Yoga is a great way to be healthy and feel better.
If you’re trying to improve your health, relieve stress and anxiety, or get more in tune with your body, yoga is a great option. Yoga can do all of those things and more. Research suggests that consistent yoga practice promotes mindfulness by encouraging awareness of the present moment without judgment. For example, one study examined how two types of yoga — Hatha and Vinyasa — affected brain function in people with mild depression and anxiety. They found that after eight weeks, participants experienced greater improvements in mood than patients who received standard care for depression.
In addition to mental benefits, yoga can offer physical benefits as well. One small study found that people who practiced Iyengar Yoga for 16 weeks saw improvements in back pain intensity as well as increased flexibility (2). Another study found that women participating in 12 weeks of prenatal yoga reported less sleep disturbance than women who did not participate in prenatal yoga.
Before you begin a Yoga class, you need to be familiar with the basic Yoga poses. The following step by step instructions will guide you through the Mountain Pose, Warrior Pose 1, Warrior Pose 2, Chair Pose, Chair twist, Triangle Pose and Bridge Pose.
The mountain pose is one of the most important yoga poses, just like a mountain. It is a meditative pose and the concentration in it helps you to reach higher planes of existence. It has many benefits and positions the body in specific ways. The mountain pose should be started at least once every day because it helps focus the mind, improve breathing and relax the body.
- Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
- Imagine a line of energy running from the top of your head through the center of your body to the floor, and ground yourself through this connection, as if there were roots extending out of your feet deep into the earth below you.
- Keep both shoulder blades down and back so their outer edges remain aligned with each other—this will prevent them from hunching forward during the pose.
- Lift both arms toward the ceiling, keeping them parallel to each other and stretched out to their sides, palms facing down or up depending on how much you need to stretch open through your chest area (for a bigger stretch, turn palms up).
Warrior Pose 1
- Stand in Mountain Pose with your feet together and your arms by your sides. Step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.
- Turn your right foot out 90 degrees to the side and turn your left foot slightly to the right. Align the left heel with the right heel. Firm your thighs and turn your left thigh outward so that the center of the left knee cap is in line with the center of the left ankle.
- Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring
Warrior Pose 2
- Move into Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II). From your Warrior 1, pivot your back foot so it’s parallel to the side of the mat and square your hips forward, still keeping both legs straight. Bend your front knee until it’s at a 90-degree angle — as in Triangle Pose — with the knee on top of the ankle and aligned over the toes. Reach your arms straight forward, shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
- Hold for 10 seconds to a minute, then release and repeat on opposite side.
- Stand with feet together and arms at sides.
- Bend knees, as if you are sitting in a chair.
- Lift arms overhead and bring palms together or raise hands to shoulder height and extend arms straight up over head, keeping biceps by ears.
- Tilt pelvis as you lower arms back to starting position to deepen the stretch along the front of thighs.
- Release pose and return to starting position by slowly straightening legs, then lowering arms back down to sides of body
To make the transition from Chair Pose to Chair Twist, you’ll be lifting your arms above your head and twisting toward the right. The easiest way to get into this pose is by following these steps:
- Inhale and lift your arms up above your head so that they’re parallel with each other. Your palms can face each other or they can face away from each other; it’s really up to you.
- Exhale and twist toward the right side of your body as much as it’s comfortable for you. The idea is that the twist comes from deep in your core—that’s where it should start. Your hips will naturally follow suit, but don’t force them more than they want to go on their own. You should feel a stretch in your obliques and maybe even a little bit down through one side of your legs (the same side you’re twisting toward).
- If there’s not enough room for both sets of fingertips in front of or behind you, just let one set go wherever feels best for them (usually back) while keeping the other set out in front of or behind you (usually out front). This will keep your balance steady so that all of the focus goes toward deepening that twist!
- Start in Warrior 1
- Turn your right foot out 90 degrees
- Keep your right foot directly under your right hip
- Lift your arms parallel to the floor with your shoulder blades pinched back and down
- Reach left hand toward the ceiling and stretch your left arm to the ceiling, lengthening the side of your torso
- Reach right hand toward the floor into a side angle pose on an exhale
Bridge Pose is a back bend that stretches the chest and spine, opens the front of the body, and relieves stress and fatigue. This pose is often done several times during a yoga practice as it provides a great stretch for long periods of time. It is also a common counter pose to Wheel Pose and Shoulder Stand, both in posture and in energy.
- Lie flat on your back on your mat with your legs hip-distance apart. Your arms should be by your sides with palms facing down towards the ground.
- Exhale as you press your feet into the ground and lift your hips up to meet your heels, bringing them toward each other as much as possible with your knees stacked over each other directly above your ankles ([see photo](https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/bridge-pose)).
- With shoulders pressing down into the mat, clasp hands under hips or interlace fingers together underneath pelvis if comfortable doing so ([see photo](https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/bridge-pose)).
- Lower halfway for supported Bridge Pose or lower all the way to full Bridge Pose (which will lift chest off ground). Hold this pose to continue opening along front side of body (chest) while simultaneously stretching along back side of body (spine).
Get into the pose by lying on your back. Bend your knees, and hold the inner edge of your feet with your hands, using a strap if necessary (as with other poses requiring a strap, simply looping it around the foot or ankle is fine). Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor to activate your lower back muscles.
Drawing directly from the legs, pull yourself up on your feet and push them away from you so that you feel length in the backs of your legs. Then open your knees wide apart. If possible keep them parallel to each other and stay at this width rather than letting them drift closer together as you get tired. Bring your toes toward one another so that they point straight up at the ceiling (the more flexible you are in general and especially in the hamstrings—back of thighs—the easier this will be) while bringing each heel close to its respective hip crease (or outer hip). This will allow for maximum opening of the hips, which is key to keeping length in both low back and hamstrings during this pose.
Stay here for five to 10 breaths, then release by bending one knee at a time over onto one side before pressing yourself up into a comfortable seated position as preparation for moving through any additional asanas (yoga poses)
As you progress through the downward-facing dog pose, remember to breathe deeply and focus on your breathing. Yoga is a mixture of physical exercise and mediation, so it’s important to make sure you’re meditating properly on top of doing the poses correctly. As you breathe in and out, take time to think about how good it feels to stretch your body after a hard day at work. If you’re feeling stressed about submitting that report late last week or having a tough conversation with your boss, now is the time to let go of those thoughts and focus on yourself instead.
Remember that warming up before exercising is always important, as well as cooling down after finishing exercising and drinking lots of water throughout the day!
The simplest Yoga poses, once learned, can be practiced by anyone at any time and in any place. Yoga is a self-regulating system and there are two ways to start practicing: learn how to do it on your own and create your personal sequences, or work with an experienced teacher who will present the whole program for you.