If you’re new to yoga or have fallen out of practice, getting started can be intimidating. This yoga for beginners series is the perfect way to ease into a yoga routine!
Even yoga for beginners can be pretty strenuous, but yoga isn’t always about contorting your body and pushing your limits. Yoga for beginners doesn’t have to be easy, but I wanted to create a series that anyone could jump in and try without feeling intimidated. This gentle series is focused on helping you start a yoga habit. You can worry about more strenuous poses later when yoga has become part of your day-to-day.
Yoga for Beginners
1. Controlled Breathing
Pretty much any good yoga routine starts with one or two breathing exercises to help get your centered for your practice. I’m including my two favorite breathing exercises here. To perform this first exercise, sit cross-legged on the floor with a straight spine and your hands palms up on your knees. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in. Hold it for a slow count of four, then exhale for a slow count of eight.. Before inhaling again, pause for a slow count of eight, then inhale for a count of four.
Repeat this breath until you feel calm and centered.
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing challenges you to actively use both sides of your brain. Remain in the same cross-legged position from the first breathing exercise, and check out the video at the top of the page for a step-by-step tutorial!
3. Cat/Cow Posture
Cat and Cow poses go together so beautifully that I pretty much consider them one pose. Come onto hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees lined up with your hips. As you inhale arch your back, tilt your head back, and press on the floor with your hands On your next exhale, pull your belly in, fold your chin toward your chest, and arch your back in the opposite direction. Repeat this for 10-15 rotations – listen to your body! You can see an illustration of the two poses above.
4. Downward Facing Dog
You can transition to downward dog right from your hands and knees. Just straighten your legs and push with your palms, letting your head relax to a neutral position. Focus on pulling your shoulder blades together and gently pressing your heels toward the floor. Relax and breathe in this posture for as long as you like!
5. Standing Forward Bend
From downward dog, walk or jump your feet toward your hands, and bring your weight to your heels. You can grab hold of your elbows, let your arms hang, place your fingers or palms on the floor, or even grab hold of your ankles or calves. Try any of these variations to find the forward bend that you like best. To come out of this posture, roll your spine up, one vertebra at a time, until you’re standing up straight. Bring your head up last, taking a deep inhale as you lift your chin up to a neutral position.
6. Warrior II
From standing, walk or jump your feet apart. You want a nice, wide stance – more than shoulder width apart. Turn your right foot toward the right wall, and turn your left toes in slightly. Bend your right knee, bringing your thigh as close to parallel to the floor as you can. Inhale as you raise your arms, so they are parallel to the floor, then turn your head so that you’re gazing out past your right hand. Stay here for 10 deep breaths, then reverse your feet and repeat on the left side. Come back to standing up straight, feet together, when you’re done.
I know, lunges seem like something for gym-goers, but the lunge is a powerful yoga pose, too! From standing, step your right foot forward, and bend your right knee so that just your left toes are on the floor. Keep your left leg straight, and slide it backwards, if you need to. You want your right thigh parallel to the floor and your left leg straight out behind you. You can either leave your palms or fingertips on the floor or lift your arms up over your head, if you feel like you’ve got good balance in this posture. Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the opposite side. To come out of lunge, bring your back knee to the floor and sit on your knees.
8. Bridge Pose
This posture stretches and strengthens without being too strenuous. Begin on your back with your arms by your sides, and bring your feet close to your bottom. Press your feet into the floor and tense your bottom, lifting your butt and lower and middle back off of the floor. You’re going for a straight line that begins at your knees and goes all the way to your chest. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then release slowly back onto the floor.
9. Reclined Twist
This is one of my favorite yoga poses ever. Lie on your back with your arms stretched out to either side. Bring your feet toward your body, so your knees are bent, then let your knees fall to the right as far as they can go without lifting your upper body off of the floor. Complete the pose by gently turning your head to the left. You can hold this for up to 60 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
Savasana may not feel like a proper yoga posture, but it’s actually just as important as every other pose in this series. The time you spend in savasana helps your body absorb the benefits of the poses that you just did, and at the end you’ll feel refreshed and energized. Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Let your feet roll out, and gently close your eyes. Think about relaxing every part of your body, from the top of your head and your forehead all the way down to your fingers and toes. Relax and breathe here for as long as you like. If you fall asleep in this posture, no one needs to know!