If you’re thinking about adding yoga to your exercise routine, you’re not alone. Many physicians and fitness experts recommend the age-old practice for its capacity to increase flexibility, muscle tone, stamina, coordination, and endurance. Studies indicate that yoga also offers a great program for decreasing stress and anxiety through its calming, focused breathing techniques. Moreover, it’s a gentle way to gradually get into better overall health for people of all ages and levels of physical ability.
However, for those just starting out, any new fitness challenge can be intimidating. Ease into the physical benefits of yoga by hitting the mat with these simple movements:
The traditional yogi’s pose of sitting on the floor with legs crossed, hands upward and resting on the knees, is called sukhasana. Keeping your eyes closed, concentrate on breathing in and out while feeling the stretch. Focus on relaxing and just assessing how your body feels in the unfamiliar configuration. This can give you a baseline idea of your current level of flexibility and your ability to stay calm and attentive.
The tree posture, in which you stand up straight, move your hands palms together over your head, and balance on one leg, is great for stretching your entire body and increasing balance. While balancing, bend your other leg and bring that foot to rest against the inner thigh of the leg you’re standing on. After holding the position standing on your right foot for a few seconds, change legs and repeat.
To perform the invigorating downward dog pose, rest on all fours, with legs and arms parallel. Walk forward slightly with your hands, spread out your fingers for added balance, and push your hands firmly into the mat. Slowly thrust hips up, so that you end up bent into the shape of an upside-down “V.” You should have space between your shoulders and ears, and your knees should be bent a little, with your feet apart to about the width of your hips. Hold the posture for a few seconds as you take three full breaths.