While yoga has been around for centuries, it has surged in popularity over the last two decades. There are currently 37 million people in the United States who practice yoga; and I’m sure that the number of people who practice worldwide is even higher! People practice yoga for a variety of reasons such as gaining physical strength and flexibility, recovering from an injury, or to relieve stress and have more inner peace. Yoga is a practice that’s intended to meet you where you are physically and spiritually; to create balance, harmony, and a sense of connection in your life.
What you see on social media can be misleading and can cause many people to think that yoga is primarily about creating a “perfect” picturesque pose (like on a beach), or contorting the body into extreme ranges of motion. While there are some that do place an emphasis on the aesthetics, it’s more important to find yoga classes that will focus on developing body intelligence and guiding students to cultivate a safe and sustainable practice to enhance your overall well-being and bring a lasting benefit to your life.
Below are some common questions and misconceptions to help prepare you for the practice of yoga.
Are there classes for beginners?
There are definitely yoga classes that are open to all levels and abilities, including those that have never set foot on a yoga mat. It’s always best to do your own research to see what’s available in your area. Ideally you want a yoga teacher that is skilled at instructing those in the room, giving good cues as you move between poses. As a beginner, you shouldn’t have to buy yoga flashcards, memorize names of poses or understand Sanskrit before you go. A good yoga teacher and class should offer plenty of options to make the physical practice appropriate for you.
I’m not flexible!
This is the most common remark a yoga teacher hears. If you happen to be someone who believes this, consider that maybe your “tightness” has nothing to do with not being able to get your hands to the ground or bend your body like you’ve seen other people do. A functional yoga practice can guide on you how to work with your body type. Your mat becomes not only the place to practice asanas (poses) but also a tool where you can acquire knowledge and make discoveries about YOUR body. A good yoga teacher will guide you toward a deeper understanding of your body thus allowing you greater understanding and joy for the practice.
How do I know what class is right for me?
How should I prepare before class?
Hopefully this guide has helped to answer any questions or concerns you may have and sets you up for an optimal experience for your journey into yoga. See you on the mat! 😊
Many people today have tight hips and inner thighs due to prolong sitting at work and/or school, cars, and sitting at home. For many adults we have lost that easy flexibility in our hips and feel tight and restricted when attempting this pose. Regularly practicing hip-openers, such as Baddha Konasana, will counteract this stiffness, reduce pain, and bring more ease and grace to your overall movements.
Baddha Konasana comes from three Sanskrit words: Baddha meaning “bound” Kona meaning “angle” and Asana meaning “pose. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) has many names; Cobbler’s Pose, Butterfly and Diamond. Bound Angle, Butterfly and Diamond describe the shape of your legs while in the pose. Cobbler is derived from the way that Indian cobbler’s traditionally sat with shoes held between their feet as they worked. Whatever name you choose to call it, it is a great pose with many benefits.
Begin in a sitting position.
Press the soles of the feet together, and pull feet towards pelvis
Open the tops of the feet like a book. The bottoms and pinky toes should continue to touch, like the binding on a book.
Sit straight - don't round the back. Slowly begin to fold forward at the waist .
Added move: fold over feet with heart open, eyes looking up to the sky
Added move: fold over feet, arms extended to the floor and forward, gaze to the front of you
To come out of the pose, place your hands beside you on the floor. Press firmly through your arms and as you lift up, extend through the chest and bring yourself back to a seated position.
If you have issues with your knees, use blocks or cushions under your thighs to support your legs.
If feel that your spine is rounding as you fold forward or if you have any discomfort in your lower back, elevate your hips slightly by sitting on a small cushion or folded towel.
If your hips are tight, increase the angle at your knees by moving your feet further away from your body.
Caution: Never press on your knees in this pose! Doing so can cause injury to your groin and knees. Avoid jerking, pulling, pushing, or forcing any movement in this pose. Let your movements be slow and smooth.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be flexible, vegan, or young to practice yoga; it’s truly for everyone! Yogis come in all shapes and sizes and is accessible to people at all levels no matter the age. You can go to a class, just being you, and slowly but surely achieve your best self. Usually, yoga studios have many different level classes and the instructors can help you to modify poses if you are a beginner or want more of a challenge.
Here are just a few reasons to include yoga in your routine:
As a society, we are overloaded with stress, so it’s no surprise that people are attracted to yoga. Yoga is a wonderful way to relax at the end of a day, ground yourself, find center, and decrease anxiety to bring your body back into balance. Try a Yin yoga class or Restorative yoga class.
Do you want long, lean muscles? Many yoga poses increase muscle tone by activating your core, large and small muscles groups all at once. Over time, you’ll be able to flex those toned yoga arms 💪 with confidence and get yourself ready for arm balances you’ve seen on Instagram!
Yoga is a wonderful compliment to other forms of exercise. Where other activities like running or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) can make your muscles tight, yoga can support you to lengthen and create dimension in your body. Using your muscles in different ways will also help to prevent injury.
Flowing through a sun salutation is the perfect way to energize your body and mind while articulating the curves of your spine in order to keep it healthy. Sun salutations are typically done in the morning, but can be practiced any time you need a pick-me-up. So, skip the morning cup of coffee ☕ and practice these seven yoga poses for more energy!
Due to sedentary lifestyles and desk jobs, many people are dealing with back pain and poor posture as a result of lost articulation of the curves of the spine. Yoga, when practiced regularly, can help reverse the damage that sitting and slouching cause by bringing out these natural curves. Poses that lengthen the sides of the waist, broaden your chest or back, and help you learn pelvic orientation can be very beneficial for you. Good yoga posture teaches every part of your body to bear its own weight as an alternative of relying on other muscles to carry the load.
If you’re injured, yoga can aid you in rebuilding and learning your body on a deeper level to prevent future ailments. Many athletes work the same muscle groups over and over causing the muscles and joints to wear out over time. Yoga helps joints stay healthy and mobile, while working the entire body to make sure you’re strong enough to support the body parts that get the most wear and tear. Start slow and when possible work with a yoga teacher who can show you how to modify poses based on any injuries you may have as well as, learn poses to avoid.
Caution: Not all yoga poses are suitable for everyone. Always consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. The information provided in this blog is strictly for reference only and is not in any manner a substitute for medical advice. Modify poses with yoga props like blocks and blankets. Always practice yoga poses within your own range.
Baby Cradle pose or Leg Cradle pose, is a seated hip-opener that also stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles. It is a slight variation of pigeon pose and is sometimes also known as rock the baby pose. Although this pose is considered a beginner level yoga asana, its benefits can be profound. This asana is a wonderful yet gentle preparation for meditation and for more challenging asanas, such as full lotus and pigeon pose.
How to do Hindolasana
1. Begin in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
2. Inhale and lift your right leg up.
3. Place your right foot on your left forearm, and your right knee on your right forearm.
4. Clasp for fingers and bring your right shin close to your chest.
5. Twist your upper body to right side and then to your left side.
To come out of this pose, release your foot and sit in Dandasana / Staff Pose.
Repeat the sequence on your left side for the same length of time.
If this pose causes your lower back to round, or doesn’t feel good for your knee, try a seated figure four stretch instead, planting your feet on the floor and your palms or fingertips on the floor behind you. Lean back (keeping a long spine); cross your right ankle over your left thigh, keeping your right foot flexed; and walk your hands back until you find a position where you’re able to maintain a gentle curve in your lower back.
Caution: Do not attempt this pose if you have knee or hip injury.
Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow pose) is a combination of two yoga poses that gently stretch and warm up your spine. The Sankrit name for cat cow pose is Marjaiasana. Marjay meaning cat and Bitil meaning cow (asana meaning pose). Cat/Cow pose consists of moving the spine from a rounded position to an arched position. Hence Cat/Cow pose is good for the spine. It’s a basic motions but it is enormously beneficial in preventing back pain and maintaining a healthy spine. Bringing movement and flexibility to your spine helps your body to become more coordinated. Try a few slow rounds of Cat-Cow when you wake in the morning, before bed, or after sitting for a long period. You may notice yourself walking taller throughout the day! 😊
How To Perform Cat-Cow Pose:
1. Start on the ground with a neutral spine in table-top position with your knees and hands on the floor. Your knees should be hip distance apart in line with your hips and your arms should be straightened and in line with your shoulders. Keep your head in line with your body and either close your eyes or gaze towards the ground.
2. Take an inhale while in this neutral spine position and then slowly exhale your breath while rounding your spine towards the sky, keeping your hands and knees where they are.
3. As you round your spine you will gently release your head towards the ground while making sure not to tense your neck. Engage your lower core muscles and really try to bring your tailbone towards the center of your body while rounding your back as high as you can.
4. Once you have released your entire breath in Cat Pose start to inhale deeply while dropping your belly towards the ground.
5. Begin to arch your back and lift your chest towards the sky keeping your neck in line with your spine. Release your lower belly to the ground while actively lifting your tailbone to the sky.
6. After a full inhale while in Cow Pose, start to slowly exhale your breath and move through to Cat Pose once again. Continue through the Cat-Cow sequence as many times as you need, maintaining a slow and steady breath the entire time.
Sun Salutation is the most famous yoga sequence and can be a way for us to connect with our light within and our self-illumination. According to yogapedia.com, "Sun Salutation is one of the most important yoga practices. It is the set of 12 yoga poses which can be performed while chanting 12 different mantras. Mantras add a reflective spiritual element to the practice. The practice of Sun Salutation awakens the body intelligence to create energy directly from the sun. In the Vedic tradition, the sun is symbolic of consciousness and, therefore, has been worshiped daily in the Indian culture. Sun Salutation may also be referred to as Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit."
The original Surya Namaskar wasn't a sequence of postures, but rather a sequence of sacred words - mantras to honor the sun. The Vedic tradition, which predates classical yoga by several thousands of years, honored the sun as a symbol of the Divine. The full practice includes 132 passages and takes more than an hour to recite. The sun salutations were traditionally chanted at sunrise, repeating the sequence in each of the four cardinal directions.
If you want to “flow” through your Sun Salutation with more grace and peace, here are some simple and practical tips that can help make your Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) experience complete and blissful.
Meditate before you start Surya Namaskar
So why meditate before practicing the Sun Salutes? Meditation helps remove restlessness in the mind and prepares your body for Surya Namaskar yoga postures.
Practice Sun Salutation early in the mornings
Although Sun Salutations can be practiced at any time of the day, the early-morning hours are considered especially auspicious for yoga and meditation practice. For most of us, early morning is the time of the day we can be alone, without any interruptions or distractions.
Try moving slowly and deliberately
When you feel how the sequence becomes a sort of moving meditation as you practice, your center of awareness in your body (such as your third eye or your heart) challenges you to keep focusing there for the duration of your practice. Even when you pick up pace, don’t do the poses with jerky movements or with force. Allow the postures to flow gently and gracefully one into the other.
Have the Attitude of Gratitude
When you step on your mat, give thanks for the day, your body, your yoga practice and anything else that has meaning to you personally. This makes a big difference! You will be able to enjoy your stretches much more and to keep the positive energy flowing through the duration of your yoga practice.
Do your Surya Namaskars with awareness
This is a very essential element in the entire practice. Surya Namaskar could be very energizing when it’s practiced at a slower pace and with awareness on the breath. If done with proper awareness, one can feel the flow of energy starting from the Navel chakra through the entire body.
Use the breath to calm the mind (and steady the body)
Whatever happens in the mind influences the breath. Stress and tension cause the breath to increase, peace and calm slow the breath. The opposite is also true, slowing the breath will bring peace and calm to the mind. As the mind calms, the body will follow, tight muscles will soften and supporting muscles will become more steady.
Practice Sun Salutation as a warm-up or stand-alone practice
If you are new to yoga or don’t have time for an hour practice. For busy yogis, practice Sun Salutation for 10-15 minutes then relax in Savasana. If you have more time, practice Sun Salutation as a daily routine before starting your regular yoga practice. It is worth noting, if you are practicing Surya Namaskars as part of your warm-up, you can do them at a somewhat faster speed. When you practice them as part of the yoga posture practice, you can practice them slow to medium speed. After a few rounds, your body will feel light and flexible and the stretches in the active yoga postures become deeper. If you have backache, avoid practicing Sun Salutations at a fast pace.
Relax After Sun Salutation
As you finish your last round of Surya Namaskar, lie down and relax your entire body. For best results, it is advisable to lie down in Yoga Nidra or Savasana, giving your body and mind enough time to assimilate the effects of your practice.
Surya Namaskar is the perfect practice to awaken the body, focus the mind, and connect to a sense of gratitude for each new day. Remember that you have the sun inside your heart.
We often use and abuse our shoulders a lot more than we realize. Whether it’s sitting at a computer, lifting weights, or even doing a few too many Chatarungas, it’s important to balance all of that strengthening or lack of movement with opening postures. Try these shoulder-openers when your shoulders are feeling tight or especially overworked.
Forward fold with chest expansion
Begin in a forward fold with your feet at least hip-width apart. Allow your head and neck to relax. Interlace your hands at your lower back. If your shoulders are tight, keep a soft bend in your elbows. Slowly draw your palms forward, over your head, to open through the chest and shoulders. Take the shoulder opening to your limit, and breathe here for as long as it feels good.
Begin in chair pose, or Utkatasana. On an exhale, swing your right arm under your left, and bring your right palm to meet your left in front of your face. Lift your right leg over your left leg and compress your inner thighs, finding a tight wrap. Find a bind with the right foot behind the left calf, or use your right foot as a kickstand. Breathe here with a strong core, and draw your elbows away from your chest, and your palms away from your face. Switch sides when you’re ready.
Begin on your belly with your chin facing forward. Bend your knees, drawing your heels up to your gluts, and reach back and capture your feet or ankles from the outside. Exhale, and as you inhale, kick your feet into your palms, lifting your chest away from your mat. Gaze straight forward, and try to rock your weight into your belly. Draw your knees toward one another and breathe.
Kneel and walk your knees toward the front of your mat. Lift your hips over your knees, and bring your palms to your lower back, fingertips facing down for a deeper shoulder opening. Squeeze your elbows toward one another and lift your gaze while you open through your chest. Keep your hips stacked over your knees, and arch your spine while you lift through your heart. Find five breaths in your fullest expression, and keep pressing your elbows toward one another to open through your shoulders.
Begin in a seated position. Bend both knees, and swing your left leg underneath your right. Nestle your left heel next to your right hip. Stack your right knee over your left, and let your right foot rest on the mat beside your left hip. Extend your left arm high, bend at your elbow, and reach your left palm in between your shoulder blades. Bring your right arm behind your back, bending at your elbow and reach up to grasp your left fingertips with your right. If you can’t grasp opposite fingertips, you can use a towel or a strap. This is a very intense shoulder opener – either stay here, or fold forward from your hips. Switch sides after 5 or 7 breaths.
Balasana (Child’s Pose) comes from the Sanskrit words bala meaning child and asana meaning pose. Child’s pose is practiced in almost every style of yoga and class. This pose is usually practiced as a way to rest after an intense pose or sequence. However, it has numerous benefits of its own. Balasana is a great pose that allows you to turn inward; providing the opportunity to calm the mind and restore energy. Child’s pose is a basic beginner pose that nearly anyone can do.
Child’s pose is one of the most common postures that you will see when using yoga for back pain due to the versatility that it offers. Child’s Pose relieves tension in your back and hips while increasing flexibility and circulation to the muscles and joints in your low back. When practiced in the full expression of the posture, Child’s Pose can produce immediate back pain relief. Above are more great benefits of Child’s pose.
Getting into the pose:
To come into this pose, kneel onto the floor, and sit back onto your ankles. Keep your knees and big toes touching one another as you sit back. Lean forward at the waist and place your forehead on the floor. If your hips pop up, don't worry about it. As you stay in the pose, keep inviting your hips to meet your heels.
Your arms can take several positions:
To open your body farther, begin the pose in the same manner as described above. Instead of keeping your knees together, spread them as wide apart as is comfortable for you. Still keeping your big toes together.
Caution: If you have a groin injury, back or hip problems, consult with your physician prior to doing this pose. Please, carefully check in with your body before doing this pose, and do NOT do anything in which your body feels unsafe!
Padangusthasana or Big Toe Pose is a beginner yoga asana (pose) that is a very good stretching pose for all muscles of the body – from head to toe. In Sanskrit Padangusthasana translates as Pada meaning foot, angustha meaning thumb, hasta meaning hand, so the pose literally translates to thumb to foot pose and hand to foot pose.
Practicing this pose increases blood circulation to the brain and stretches the thigh muscles, hamstrings, calf muscles and the back, lower back and both the arms. This is one of the very few poses that increase muscle density and burn fat accumulated in them. Padangusthasana massages the liver and spleen and gives strength to the knees.
This pose is said to balance the body and mind is ideal for women who are trying to conceive due to its stretching quality. Big Toe Pose improves concentration, memory and focus and can help prevent osteoporosis to a great extent. It calms down the practitioner and cures headache and insomnia, making the body more flexible at the same time. The Big Toe Pose helps relieve wind and rejuvenates tired muscles.
How to do Padangusthasana:
Caution: In all forward bending poses, be to fold from the hips, not the waist. As you fold from the hips it will require a little more effort as you are moving more of your body than when folding at the waist. Performing hip flexion instead of spinal flexion in this pose will protect your intervertebral discs.
Garland Pose is a hip-opening yoga pose that helps to lengthen and open the hips, helping to create more mobility. The Sanskrit name for Malasana comes from two words: mala meaning garland and asana meaning pose. Malasana offers numerous benefits especially for those who sit all day at work. Sitting leads to a higher percentage of stress on the back and lower spine. When we sit at a 90-degree angle in a chair, we shorten our hip flexors (the psoas). As the psoas shorten, our lumbar spine is pushed forward and pulled out of alignment. Prolonged sitting can lead many people to experience a back injury or pain.
Our hips are one of the largest joints in our bodies, an energetic area where we tend to store anger, tension and rigidity. Our hips allow us to move forward in life with grace and ease, therefore, it’s important to keep this part of our body limber, open and lubricated. When aligned properly, practicing this pose can feel great, opening up the hip flexors and offering a deep stretch to the groin muscles and a complimentary release for the sacral chakra (second chakra) which oversees the flow of creative, sexual and reproductive energy. It can also help strengthen and relax the lower back, calves, and glutes. It also helps boost metabolism, stoke the digestive fire, and alleviate constipation.
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