If you’re just beginning with yoga, it pays off to start with poses that help you develop the core foundations of yoga postures so you feel successful early on and home in on the skills needed to get stronger and more flexible faster.
Here, Michelle Trantina, yoga teacher and co-founder of myyogaonline.com in Vancouver, B.C., suggests three of the best yoga poses for beginners.
1. Downward-facing dog
A yoga staple, downward dog strengthens the upper body, releases tension in the spine and stretches out the back, calves and backs of the thighs.
But just because this pose helps limber you up doesn’t mean it’s all that easy. ‘While technically a resting pose, downward dog can be physically challenging and not restful at all!’ says Trantina. ‘Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t hold it for a long time’just do what feels right.’
‘ Get onto your hands and knees with fingers spread open and pointing away from you, hands slightly forward of your shoulders.
‘ Distribute your weight through your whole hands, not your wrists. ‘Spread your fingers wide and press through the base of your index finger and thumb,’ Trantina says.
‘ Lift your knees off the floor, raising your tailbone and buttocks toward the ceiling; draw your abs up and in.
‘ Straighten legs, heels down, or keep knees slightly bent and heels off floor (a good beginners’ option).
‘ Gently press tailbone upward as you lengthen through your arms and legs. Keep head in line with arms.
‘ Hold for up to five yoga breaths; return to starting position.
2. Two-knee spinal twist
This beginner’s yoga pose stretches and relieves tightness in your chest muscles, shoulders, upper and lower back, hips and spine. ‘It’s very rejuvenating,’ says Trantina.
‘ Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on floor, feet and knees together.
‘ Extend arms to your sides, aligning hands with shoulders, palms touching floor.
‘ Tighten abs up and in as you slowly lift feet off floor, lowering bent legs to your right side, resting bottom leg on floor (if possible). ‘If it feels better, use a pillow, yoga bolster or folded blanket under your bottom bent knee,’ says Trantina.
‘ Gently turn your head to face left, pressing both shoulders toward floor.
‘ Hold for up to five yoga breaths.
‘ Keeping abs tight, return to starting position. Switch sides.
3. Warrior II
Do this pose to get better balance as you tone muscles in your hips, thighs, butt and shoulders.
‘ Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart’three to four feet, depending on your flexibility.
‘ Turn your right foot to point toward the right with both heels in line, keeping your body facing forward. Your left foot should be pointed forward or slightly inward, perpendicular to your right foot.
‘ Extend your arms to your sides at shoulder height, palms down. With tight abs, bend your right leg, gently lowering the pelvis toward the floor and keeping the torso upright, until your right knee is directly above your right ankle. Adjust the distance between your feet to adjust the stretch. ‘Relax your shoulders and keep your bent knee directly over your ankle,’ says Trantina.
‘ Gently turn head toward the right, gazing along your right arm and fingers.
‘ Hold for up to five yoga breaths. Switch sides.
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Image courtesy Michelle Trantina