I get it. Yoga is such a “thing” nowadays that it can be quite overwhelming when first starting out. We hear about all the good stuff it can provide and so many of us seem to have the perfect practice. Yet, what if you are not that flexible and maybe even had a few injuries causing you a bit of trouble? Don’t worry. Yoga truly is for everyone, but it can be daunting to make a start, especially, when seeing amazing photos of extraordinary poses.
Let me tell you – yoga is so much more than just a pose. It all starts with our breathe and that is something we all have, right? And a pose is never a final destination, but rather a process. So there are modifications to suit each and every single one of us. Whether you are completely new to yoga and just want a little taste of what the asana practice (the physical practice in yoga) is about, or whether you are a passionate yoga practitioner – here are five poses that I believe anyone can do and benefit from:
1. Tadasana – Mountain pose
I love this pose. It looks simple, yet it is powerful and sets the foundation for any yoga practice. What I like most about it is the feeling of grounding by standing solid and present with my whole body.
Take your feet in a comfortable distance (for some this is about hip width distance apart). Allow your toes to spread out into the ground and from there draw yourself up. Lengthen along your spine all the way into the crown of your head and very gently draw your chin towards your chest.
Make sure your lower back feels comfortable (check by tilting your pelvis forward and back to find a comfortable, neutral spot). If your hamstrings are tight allow for a tiny micro bend in your knees. Let your arms rest beside your body with palms facing to the front and relax your shoulders, your face and breathe in out and through your nose.
2. Uttanasana – Standing Forward Fold
This is such a great pose to calm down our nervous system and clear our mind. If your hamstring or lower back feel quite tight, don’t worry about folding all the way up and over. You can start by sitting on a chair or using a wall to fold about half way down. There is also the option to work with blocks to bring the floor closer to your hands.
Start in Tadasana. Keep a very tiny bend in your knees and lengthen your spine as you inhale. With your exhale start to hinge forward from the hips and slowly release the torso all the way down. If your hands can’t touch the floor, use blocks and work with your range of movement. Keep your legs engaged, relax your neck and jaw and take a few rounds of deep, slow breaths.
3. Marjaryasana & Bitilasana – Cow & Cat pose
These two are probably poses most of us have heard of when thinking about yoga. There are absolutely great to release any tension across the back, neck, and basically any spot that feels a bit tight. You can make it your variation adding in gentle circles with the head, torso, or swinging into the hips.
Starting off in table top (all fours), make sure your lower back is comfortable (check in by tilting pelvis up and down to find a comfortable, neutral spot). Place hands below shoulders and allow fingers to spread out. Keep shoulder blades gently engaged and take a few rounds of breathe here while allowing for a slight engagement in the lower abdomen.
When ready with your next inhale start lifting the tailbone (keep the abdomen engaged so you are not completely collapsing into your back) and arching your back. So the chest opens up and shoulders draw away from the ears. When exhaling press into your hands and start to round your back – belly button draws back towards the spine and chin draws towards your chest. Keep going from pose to pose and allow your breathe to guide you through.
If it is not comfortable on your knees you can try this seated placing your hands on your legs and gently arching and rounding your spine.
4. Viparita Karani – Legs up the wall
This pose is my go to whenever I feel tired, tense, or just need a bit of a recharge. It really does lift you up allowing your body and mind to completely relax and reset. Plus it doesn’t require amazing flexibility or strength, but has a heap load of benefits.
Get comfortable on your back and move your legs up a wall so that your butt gets as close to it as possible – you want to create somewhat an L-shape here with your body. Allow your arms to rest beside your body, on your belly, or – my favourite – reach them out above your head and grab opposite elbows. Stay for 5-10 minutes to get the most out of it or as long as it’s comfortable.
5. Balasana – Child’s pose
Well if you haven’t tried child’s pose ever, you should definitely give this one a go. Whether after a good workout, when waking up, or in your lunch break, this pose can truly be a game changer resetting your energy level and clarity of mind.
From table top (all fours) sit your pelvis back and take the knees wide with your big toes touching. Allow your body to fold over and your arms to reach out in front of you (or you might draw them beside your body to rest your shoulders a bit more). Rest your forehead down and if the floor is too far away you can fold your forearms to rest it on or use a pillow/block. Breathe deeply into your back body, relax your jaw and face.
Here you have it. Five poses that you can do anywhere, anytime. And if that means simply standing up and coming into some sort of Mountain pose and breathe, well, that’s a great start. And the best part about it? You don’t need any equipment, specific room, or someone else to guide you. All you need is yourself and your breathe.