A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga


Whether you’re taking your first yoga class or your hundredth, it’s simple to really feel misplaced after an hour-long apply. What does that phrase imply? My leg goes the place? Can I damage myself doing this? If you’re interested in tips on how to sort out primary yoga poses correctly, this information is for you. Here are 9 widespread poses you’re prone to see in a typical yoga class, plus commentary from alignment-focused yoga lecturers about tips on how to do every pose in a method that helps your physique. (We’ve included each the English and Sanskrit names, since many lecturers will use each.)

1. Downward-Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana

(Emily Reed)

Downward-facing dog might be essentially the most recognizable yoga pose, and also you’ll seemingly encounter it a minimum of as soon as in each yoga class. This pose gently stretches and strengthens your backbone and hamstrings.

To get into downward-facing dog, begin in a tabletop place, together with your fingers and knees on the ground. Your ft needs to be hip-distance aside. Then elevate your knees away from the ground and push your tailbone slowly towards the again of the room the place the ceiling meets the wall. Your legs don’t must straighten absolutely; a microbend within the knees will permit the backbone to naturally curve and cut back pressure within the decrease again. Drop your shoulders away out of your ears and actively press your fingertips into the ground.

“Often, I see people with their index fingers pointed inward instead of forward,” says Tina Templeman, a yoga instructor with 14 years of expertise. “Make sure to point your index fingers straight forward to create an external rotation of the entire arm. This keeps your shoulders properly aligned.”

2. Chaturanga, or Chaturanga Dandasana

(Emily Reed)

If you’re in a Power Vinyasa class, you’ll seemingly encounter chaturanga dozens of occasions in a conventional solar salutation. To start, go right into a plank pose, together with your wrists below your shoulders and your toes below your heels. Slowly decrease your physique towards the ground on an exhale, drawing your elbows into your sides till they attain a 90-degree angle. From right here, you possibly can both slowly decrease to the ground or go into upward-facing canine. If you end up dropping your shoulders, hips, or stomach towards the bottom in chaturanga, put your knees on the ground.

Chaturanga is a difficult pose that over time can result in shoulder accidents, so it’s vital to method this pose with focus and warning. Cecily Milne, creator of Toronto-based Yoga Detour, says most yogis ought to start studying chaturanga by practising push-ups on an incline. “Put your hands on a chair and build your strength so you can lower your weight toward the chair and then up again without dumping into your shoulders and rounding [them] forward.”

3. Upward-Facing Dog, or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

(Emily Reed)

Upward-facing dog usually follows chaturanga throughout a conventional solar salutation. Start by mendacity on your abdomen. Place your fingers alongside your ribs and bend your elbows towards the again of the room. Then elevate your head, chest, and neck off the ground, pinching your shoulder blades collectively. This is low cobra pose; it’s an incredible alternative for individuals who expertise lower-back ache throughout backbends. If you favor to proceed into upward-facing canine, straighten your arms and press the tops of your toes into the ground to elevate your hips, knees, and quads off the bottom.

“You want to make sure you’re engaging your hamstrings and glutes in upward-facing dog,” Milne says. “This promotes hip extension. If you let them go, there’ll be more load on your lower back, and it will likely start to hurt over time.”

4. Warrior 1, or Virabhadrasana I

(Emily Reed)

To start warrior 1, the first step foot to the highest of the mat, toes dealing with ahead. Step your 2d foot to the again of the mat, then flip your toes to a 45-degree angle dealing with the entrance nook of the mat. Make certain your ft are about hip-width aside on the mat. Bend into your entrance knee and face your hips and head to the entrance of the mat.

“Commonly, yogis will relax their front foot and ankle in warrior 1, and then the knee dips inward or outward,” Templeman says. “Instead, try to press your foot into the floor to keep your knee in alignment. Also, think about relaxing your shoulders by spinning your thumbs behind you when your arms are up in the air. This allows your shoulders to rest, so keeping them in the air doesn’t feel like a struggle.”

5. Warrior 2, or Virabhadrasana II

(Emily Reed)

To transfer into warrior 2, plant 1 foot on the prime of your mat, toes dealing with the entrance of the room. Place the opposite foot in the back of the mat at a 90-degree angle (if that’s doable in your physique) or at a 60-degree rotation. Align your entrance heel together with your again heel, if doable. Then bend your entrance knee and prolong your arms out lengthy, palms dealing with down. Your entrance knee needs to be over your entrance ankle. Press into the ball of your entrance foot and the surface fringe of your again foot. You ought to really feel your internal thighs interact, in addition to your entrance quad muscle. Gaze out over your entrance center finger and breathe.

“I also like to remind people to draw their ribs in during warrior 2, because that strengthens your abdominal muscles and your back,” Templeman says.

6. Standing Forward Fold, or Uttanasana

(Emily Reed)

Forward fold stretches the again of your physique and strengthens your backbone. It additionally offers you a chance to take an additional breath between fast-moving sequences. To transfer right into a ahead fold, stand together with your ft about hip-width aside, fingers at your sides. Then slowly bend ahead and produce your fingers to the ground, maintaining a microbend in your knees. If you’d like, you possibly can seize your elbows and sway facet to facet to permit your decrease again to launch. Tuck your chin towards your throat to permit your head to loosen up.

“I sometimes see people lean back into their heels, but that allows your hamstrings to let go, and you could strain them,” Templeman says. “Instead, you want to put your weight into your toes when you bend forward.”

7. Chair Pose, or Utkatasana

(Emily Reed)

Chair pose affords the chance to construct leg energy and lengthen your backbone. Also often known as fierce pose, chair pose is often provided throughout conventional solar salutation variations. To go into chair pose, stand together with your huge toes touching and your heels barely aside. Then elevate your arms above your head, palms dealing with each other, as you sit your hips towards the again of the room. Imagine that your knees are glued collectively. Draw your stomach button inward to fireplace up your core. If you’re pregnant or have delicate knees, chances are you’ll wish to carry out this pose together with your ft about hip-width aside.

“People get most confused about what to do with their hips in this pose,” Milne says. “But what we really want is length in your spine. So I always say: Reach your arms out of your armpits actively up toward the sky. Keep your heels down and drive your knees forward. Your hips can be wherever they need to be as long as you lengthen the spine.”

8. Sleeping Pigeon Pose, or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

(Emily Reed)

Reclined or sleeping half pigeon pose is a hip-opening pose usually provided on the finish of a vinyasa class or in the course of a restorative yoga class. To discover pigeon pose, first go into downward-facing canine. Lift your proper leg up towards the again of the room, then draw your knee towards your nostril. Pull your proper knee towards your proper wrist, then permit the precise foot to attract towards the left wrist. If doable, your entrance shin needs to be virtually parallel with the entrance of your mat. Untuck your again toes, however maintain the entrance foot flexed to guard your knee. Walk your fingers ahead as a lot as is snug, maybe even inserting your brow on the bottom.

Most yoga lecturers advocate using blocks and other props to make reclined 1/2 pigeon extra restorative. (Try tucking a block below the precise hip and inserting one other below your chest.) If this pose hurts your knees, ask your instructor to information you into another choice, like figure four pose.

9. Child’s Pose, or Balasana

(Emily Reed)

Child’s pose is a resting posture usually provided a number of occasions throughout class between sequences. You may go into baby’s pose as a break when you’re feeling overexerted at any level throughout a category. To discover baby’s pose, come to a tabletop place together with your knees below your hips and your wrists below your shoulders. Then sit your hips again to your heels, untuck your toes, crawl your fingers towards the highest of the mat, and relaxation your brow on the ground. If you’d like, you possibly can barely widen your knees to permit your chest to sink to the bottom.

“This should be comfortable, but sometimes people’s feet, ankles, and knees hurt,” Milne says. “Especially if you wear hiking boots or run a lot, you might want to take this pose on your back. Actively draw your knees into your chest without using the strength of your arms. Then you don’t have your whole body weight sitting on your knees and feet.”

(Editor references)

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