New to yoga? Here are a few of the best yoga styles and poses for beginners that will tone your body and improve your flexibility.
More and more trainers across the US embrace various yoga styles and it is not hard to figure out why since yoga has been associated with a multitude of health benefits, including increased bone density and improved mobility, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, to name only a few. However, many people are reluctant to adopt this ancient and healthy form of fitness due to the myths revolving around it (i.e.: yoga is slow, it’s practiced in 90 degrees heat, or it is more for people who are into meditation and chanting, and yoga is definitely only for the flexible).
The truth is that regardless of your physical condition and level of fitness, there is a yoga class and style to suit you. Yoga develops balance, strength and flexibility. So even if you are not able to do the contortions you may have come across on the Internet, flexibility is more of a positive effect of practicing yoga rather than a prerequisite. This being said, let us delve a little into a few yoga styles and poses for beginners, and perhaps reading this article will encourage you to sign up for your first yoga class.
If you are a novice who is looking to keep fit without sweating excessively, you may consider restorative yoga. This kind of yoga practice involves using foam blocks, blankets, belts and sometimes yoga props like chairs (the most commonly used). All these aids make this style one of the best for yoga beginners, as they help the practitioner to move smoothly into gentle poses. Restorative yoga postures are held for long, deep breaths so your whole body can relax once you achieve the pose you intended to do. Developed to restore and repair the body as its name suggests, this restorative yoga training gently reduces joint and muscle stiffness due to injuries and alleviates symptoms of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
This practice goes deeper into poses and engages the yogi’s mobility a little bit more than restorative yoga, as it requires holding a pose for several minutes. It works on the joints, connective tissues and fascia. Engaging gravity, yin yoga poses are more intense and help practitioners build stamina, improve balance as well as it increases mental endurance through the long holds that can range between 1 to 10 minutes.
Coming from the Taoist tradition, this kind of practice targets the connective tissues in the pelvis, hips, and lower spine. The primary goal is to enhance flexibility and instill a feeling of release and peace of mind. That’s why, if you want to learn the basics of meditation, yin yoga is perfect to start with.
Hatha yoga is more about physical practice than meditation, focusing on the postures or “asanas” as we know them. It is a gentle kind of training. This yoga style also known as “traditional yoga” practice, aims to reconcile the yin and the yang energies existing within us, as the ancient yogis believed. The very word “Hatha” reflects this concept, if we were to translate it – “Ha” means “Sun” or the active, “yang” energy, and “tha” means “Moon” or the passive, “yin” energy.
The Ashtanga style is a more vigorous type of yoga. It focuses on a number of poses, each held for five breaths and closing with a half sun salutation to keep the pace.
This is one of the safest and most traditional yoga styles, experts say. Similar to Ashtanga yoga, the Mysore practice is preferred by some yoga instructors as students can work out at their own pace and on their own breath as guided by their teacher/trainer.
Stand on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under hips.
Walk your hands forward a few inches and spread your fingers wide while pressing your palms firmly into the mat.
Curl your toes under and slowly pull your hips upward, toward the ceiling (or the sky if you’re outdoors), until your body forms the shape of an inverted V. Press your shoulders away from your ears and keep your feet hip-width apart, with your knees slightly bent.
Stay in pose for 3 breaths.
Stand with your legs 3-4 feet apart from each other. Turn your right foot out at 90 degrees and your left foot slightly in.
Bring your arms to your hips, relax shoulders and extend your arms out to the sides, palms downward.
Bend your right knee 90 degrees, holding your knee over your ankle. Gaze outward over your right hand. Stay in pose for 1 minute.
Shift your body weight onto your left leg and place right foot sole into left thigh. Keep your hips forward.
Once you’re balanced, join your palms together as if in a prayer.
Inhale and extend your arms over your shoulders, holding your palms separated facing each other. Hold pose for 30 seconds.
Lower your foot and repeat on the opposite side.
If you find this too complicated, you can make it easier by bringing your right foot to the inside of your left ankle, while keeping your toes firmly on the floor for balance. As you gain strength and balance, move your foot to the inside of your left calf.
Extend arms to the sides and bend over your right leg.
Stand with your feet about 3 feet apart from each other, with your right foot toes turned out to 90 degrees and your left foot at 45 degrees.
Touch the floor with your right hand or allow it to rest on your right leg above or below the knee and extend the fingertips of your left hand upward.
Gaze upward and hold pose for 5 breaths.
Return to initial standing position and repeat on opposite side.
Lie on the floor face down, with your thumbs directly under your shoulders and legs extended with the tops of your feet on the floor.
Contract your pelvic floor and press your hips downward against the floor as you squeeze your gluteal muscles.
Press your shoulders down away from your ears.
Pull up your torso by pushing through your thumbs and index fingers as you raise your chest.
Relax and repeat a few times.
Now that you know what to look for and what to expect from a beginners’ yoga class, there are a few more things you need to keep in mind before you start:
Disconnect with the outside world and turn off your cell phone! This will help you focus on your breathing and posture, let go, and connect with your inner self. Forget about the hustle and bustle out there and enjoy a few moments with yourself through yoga meditation!