Did you know that there are well over 300 yoga poses in the physical yoga practice? If that number seems overwhelming to you, don't worry! Learning the following five yoga postures is a great way for you to get acquainted with the practice as a beginner. Once you have a good understanding of these postures, you can start to feel more comfortable in a class or practicing on your own at home. If you do each one of these for 5 to 8 breaths, it also creates a great beginner’s yoga program for you to do every day.
Mountain Pose is the base for all standing poses. It gives you a sense of how to ground into your feet and feel the earth below you. Mountain pose may not look like much, but there is a ton going on. Start standing with your feet together. Press down through all ten toes as you spread them open. Engage your quadriceps to lift your kneecaps and lift up through the inner thighs. Draw your abdominals in and up as you lift your chest and press the tops of the shoulders down. Feel your shoulder blades coming toward each other and open your chest, but keep your palms facing inward toward the body. Imagine a string drawing the crown of the head up to the ceiling, and breathe deeply into the torso. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
2. Downward Facing Dog
Downward dog pose is used in most yoga practices, and it stretches and strengthens the entire body. If this is the only pose you learn, it’s one of the best! (I always say ''a down dog a day keeps the doctor away''.) Come onto all fours with your wrists under your shoulders, and knees under your hips. Tuck under your toes, and lift your hips up off the floor as you draw them up at back toward your heels. Keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight; otherwise, try and straighten out your legs while keeping your hips back in space. You can walk your hands forward to give yourself more length if you need to. The goal in downward dog is to distribute the weight evenly in the arms and legs and use the core muscles to lift up through the center. Press firmly through your palms and rotate the inner elbows toward each other. Hollow out the abdominals and keep engaging your legs to keep the torso moving back toward the thighs. Hold for 5-8 breaths before dropping back to hands and knees to rest.
Plank teaches us how to balance on our hands while using the entire body to support us. It is a great way to strengthen the abdominals and to learn to use the breath to stay in a challenging pose. From all fours, tuck under your toes and lift your legs up off the mat. Slide your heels back enough until you feel you are one straight line of energy from your head to your feet. Engage the lower abdominals, draw the shoulders down away from the ears, pull your ribs together and breathe deeply for 8-10 breaths.
Triangle is a wonderful standing posture to stretch the sides of the waist, open up the lungs, strengthen the legs and tone the entire body. Start standing with your feet one leg-length apart. Stretch your arms open to the sides at shoulder height. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left toes in about 45 degrees. Engage your quadriceps and abdominals as you hinge to the side over your right leg. Place your right hand down on your ankle, shin or knee (or a block if you have one) and lift your left arm up to the ceiling. Turn your gaze up to the top hand and hold for 5-8 breaths. Lift up to stand and repeat on the opposite side. I like to imagine I’m stuck between two narrow walls when I’m in triangle pose.
Tree is an
awesome standing balance to help beginners gain focus and clarity, and it teaches you how to breathe while standing on one foot. Start with your feet together and place your right foot on your inner left upper thigh. Press your hands in prayer and gaze at a spot in front of you. Hold and breathe for 8-10 breaths, then switch sides. Make sure you don’t lean into the standing leg, and keep your abdominals engaged and shoulders relaxed.
About the Author
Kristin McGee is AcaciaTV’s yoga instructor and a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. Kristin contributes new yoga workouts each month to AcaciaTV. She also contributes to Health.com/Health magazine and has created several fitness DVDs, including Acacia’s Weight Loss Pilates, Pilates for Beginners and Body by Bethenny with Bethenny Frankel, which are also available to stream on AcaciaTV. She has trained celebrities such as Tina Fey, Savannah Guthrie, and Steve Martin. kristinmcgee.com
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