If you’ve never tried yoga, stepping onto the mat for the first time can be intimidating. All over Instagram girls clad in yoga pants are doing handstands on the beach and contorting into an array of pretzel-like positions, and it’s easy to be deterred by them. I mean, that stuff looks crazy hard (and a little like it hurts)! Thankfully, you don’t have to throw your leg up to your ear or fold yourself in half in the beginning – or ever if you don’t want to. You can start slow. To kick start your yoga practice, here are five super easy poses (or asanas as they’re called in the yoga world) and how to do them. I’ve included the Sanskrit names in brackets because sometimes you’ll hear teachers use these terms in classes.
- Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
This pose strengthens the ankles and builds balance (an essential for more advanced poses). Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Shift your weight onto one foot and bring the sole of your other foot to rest on the inside of your standing thigh, as high as is comfortable for you. Extend your arms over your head, drawing your shoulder blades down your back, and place the palms of your hands together. Here’s a tip: If you pick a spot in front of you to focus on you’ll have an easier time balancing in this pose. And be sure to switch to the other side once you’re finished!
- Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is total child’s play, but don’t let that fool you. This pose offers a ton of benefits from stretching your lower back, hips, thighs, and upper back to promoting relaxation and stress reduction. To reap these benefits, Begin on your hands and knees, as if you were crawling. Your hands should be flat on the mat and your fingers spread out. Your knees should be directly below your hips. Now bring your hips down to your heels, leaving your arms outstretched in front of you. Rest your forehead on your mat and breathe deeply.
- Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This pose stretches the back, chest, shoulders, hamstrings and calves, and strengthens the upper body. Many yoga teachers will return to this pose for active rest after more strenuous poses. To get down with Downward Dog begin in child’s pose. Then tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back while bringing your chest toward your thighs. While here, make sure your feet are shoulder width apart and drive your heels down toward the floor. Relax your head so it hangs freely. To come out of Downward Dog, lower your knees and press your hips back to Child’s Pose.
- Chair (Utkatasana)
This powerhouse pose strengthens the quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, and core muscles (whew!), as well as improving balance and stability. Begin standing with your feet shoulder width apart and bring your arms overhead. Draw your shoulder blades down your back, bend your knees, and send your hips back as if you’re about to sit down in a chair. Keeping your back straight, allow your chest to lean slightly forward, and feel the burn!
- Corpse (Savasana)
This pose’s usual spot at the end of a yoga class is fitting, as it’s a great way to give your body some rest. Its benefits include relaxation and stress reduction, and as you continue in your practice, it’s a great place to introduce meditation. The name “Corpse” is also fitting, since you basically just lay there like one (told you these poses were easy!). Begin by lying on your back with your hands several inches from your body and your palms facing up. Let your legs relax open and breathe deeply as you let go of any tension in your muscles.
So dear yoga newbie, I hope reading this post has eased some of your anxieties and inspired you give this wonderful form of exercise a try. If you do wander into a class, let us know what you think!