One of the beautiful things about yoga is its ability to embrace all levels of experience and fitness. Men, women, children, and entire families can benefit from the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of yoga. Building on your experience and strength can help you gain confidence and enjoy your yoga experience, getting stronger, more flexible, and more confident in your poses with every class.
Here are three essential yoga poses that will help build strength, encourage flexibility, and assist you in finding your inner yogi.
1. Mountain Pose
Benefits: strengthen your core, reduce stress, and prepare for your yoga practice while in this pose.
Action: standing tall with your feet together, neck in alignment with your spine, breath easily, in and out through your nose. Plant your feet firmly into the ground and tighten the muscles of your legs and bottom, creating stability and balance.
Finally, with palms facing inward, inhale as you raise both arms straight above your head and hold for a breath. Release arms gently into a resting mountain pose.
Newbie tip: If you are having trouble balancing with your feet together, widen them by several inches.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
Benefits: strengthens shoulders, back, arms, hands, and legs. Stretches sides and lats, shoulders, hamstrings, and calves.
Action: starting on hands and knees with your toes curled under, raise up from your knees and push your hips back so you feel stretching and lengthening in your hamstrings and calves.
Hands should be shoulder width apart and active with a space underneath your palm. The backs of your legs should be relaxed, allowing your heels to drop toward the mat below them, as you pull the muscles of your quads up and push through your hands into the mat in front of you.
Newbie tip: for a more gentle shoulder stretch place a block under each hand.
Benefits: strengthens the hands, wrists, shoulders, arms, core, and legs.
Action: this pose is most easily entered into from downward dog. Lower the hips without allowing the knees to fall, forming a straight line from the head to the heels. The hands should be directly under the shoulders, glutes tight and strong, abs pulled in tight.
Be sure to direct your gaze slightly ahead of your hands keeping the neck aligned with the spine and continue to breath deeply.
Newbie tip: If you have low back pain, or simply want to reduce the stress on your lower back, modify the plank by bringing your knees to the mat and creating a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.