This is probably one of the most popular reasons why people do not attempt yoga. The path to greater flexibility and strength is by opening your mind to the idea that you CAN do things and that you WILL reach a point where your body won’t feel so tight.
Below are 6 pictures of poses that I will explain. I’ll start by summarizing
Asanas for Warm Up (1,2)
Standing Asanas – Hip Openers (2,3)
Standing Asanas – Neutrals (5)
Asanas for Warm Up
Every workout begins with a warm up. Yoga is no different! Cat Cows (Chakravakasana) are typically introduced in the very beginning to gently ease into more dynamic movements.
For Cow and Cat, you will need to start in table top position. This is accomplished by getting on hands and knees, shoulders underneath the wrists and knees hip width distance apart.
1. Cow Pose – Bitilasana
Purpose: Spine and belly stretch
-Start with you eyes/face gazing down
-Inhale, push the belly down towards the mat. You’ll feel the stretch in your lower back.
-If the neck allows, bring your head up
-This move is typically paired with Cat Pose
2. Cat Pose – Marjaryasana
Purpose: Spine and belly stretch
-From Cow exhale, arch your back upwards, drawing the belly into the spine
-Do not press the chin to your chest. Allow your neck to keep a natural curve
Hip Openers – Standing Asanas
I find that the most accessible directions to set up for Warrior II and Triangle is a wide leg stance—feet are parallel with toes facing the long side of the mat. One of the most common transitions in a flow style class would be Warrior II to Triangle, so I thought these 2 would be a perfect introduction to standing postures.
Both feet must have the weight evenly distributed so that the body feels grounded. From there, you externally rotate one leg so that the foot is facing the short side of the mat. Move the back foot at a 45 degree angle, being mindful to keep both heels in the same line. Keep the spine nice and long. Imagine that you have something pulling the crown of your head up and the tailbone down.
3. Warrior II – Virabadrasana II
Purpose: If engaged fully in the pose, you will:
- Strengthen the legs
- Open up the hips
- Stretch shoulders, groin
-Place hands on your hips
-Work on your foundation as discussed above and bend into the right leg ensuring the knee does not go beyond the ankle
-Try pulling the knee that is bent toward the pinky side of the toe
-With a long spine, rise your arms to a T keeping them as straight as possible
-Engage your arms by squeezing the triceps and imagine both arms are lengthening towards the fingertips
-Keep your gaze towards the front fingertips. If you ever forget, gaze towards the direction your knee is bent!
-Straighten the right leg and rotate the foot back into a wide leg stance
-Repeat on the left side
4. Extended Triangle – Utthita Trikonasana
A block or sturdy object will be quite helpful in finding proper alignment.
- Stretches/Strengthens the hamstrings, groin, legs, upper side body.
- Strengthens the legs
- Opens up the chest and hips and shoulders.
-Place hands on the hips
-Transition into this pose from Warrior II keeping both legs straight
-Starting with the right side, begin to hinge from the hip toward the right foot
-Place the botton hand (right) on a prop and push down to lengthen. If you’re not using a prop, place the hand on the outside of your shin on higher up on the leg. Do not put the hand on the knee as that will put too much pressure on the joint.
-Bring the top arm (left) straight up towards the sky
-Keep your chest open by pretending like you have to fit through a narrow cooridor.
-Shoulders should be stacked one on top of the other
-Gaze can be up towards the top hand or straight ahead depending on how your neck feels
-Slowly lift up to get out of the pose and return the right foot so that it is parallel with the left (wide leg stance)
-Repeat on the left side
More balance, less strength.
Neutrals mean that the hips and legs aligned in the same direction. This is typically seen in poses like Low Lunge, High Lunge and Warrior III. I thought it would be good to start off with Low Lunge
5. Low Crescent Lunge – Anjaneyasana
- Mobilizes and strengthens legs and hips.
- Per Jason Crandell, “lunges are the easiest way to open up the quads and hip flexors.”
-Hands can start on your hips
-The length of the stance will determine how deep the stretch will be. You’ll need to play around with this to find what works for you. For less intensity (shown in the picture), keep a shorter stance. For greater intensity, increase the distance between your front heel and back foot. Remember to find the sweet spot. If it is too easy, you won’t build strength. If it’s too difficult, you might sacrifice form.
-With one knee on the ground, point both toes straight back or keep the back foot curled (whichever feels best in your body)
-Make sure the front knee is bent past the ankle
-Maintain a nice long spine, drawing the tail down down towards the floor
-Raise the arms up, nice and long being mindful that the shoulders are not up towards the ears. If this is too strenuous, place the arms on the hips
There are so many backbends in the yoga playbook; however, bridge is the most basic and versatile and you will learn to love it! It is also the gateway to more advance asanas such as Shoulderstand, Upward Bow, or Wheel.
6. Bridge Pose – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Purpose: Strengthens glutes & hamstrings
-Lie on your back and bend your knees with soles of feet grounded to the mat. Making sure your hips are hip width distance
-Bring the heels back towards your bum so that finger tips can graze the heels
-Press the palms of your hands your feet down as you lift your hips off the mat
-Keep thighs engaged by pressing them towards the midline
-To come out of the pose, slowly lower the hips down and descend down one vertebrae at a time
Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory. – Sir Pattabhi Jois
Now that you’ve gone through some key poses, ask yourself these questions:
- How do I feel?
- Am I ready to dive a little bit deeper?
- Is this enough for me to practice and refine?
I urge you to find the happy medium now and when you’re ready to move on, let me know. I’ll guide you along your yoga journey (because every journey is different) and am always happy to assist!