So you’ve signed up for your first yoga class, but after scouring Instagram to research the various poses that people post of themselves on social media… you are wishing you’d never agreed to sign up to that beginners class.
You consider yourself about as bendy as a stick and don’t want to embarrass yourself trying to get your spandex clad backside, full of Decembers Christmas pudding up into the air to do a headstand, which quite frankly you couldn’t even master at age 7!
Fear not. You see, Instagram has ruined yoga for beginners. These beautiful pictures of bikini clad, slim ladies pulling off graceful, dancer-esque poses on tropical beaches is so far removed from what yoga is, that it can only be compared to how real a mouse Mickey Mouse is as the ambassador for Disneyland!
Apologies to any children reading this who have now had their Disney dreams shattered.
Yoga is for every body, every shape, and every level of flexibility….yoga is for everyone! It has many health benefits and can actually help with flexibility and mobility as our bodies’ age…. use it or lose it people!
And so what if you’re about as bendy as a stick…, that’s why you’re going to a beginners’ class. To learn how to stretch and relax those tight muscles, provide support for your joints, relieve pain and teach your body how to be more flexible.
So if you have joined a beginners class or course and want to get a head start (not headstand) on the yoga lingo and poses you may encounter, Yogatonic Yorkshire have put together the top 5 poses (called asanas in a yoga class) for you to read about, have a play with and hopefully provide you with the confidence to walk into your first yoga class knowing you don’t need to worry about your backside or being as bendy as the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.
Here they are counting down from five to one….
Coming in at number 5 we have “Mountain pose” (AKA – Tadasana in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit where yoga originated). This majestic standing pose invites you to stand tall and strong and is a good base to use to explore further standing postures.
Mountain pose is very grounding and stretches the entire body. It is very good for centring the mind and providing focus and is great for the posture and strengthening the legs.
How to do mountain pose.
1 – Stand with feet firmly grounded into the floor through all 4 corners of your feet
2 – Stand tall, elongating the neck and lifting through the crown of the head
3 – Shoulders should be relaxed, and down the back
4 – Pelvis is tucked under and belly button pulled in towards the spine
5 – Legs should be engaged and strong, with the knee caps pulled up
6 – Arms should be relaxed, yet engaged down the sides of the body with fingers spread wide
7 – Gaze should be down your nose, looking forward.
Is a yoga class actually a yoga class without the famous “Cat/cow” (AKA – Marjaryasana/bitilasana) which is in at number 4?
This pose is fairly easy to do, yet surprisingly has many benefits to both mind and body.
It’s a great warm up pose in a yoga class, and also a great spinal and neck release when you’ve been sitting at a desk all day, as it helps to prevent back pain by bringing your spine to correct alignment. It also helps focus the breath and releases stress, anxiety and quietens the mind. What’s not to love?
How to do cat/cow pose
1 – Start on all fours ensuring your joints in your arms are stacked and knees and hips stacked
2 – As you exhale, start to tuck your tail bone under, draw up your back into a cat arch, tuck your head to our chin, pushing into the arms and allowing your shoulder blades to draw apart
3 – As you inhale, start to drop the tummy, untucking the tail bone and reaching it into the air, push into the arms and look up, ensuring your shoulders are away from your ears and you are not crunching the back of your neck
4 – Repeat, allowing your breath to guide you between cat (exhale) and cow (inhale).
Middle of the pack and at number 3 in the top 5 poses for any beginner is the relaxing “Child’s pose” (AKA – Balasana). This is a beautiful resting pose that you will find repeated many times in many yoga classes. It provides balance and harmony to the body and allows the mind to enter a state of openness and receptiveness.
It’s very good for stress and anxiety and stretches and releases the entire spine…. Ah bliss!
How to do childs pose
1 – Kneel on the floor with your knees together
2 – Allow the bottom to rest on the heels
3 – Rest your forehead on the ground
4 – Keep your arms by your side and allow any tension in your back and neck to melt away.
Just missing out on a number one spot is probably the most famous yoga pose of them all – the “Downward facing” dog (AKA – Adho mukha svanasana).
We’ve all seen our dogs do it, it’s what they do to stretch out their entire bodies, and there’s good reason they do it.
Downward dog stretches, the spine, the neck, the arms, the shoulder, the hamstrings, the calves and works the core and strengthens the hands and wrists. It’s a fabulous all-rounder that actually classes as an inversion (head below heart like a headstand etc). It also helps release tension and headaches and deepens respiration. A good, old classical yoga pose.
How to do downward dog pose
1 – Start downward dog from kneeling on all fours.
2 – Take your arms just slightly in front of your shoulder width apart.
3 – Spread your fingers and press the weight evenly into your palms
4 – Took your toes under and start to push into the hands, bending your knees as you do so
5 – Start to press your hips and sitting bones into the sky, keeping a slight bend in your knees
6 – Lengthen your spine and push into the arms, relaxing your head so that you have a flat back
7 – Rotate the shoulder externally so that your upper arms move away from your ears
8 – Look between your thighs of your feet but keep your head and neck relaxed
And the moment you’ve all been waiting for has arrived. The number one yoga pose for beginners is the “Corpse pose” (AKA Savasana). Every yoga class you attend will end with savasana, some yoga classes may even start in this pose. For beginners it’s easy on the body, yet hard on the mind as you have to be still and focus on yourself and your breath only (you’d be surprised how many people struggle with this pose).
This is not part of the class to skip out on and is considered by many yogis as the most important part of any class.
It really does take time to allow the mind and body to settle and relax but the more you practice the more you will reap the benefits and it will soon become your favourite part of class. Enjoy!!!
How to do corpse pose/savasana
1 – Lie on your back with your legs stretched and relaxed down the mat, hip distance apart
2 – Allow your arms to fall by your side, palms up and allowing some distance from the body so you can feel air benefit your arm pits
3 – Allow the shoulders to soften and tuck your chin slightly into your chest, elongating the neck
4 – Close your eyes and relax the whole of your body, face and mind, focusing on your inward and outward breath
So now you have the basics, what are you waiting for? The main thing to remember is that yoga is NOT competitive. Your body is unique and your yoga journey is your own. Yoga is all about progression and not perfection and you should ensure that you follow your heart and NOT your ego.
It’s time to get excited about the things you will learn on your beginners course and just think about how much your mind and body will thank you.
It’s time you got your downward dog on…. enjoy yogis.