You've decided to try yoga for the first time — you've made a wise decision. Among its many benefits, yoga promotes muscle-building and flexibility, according to a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Yoga. Additionally, regular yoga practice improves both respiratory and cardiovascular function, reduces stress and anxiety and can improve your sleep patterns.
If you've long believed that yoga was only for super-flexible hippies, you'll be pleased to find that beginner yoga isn't as inaccessible as it seems. With a little bit of know-how and a series of simple poses, you can start reaping the benefits of yoga immediately.
Read More: 10 Poses that a Yoga Beginner Should Know
The practice of yoga is practically as flexible as the people who do it regularly — that is, you can suit it to fit your needs. Depending on your ability, goals and time available, you can practice yoga one to six times per week (give yourself a day off for rest) for anywhere between 15 to 90 minutes a session.
When you practice yoga, whether alone at home or at a studio, wear comfortable clothing that will stay close to your body when you move — baggy T-shirts or gym shorts will bunch up in the most inconvenient of places when doing twisting or bending poses, while fitted shirts or tank tops and leggings will stay put.
Types of Yoga
As yoga has grown in popularity, so have the types of yoga you can practice. A few common types of yoga include:
- Ashtanga: An intense style of yoga that requires adherence to a specific sequence of poses. Each movement links to a breath you take.
- Hatha: While "hatha" technically refers to any type of yoga, it's come to mean gentle, basic yoga postures. This is the type beginners will likely want to practice.
- Iyengar: A yoga style that focuses on finding a precise posture with the help of props such as blocks, straps or bolsters.
- Restorative: A gentle style of yoga that also uses props to help relieve some of the effort needed to hold poses. This style focuses on relaxing above everything else.
- Vinyasa: This yoga features fluid transitions from pose to pose, much like Ashtanga, but each class will include a variety of poses.
Beginner Standing Pose Routine
A beginner's routine doesn't have to be long or intense. When just starting out, you can do all standing poses, all seated poses or a mix of both. Choose five to seven simple poses, holding each one for four to eight breaths, to begin after you've completed a brief warmup.
- Start in Mountain pose, standing tall with your weight evenly distributed between your two legs, your arms by your sides and palms facing out.
- Move into Chair pose by inhaling, lifting your arms up over your head and facing your palms toward each other. Sit back slightly, like you're sitting in a chair. Your eventual goal is to get your thighs as close to parallel to the floor as possible.
- Inhale and move into Tree pose by standing up, keeping your arms where they are, and positioning one foot on the inside of the opposite leg. Avoid pushing into your knee joint -- keep your foot at the calf, ankle or thigh.
- Release your arms and legs to move into Five Pointed Star pose. Step out sideways into a wide stance and bring your arms up and out, as if your fingertips are trying to touch opposite walls.
- Return your feet and arms to a neutral position and bend at the hip to move into Half Forward Bend (go into Full Forward Bend, if you're flexible enough). Keep your back straight as you bend, going as far as you can without rounding, and place your hands on your shins or ankles.
- Your final pose is High Lunge; move into it by inhaling and stepping one foot backward, far enough so that the leg behind you is straight and the knee in front of you is at a right angle. Lean your chest against your forward thigh.
Seated Pose Beginner's Sequence
If you'd like to practice yoga, but injuries or pure exhaustion keeps you from standing, try a seated pose sequence.
- Begin in Easy pose, in which you're seated with your legs crossed in front of you. Rest your hands on your knees and relax your body.
- Shift your legs to get into Bound Angle pose. Uncross the legs and put them into a butterfly position, with the soles of your feet touching each other in front of you.
- Release one leg and stretch it out to your side. Place the sole of the opposite foot against the thigh of the outstretched leg. Turn your torso slightly toward the outstretched leg and relax your upper half toward your leg so your head rests on (or close to) your knee for Head to Knee pose.
- Stretch both legs out in front of you for Seated Forward Bend. Inhale and lift both arms up over you head, and then release your upper body down toward your knees. Grasp your shins, ankles or toes; wherever is the most comfortable.
- Inhale and lift back up. Move into a Bridge pose by keeping your legs outstretched and lying down so you're flat on the mat. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor, press your shoulders into the mat and lift your hips up so your body makes a diagonal line from your knees to your chest.
- End your practice in Savasana, or the Relaxation pose. Lower your hips and stretch your legs out so you're lying flat on your mat. Rest your arms by on your side. Focus on consciously relaxing your body for at least five minutes.