When you hear the word yoga, what pops into your head? If you imagine a freakishly in-shape woman with her legs bent over her shoulders like a pretzel, you are not alone.
People who do yoga regularly have a reputation for being flexible and super chill, but many of them didn’t start out that way.
When you wipe away all the cryptic sanskrit yoga jargon, over-the-top upscale studios, or nauseatingly complicated poses, you can see how yoga really is for everyone.
In a nutshell, yoga is simply the combination of breath control, meditation, and movement through specific body postures. And by beginning a simple yoga regimen, anyone can begin to see positive results, says yoga instructor Elaine Hernandez Martins.
Benefits of yoga practice
Health benefits of practicing yoga, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
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- Increasing flexibility
- Building strength
- Improving balance
- Enhancing respiratory functioning
- Aiding digestion
- Alleviating head pain
- Lowering your levels of the stress hormone cortisol
Practicing poses will also lead to a deeper mind-body connection.
As you learn to do yoga poses, you may begin to become more aware of your breath and the way your body moves during the exercises. This attention to your breath moving through the body is really the foundation of a mind-body connection. This is how yoga turns physical exercises into a way to become more mindful, and aids in developing a meditation practice.
5 Yoga poses anyone (even you!) can do
If you want to try a few beginner postures at home before heading to the studio, check out these five poses that provide all of the yoga health benefits without any potentially embarrassing or dangerous mishaps.
Whether you are overweight or fit, young or old, strong or weak, yoga is accessible to you. All you need is a chair and some floor space.
“With every movement, try and move slowly, remembering to breathe as you move. Try and hold the poses for at least 10 slow breaths,” Martins says.
1. Sun Breaths
(Standing tall on two feet or sitting in chair)
The seated sun breath is a good first pose to try. It can be done standing, or can be modified to a sitting position.
With sun breaths, you connect the breath with movement, focusing on elongating the spine and opening the shoulders, and you allow your arms to move up and over your head with each inhalation.
Swoosh your arms out and down to your sides with each exhalation.
(Sitting in a chair)
Sit on a chair with the spine long and both feet on the floor. Place your hands on your knees or the tops of your thighs.
On an inhale, arch your spine and roll your shoulders down and back, bringing your shoulder blades onto your back. This is cow position.
On an exhale, round your spine and drop your chin to your chest, letting the shoulders and head come forward. This is cat position.
Continue moving between cow on the inhalations, and cat on the exhalations for 10 breaths.
3. Spinal Twist
(In a chair)
Sit sideways on the chair, facing to the left. Twist your torso toward the left, holding onto the back of the chair, for a spinal twist.
Lengthen your spine on each inhale and twist on each exhale for five breaths. Move your legs around to the right side of the chair and repeat the twist to the right side.
4. Pigeon Pose
(On a chair)
Hours of sitting at work tightens up the hips. Sit straight in a chair, then bring your right ankle to rest on your left thigh, keeping the knee in line with your ankle as much as possible.
Hold this chair pigeon for three to five breaths. You may forward bend to intensify the stretch, if you like.
Repeat with the left leg up. Repeat on the opposite side.
5. Corpse Pose
(Lying down or legs supported by chair)
Classes typically end up finishing with corpse pose, also commonly referred to as savasana. Take a few minutes to lay on the floor, or sit with your eyes closed and hands relaxed at the end of your practice. This savasana will help your body absorb all the good effects of the poses you have done and transition you into the rest of your day.