There will be no yoga snobbery here, people. Anyone with any level of flexibility is welcome to the calming workout known as yoga. There is an unfortunate misconception around this exercise, and it is that inflexible people cannot participate. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to touch your toes and you don’t have to execute a full split. No contortion necessary like you see on social media platforms!
Yoga is for everyone and you can ease your way into certain poses. Most poses have modified variations, so you can work your way up to the full version. This is also beneficial for anyone with limited range of motion that stems from injury. It can be scary to start slow because you want to be able to go full scorpion pose out of the gate. Don’t be discouraged by the non-Instagrammable appeal to these simple yoga poses. They are very effective and if you feel the stretch, then the pose is working. Practice makes perfect, so continue doing the following stretches and you may find yourself in an advanced yoga class soon enough!
The Forward Fold
An easy beginner pose is the forward fold, which is a toe-touching pose when you can fully complete it. Don’t be afraid of it, though, as the primary goal is to stretch your hamstrings and lower back. To begin, stand up straight with your arms by your sides and feet hip-distance apart. Take an inhale and raise your arms above overhead and then fold forward as you exhale, hinging at the hips. As you fold, make sure that you keep your back straight and stop when you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. You can place your hands on your thighs or shins, depending on how far you can comfortably fold. You can also put a chair in front of you and use it for support. The main thing to remember is to keep your back straight when you start out. Hold for 10 deep breaths and then release.
Great for spinal flexibility, cat-cow pose works to improve mobility in the spine. It looks very simple, but some people fail to do it correctly. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. On an inhale, let your belly sink low and arch your lower back to move your tailbone toward the ceiling. Simultaneously, roll your shoulders back and lift your head up to direct your gaze in front of you. On an exhale, tuck your chin into your chest as you press into your hands and knees slightly to round your upper, middle, and lower back. Continue alternating between these two poses for 30 seconds.
Downward dog is one of the most common poses in yoga practices. It’s a great resting pose and beginners can modify it to fit their level of fitness or flexibility. The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to round your back in this pose. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Push into your hands and lift your hips back and up as high as you can. Really spread your fingers, drop your shoulders, and widen your upper back. Slowly start to straighten your legs, aiming to keep your heels on the ground. If you can’t do that, simply bend your knees and drop your heels closer to the ground. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and feel openness in your back. Hold this pose for 10 deep breaths and then return to the starting position.
The popular plank is both a pose in yoga sequences and a core burner in high-intensity workouts. You want to make yourself as straight as a stick in this pose, creating a straight line from your head to your heels. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Press your hands into the floor and engage your chest muscles as you step your feet back to enter a push-up position. This is the plank pose. Make sure to engage your glutes and core muscles, keeping your body straight. That means that your hips should not be sagging towards the floor! Start by holding this pose for 10-15 seconds and then resting. If you can go for 20-30 seconds, then you can go for that amount of time, so long as you don’t compromise your form. Gradually work your way up to 30-, 45-, or even 60-second planks.
Reclined Butterfly Pose
Great for releasing tightness in the inner thighs, reclined butterfly pose is quite relaxing, and a great way to end a yoga sequence. Begin in a seated position, bringing the soles of your feet together to enter a butterfly pose. Keep your back straight and sit here to get comfortable. Place a bolster or rolled up blanket behind you and lay back onto it. If the stretch along your inner thighs is too intense, put a pillow or two under each knee. Allow gravity to work its magic and relax into the stretch for as long as you need to.