You might have conjured up the idea that yoga is difficult? This may have made you feel too intimidated to join a class. True, yoga is difficult, but not for the reasons you think.
Yoga teaches you how to sit with yourself and reveal who you are. So yes, at some points, it is difficult and uncomfortable, but it is also extremely rewarding.
In this post, we explain 5 common poses of yoga. If you need a boost of confidence before joining a class, give them a go at home first. It’s worth remembering that every experienced yogi has been a beginner at some point.
If you haven’t followed the blogs until now, check out some of the other posts. They will help you choose an appropriate class, learn some benefits of yoga, and journey through time with a short rendition of yoga history. It’s always handy to have a little bit of knowledge under your belt before approaching something new.
We begin with the very first asana (pose) documented Sukhasana...
Sukhasana – Easy Seat
Sukhasana is the first yoga pose to be documented anywhere (it was found inscribed on the walls of ancient India). It is a seated crossed-legged position and is usually the preferred position for meditation.
Despite its name, it took me a long time before I would ever deem Sukhasana easy or comfortable. Even after 15 years of practice, there are still days when discomfort creeps in. I always keep props (blocks and bolsters) on hand to relieve any aches and pains.
How to practice…
Sit up tall with your legs crossed at your shins.
Avoid leaning forward. Rock back and forth until you find the point that feels most upright. Sit with your back against a wall if you need to.
Relax your shoulders and leave space between them and your ears.
Place your hands anywhere that feels comfortable. In your lap, on your knees, or follow your teacher.
Twisting to the left and right before and after practising Sukhasana helps prepare and relax your spine. Your spine is the pathway of your nervous system. The taller you sit, the better energy can flow.
Try switching it up and sitting in a non-natural cross every now and then to experience how this version feels too.
Childs Pose - Balasana
Child's pose is calming and restorative and makes an ideal resting pose. It's important not to overexert yourself during practice. If you need to take a rest, take a rest. This is a lesson that you can off the mat and into everyday life too.
I like to use child's pose to help with anxiety or nerves before a big meeting or event. There is something reassuring about being in child’s pose, and it makes me feel safe. Give it a go. Maybe it will have the same effect on you too.
How to practice…
Kneel on the floor with both knees together.
Lengthen your spine, ie. Don’t slouch.
Bow forward, keeping the length in your spine as you fold.
Extend your arms forward and rest your forearms on the ground. Alternatively, place your arms alongside your body with the tops of your hands touching the ground.
Another variation of child’s pose is practised with knees wide apart. You fold forward into the space between your legs. With your knees apart, you are m
ore likely to experience a stretch to your inner hip. Whereas with your knees together, a stretch in your lower spine.
Remember, our bodies are all different. Play around with these two variations until you can identify what feels best for your body at the time.
Downward Facing Dog – Ardo Mukha Svanasana
Probably the most famous pose of them all. Downward facing dog helps increase strength and flexibility and stretches all the muscles down the backside of your body. It complements sitting all day and various types of exercise such as running.
You will come back to down dog many times throughout a class, so it’s good to feel as comfortable as possible.
How to practice...
Go down onto your hands and knees, a position known as “tabletop”.
Spread your fingers wide on the ground to set a strong foundation.
Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the ground.
Bring your chest to meet your thighs to create length in your spine.
Gradually lift your hips to the sky until you look and feel like an upside-down “V”.
Press your heels down toward the ground without worrying if your heels meet the floor or not.
Look in between your ankles.
The aim here is to have a straight spine. This may mean that you need to bend your knees to avoid rounding or arching your back. If you feel tight, peddle your legs as if you are walking, but without moving anywhere - often referred to as “walking the dog”.
Although this pose is a little challenging at first, practised enough, it will eventually become your resting pose.
Plank - Phalakasana
Have you heard before that plank is a “full-body experience”? This basically means that almost all the major muscle groups in your body work together to sustain the pose. You will come across plank in most yoga classes because it is part of the sun salutation sequence (Surya namaskar) practised in Vinyasa classes.
From downward-facing dog, shift your body forward so that your shoulders are above your wrists.
You may need to adjust the position of your hands so that your hips are in line with your head and heels. Imagine a straight line linking all 3 points.
Push the earth away, keeping a tiny bend in your elbow sometimes referred to as a micro-bend.
Gaze down onto the ground beneath you at a point that makes a triangle with your hands.
Engage, or “turn on”, the muscles in your abdomen, shoulders, back, arms and legs to feel the strength of your body working together.
Plank is a wonderful pose to increase your stamina levels. It requires mental strength as well as physical strength to hold here for any length of time. At first, or when you simply don’t have the energy, drop your knees to the floor for a plank variation.
Cobra - Bhujangasana
The last pose we talk about today is Cobra or Bhujangasana in Sanskrit. Cobra is likely to be one of the first backbends you will meet on the mat. It helps to stretch across the chest, energises your heart, and gently strengthens the upper body.
Lie on your belly and place your hands directly under your shoulders. Take a breath or 2 here in preparation.
Press lightly into your hands and lift your shoulders and chest off the ground. Let your core muscles do most of the work, keeping the bottom of your rib cage touching the floor.
Move your shoulders away from your ears.
Micro-bend your elbows and keep them close to your rib cage.
Press the tops of your feet on to the ground.
Gaze forward and slightly up.
Each subtle adjustment in cobra will help you to feel the benefits of this pose. Don't rush in or out of it.
So there you have it, 5 poses to start you off.
Yoga may seem scary and intimidating from the outside, but once you make it to the mat, you will see that it’s really not that bad.
One last thing, props (blocks, bolsters, straps) are your friends. Always have them on hand to support your practice.
Welcome all beginners to try a private yoga class with us so later on you may join the group classes with confidence.