To be a brand-new beginner to yoga is a fabulous thing. You are a vessel ready to be transformed, both physically and spiritually by the power of the practice. A spiritual newbie stepping on the path to enlightenment. A novice yogi. What a blessing.
Or not. Because yoga has become so incredibly popular in Western culture, there are many misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding it. Like that you need a fancy mat and stylish yoga wardrobe and to practice at a sleek studio full of sweating bodies and bumping music.
The truth is, we don’t need to “be” a certain way or have a certain body type or special yoga gear in order to enjoy a fruitful spiritual practice. According to the ancient Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “Anyone who practices can obtain success in yoga, but not one who is lazy. Constant practice alone is the secret of success.”
Each asana, which translates to pose or seat, is a world unto itself with plenty of variations and modifications to choose from. As a beginner, it is best to seek guidance from an experienced yoga instructor. Books, articles, and videos are good ways to inform and supplement your practice.
Many yoga classes at studios and gyms are fast-paced and quite advanced. It’s recommended that you practice slow flow; that is, holding each pose for several breaths, and moving more mindfully and slowly than your normal pace.
Breathe deeply and enjoy the stretch and relaxation. Integrate the yin yoga principles: let go of effort, let gravity help you in the posture, try to release tension as much as possible, and hold for 3-7 minutes.
Here is a great beginner routine of 7 poses to practice.
Great For: Strengthening and stretching your lower back.
Getting Into Your Pose: Start out lying on your stomach and place the palms of your hands on the ground, on either side of your chest. If you have any lower back issues, separate your feet. With an inhale, lift up your head and chest into the air, keeping your legs on the ground and your eyes facing forward.
Beginner Tip: Start out low. Beginners shouldn’t expect to fully straighten the arms. By maintaining some consistency in practicing this pose, over time you should be able to incrementally lift your entire torso higher. As your cobra grows taller, you will improve your flexibility and strength.
Great For: Improving balance.
Getting Into Your Pose: From a standing position, bring all your weight onto the right leg. Depending on how flexible you are, place the sole of the left foot on the inner ankle, calf, or thigh of the standing leg. Hold your palms together at the heart center, then lift them overhead.
Beginner Tip: Trees sway and fall; keep a smile as you practice. Over time, you should be able to raise the point where the sole of the foot touches the other leg. Remember to do both sides.
Great For: Stretching the whole body.
Getting Into Your Pose: Start out standing with the feet separated as wide as you feel comfortable. Point the toes of both feet forward. Lift your arms out to the sides, holding them parallel to the ground. Keeping the arms and legs as straight as possible, tilt the torso to the right and touch your right knee or shin, depending on how flexible you are. Hold for several breaths. Then switch and practice Triangle Pose on the other side.
Beginner Tip: As your flexibility increases, you may be able to reach past the shin and touch your foot. As you do this, point the support foot in the direction of the stretch for better support and to increase your stretch.
4. Downward Facing Dog:
Great For: The arms, legs, and back.
Getting Into Your Pose: Start in the hands-and-knees position on the ground. Lift your knees off the ground, raising your tailbone up toward the sky while straightening your legs. Lower your head toward the ground. You will lengthen the spine, arms, and legs to the point where your body forms a triangle with the ground, with your tailbone at the highest point.
Beginner Tip: Bend one knee at a time, pushing the opposite heel toward the ground. Switch back and forth a few times. To come out of the pose, walk your feet toward your hands and your hands toward your feet.
5. Standing Forward Bend:
Great For: Stretching the lower back and backs of your legs.
Getting Into Your Pose: Standing with the soles of your feet on the ground and the legs hip-width apart, lower your head toward the ground and touch your legs—wherever the hands reach is fine.
Beginner Tip: If the hamstrings are tight, bend your knees. Let the neck muscles relax completely.
6. Child’s Pose:
Great For: Relaxing and cooling down with this restorative hip-opening stretch.
Getting Into Your Pose: From the hands and knees position, separate your knees wider than the hips. Keeping your hands in position, press the pelvis back and down toward the heels, lengthening your arms and lowering your head toward the floor.
Beginner Tip: Touch the hips to the feet, if possible. If not, just lower the hips as much as possible and relax the torso and arms, resting the forehead on the ground or on a blanket or block.
7. Corpse Pose:
Great For: Finishing off your routine with stillness and relaxation.
Getting Into Your Pose: Simply lie on your back, focus on your breathing and stillness, and relax all the muscles of your body. Invite your mind and heart to rest, as well.
Beginner Tip: Let go and connect with yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.