Looking at Instagram, you might think yoga is all about twisting yourself into a pretzel and doing one-arm handstands on the beach. That couldn't be further from the truth. The physical practice of yoga is for everyone, no matter your weight, shape or ability, and all beginner poses can be modified to fit your needs. Whether you've got 20 pounds to lose or 200, there are plenty of poses you can do today to starting reaping the physical and mental rewards of a regular yoga practice.
If your weight makes it hard for you to get down on the floor or stand for very long, you'll want to begin with mostly seated chair yoga poses. Yes, chair yoga is a thing! And, it's no less worthwhile than standing on your head.
Forward Fold: Sit up tall in your chair with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Let your arms hang down beside you. Roll your shoulders back and down and keep your head neutral. Inhale your arms up over your head, then exhale as you fold forward from your hips. Try to keep your back as flat as you can. Fold forward as far as is comfortable without your spine rounding. It doesn't matter how far forward you fold. Place your hands on your shins or let them hang loosely by your sides. Take five deep inhales and exhales, then inhale back to the starting position.
Twist: Sit up tall in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your arms at your sides. Roll your shoulders back and down. Inhale your arms up over head. As you exhale, turn your torso and head to the right. Bring your hands down to gently grasp the right side of your chair, using it to deepen the twist. Take five deep breaths, come back through center and repeat, twisting to the left.
Back Bend: Scoot your hips slightly forward on your chair. Sit up tall with your arms at your sides and your feet flat on the floor. Roll your shoulders back and down. Inhale and broaden across your chest as you reach your hands behind you grasping the back of the seat. Your fingers should be pointing away from you. Press through your palms and straighten your arms as much as possible, pressing your chest up toward the ceiling, and allowing your head to drop back. Hold here for five deep breaths, then release.
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Standing poses range in difficulty from Mountain pose, which is simply standing erect on your mat with your shoulders rolled back and your palms turned out, to Bird of Paradise, which involves binding your arms though your legs and around your hips and standing on one leg with the other leg extended up toward the ceiling. The latter pose? You're probably not there yet. But there are so many standing poses you can do.
Half Moon Pose: Stand tall with your feet together or slightly apart. Roll your shoulders back and down, and contract your core muscles -- your abdomen, sides and lower back and hips. Inhale your arms up over your head. Interlace your fingers, releasing your index fingers, or grasp your left wrist with your right hand. Extend up toward the ceiling, push your left hip out to the side, then bend over to your right. Imagine you're bending your right side body over a beach ball. Hold for five deep breaths then inhale back to center. Re-extend through your spine, switch your grip, press your right hip out to the right and bend over to the left. Hold for five deep breaths and return to center.
Warrior I: From Mountain pose, step your right foot back about a leg length. Step your right foot a couple inches out to the right to give your hips more space. Stay on the ball of your right foot, or turn your foot out to 45 degrees and place the sole of the foot flat on the floor. Bend into your left knee and inhale your arms up over your head. Pull your left hip back and your right hip forward. Stay here for five deep breaths, then return to Mountain pose and repeat on the other side.
Warrior II: Take a big step open with your right foot, placing it at the back of your mat. Leave your left toes pointing forward and turn your right foot to 90 degrees. Align the heel of your left foot with the middle of your right foot. Bend into your left knee and inhale your arms up to parallel with the floor. Keep your left knee aligned over your right toes. Maintain a straight spine and slightly tuck your pelvis. Hold for five deep breaths, return to Mountain pose, and switch sides.
Seated Floor Poses
If getting down on the floor is no problem for you, try these poses. Getting back up may be the hardest part.
Cat-Cow: Get on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Pull your belly button in so your spine is neutral -- not rounding or arching. From here, inhale as you drop your belly down toward the floor and lift your shoulders and tailbone. Broaden across your chest and draw your shoulder blades down. Exhale as you reverse the position, rounding your spine and tucking your pelvis and chin. Spread your shoulder blades apart. Continue to alternate between the two positions for five to 10 rounds.
Downward Dog: From all fours, walk your knees back slightly. Spread your fingers and press your palms flat. Tuck your toes and inhale as you straighten your legs and bring your hips up toward the ceiling. You don't have to straighten your legs all the way, and your heels don't have to touch the floor. The important part is to keep a neutral spine, not rounding or arching. Press through your palms to straighten your arms. You can widen your hands and feet slightly to give your shoulders and hips more space. Hold here for five to 10 deep breaths.
Tree Pose: Starting in Mountain pose, bend your right knee slightly and open it out to the right. You can leave your right toes on the ground and rest your heel against the inside of your left leg. If you want to go further, lift your right foot off the ground and press the sole of your right foot into the inside of your left leg below the knee. Or, you can bring the right foot up to the inside of the left thigh. Bring your palms to touch in front of your heart and take five deep breaths. Release your foot back to the ground and repeat on the other side.
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