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Yoga is a great exercise option because it's suitable for all types of fitness levels. If you're just getting back into the workout swing of things, you can take it a little slower with a beginner class with basic poses and flows. If you're more of an advanced yogi or want a challenge, you can try harder poses and flows, or even try styles like aerial or hot yoga classes. It's a low-impact workout, too, so it won't be too hard on your joints. And just because it's low impact, doesn't mean it's a total walk in the park. Yoga is challenging and it encourages movement and flexibility. Plus, it's pretty dang good at relieving stress and promoting mindfulness. Are you convinced to try it yet?
For those of you who want to try it out, or want to resume your practice, Mirror trainer Rachel Nicks says the best thing to do is just to start. "No one said you have to be good at it and that isn't the point," she says. "Remember to accept your body wherever you are in your practice. Focus on your breath. Use the exhale as an opportunity to release things that do not benefit you physically, mentally, or emotionally. Challenges change you so embrace the challenge."
And it helps to get a few basic and easy yoga poses down to help with your yoga sessions—whether you plan on doing it more often, or just every now and then. I asked two yoga instructors and trainers for some easy pose options. And while they're great for beginners, these are also must-knows for yogis since you'll likely be doing these in just about every class. Take a look below.
1. Child's Pose
It doesn't get easier than this restorative pose. "This happens to be one of my personal favorite poses because it is incredible for relaxation and easing anxiety all while increasing blood circulation," explains Sydney Benner, a FitOnApp trainer. "It stretches your spine, hips, and ankles."
Nicks explains how to do it:
Spread thighs as wide as you can and place your forehead on the floor. If that is challenging due to tight hips, place your head on a block or pillow.
Extend your arms out in front of you. As you exhale, soften your forehead, shoulders, hips, and low back.
Lengthen your spine as you exhale and think about releasing hip and low back tension.
Try to think about breathing into your hips and use each exhale as an opportunity to release tension.
Benner recommends transitioning into tabletop pose after spending a minute or two in child's pose. "Strengthening your abdominal muscles or core muscles is one of the most important practices you can do for your body," she explains. "This pose will do just that while also improving balance and posture."
Benner shares how to do it:
Plant your palms under your shoulders and your knees under your hips so your spine is long and flat as you engage your core muscles to protect the spine and lower back. You want to make sure the tops of your feet are relaxed on your mat, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and the top of your head should face forward as opposed to your eyes.
As you take a deep inhale, drop your belly and expand your heart while looking up. This is your cow posture, and as you exhale, round your spine and drop your head like a Halloween cat.
Repeat for three to five rounds of slow deep breathing.
"Please don't let this one scare you!" Benner says. "Planks are amazing for the body and in a vinyasa yoga practice; they are a key movement in sun salutations. The benefits are endless as they strengthen your arms, core, glutes, and posture while boosting your metabolism."
Here's how to do it, according to Benner:
To get into this pose, place your palms under your shoulders and draw those shoulder blades back. If you have wrist sensitivity, I encourage you to do this on your forearms either clasping your hands together or place your forearms down like a number 11 with your elbows under your shoulders.
Engage your core as tight as possible and make sure to squeeze your glute muscles too.
You have two options for your legs: The first is to lengthen your legs back but keep your knees on the mat and the tops on the feet as well. The second option is to lengthen your legs and lift your knees pressing up on the balls of your feet.
Start by holding this pose for three to five breaths, and as you get stronger, try for 1 minute or even 2 minutes.
4. Low Lunge With Side Bend
Nicks recommends this pose, adding that you can intensify it by pressing your hips forward or decrease the intensity by pulling your hips back a bit.
She shares how to do it:
Step right foot forward with your right knee over your right ankle.
Engage your core and reach your arms overhead.
Tuck your tailbone and engage your core, taking the arch out of your back and providing more support for your body.
Inhale, reach arms overhead, then grab your left wrist and side bend toward your right thigh as you exhale.
Repeat on other side.
5. Downward Dog
Even if you don't practice yoga, you've probably heard of this pose. "If you think of a dog stretching with their paws long in front and their tailbone lifted up that's exactly the goal with this," Benner says. "By using the strength of your arms, core, and spine, this posture will stretch your quads, hamstrings, and ankles." For this one, Benner advises to not be forceful with your body, especially if you're not feeling super flexible. She recommends paying attention to your body and seeing what it can reasonably do.
Benner explains how to get into the pose:
Walk your hands out in front of you and widen your fingers. If you personally experience tightness in your shoulders, you can angle your fingertips to 45 degrees and walk them out a bit wider, relax your head between your biceps, and pull your shoulders away from your ears.
You want to press your chest towards your thighs and if you have tight hamstrings I encourage you to bend your knees, and I promise it is okay if your heels are lifted.
Press your sit bones back and reach your tailbone high. For those who have more flexibility, lengthen your legs, and deepen your heels to your mat.
6. Warrior II to Reverse Warrior
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"Warrior II is a strong pose and fairly easy because both feet are planted in the ground," Nicks says.
Here she shares some instructions:
Bend your front knee to 90 degrees and keep your back leg straight. Your front foot should be perpendicular to your back foot.
Extend your arms straight, then flip your front palm and reach your top hand behind you to "reverse your warrior." The reversed warrior provides expansion to your chest.
7. Crescent Lunge
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"The crescent lunge will stretch and help you with flexibility in your hip flexors and upper body while strengthening your legs," Benner says.
Here's how to do it, according to Benner:
Begin by stepping one foot forward and bend dramatically into the front knee, keeping the knee over your ankle. Make sure your knee stays center over your ankle rather than pronation inward or externally rotating outward.
Keep your hips square pointing forward evenly and lengthen your back leg long, lifting up on the ball of the back foot. You will feel a dramatic stretch in your hip flexors. If this feels too intense for you a great variation is to keep your back knee down and the top of the foot relaxed on your mat.
For your upper body, squeeze that core tight as you raise both arms up in line with your shoulders, but keep your shoulders down away from your ears. Your upper body should feel tall, strong, and be upright.
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