stretching so substantial that yoga will become your new passion.
Child’s Pose is a fundamentally easy pose to begin with as you adventure into yoga, and it can be done almost anywhere.
Start by sitting your hips down on your heels, either with the knees together or slightly apart — whichever is more comfortable for you. From there, bend the torso forward until your forehead touches the ground while extending your arms forward in front of you. Allow the body to relax naturally in this pose while you inhale and exhale deliberately. For a slightly different stretch, bring the arms back beside your legs, palms open and facing upward.
In a class, Child’s Pose is often placed before or after challenging routines to reset and rest the body.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Perhaps the most well-known of all yoga routines, Downward-Facing Dog is integrated into almost all basic yoga routines, where it “flows” with regulated breathing. “Downward Dog” is also great on its own, helping to stretch out the long ligaments in the arms and legs.
From a plank position, gently raise your hips and straighten your arms while ensuring you have a proper width of the arms and legs to support the body. Create a triangle shape with your hips elevated, and hold the position for four to eight breaths. Remember to keep your arms and legs straight but not locked, the heels as far down as you can, but take care not to overextend; the stretch should be a gentle one, as you’re still learning.
The most challenging of the three poses listed here, Tree Pose is still relatively simple to learn but a bit difficult to hold. Once you get it down, you’ll find yourself feeling like a total yoga master for the first time.
Tree Pose is all about balance — specifically, balancing on one leg. This sounds frustrating, but the pose is built to help you connect to your entire body and really plant yourself to the ground. From standing, bring your palms together near your heart. Then bring one leg up and rest your foot on the inner thigh, facing downward and just above the knee.
From there, breathe! Breathing is perhaps the most important thing about yoga. Taking short or gasping breaths will make you topple over, but long, relaxing breathing will focus your mind, increase your concentration and improve your balance.
The benefits of Tree Pose are numerous. In addition to strengthening balance, the pose works your core as you flex and focus to stay upright. You’ll find you often have a dominant leg that makes the pose easier, so if you’re feeling great, outstretch the arms toward the ceiling and look upwards — it’ll add a whole new challenge to the pose.