One of the greatest benefits of yoga is stress relief and relaxation. Chronic stress can have significant health implications and can present itself in a variety of ways, such as neck and back pain, sleeping problems, headaches, substance abuse, and trouble concentrating.
Yoga is an effective coping skill that can help you focus and relax. If you want to get the maximum benefit from yoga, consider joining a class and learning more in-depth techniques for breathing and meditation. In the meantime, you can do these simple yoga poses for beginners to improve flexibility, wellness, and manage the stress in your life.
1. Standing Forward Bend
We begin by standing, so that when you've gone through all the poses, you'll eventually be lying rested and relaxed on the mat.
Begin by standing and gaining your balance for a few seconds, hands on the hips. Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, not from the waist. If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or fingertips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles. If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Keep the legs active, not locked, to protect your back.
Listen to your body and only do as much as you're comfortable with.
2. Cat Pose
The next pose transitions you from standing to hands and knees. Cat pose is very soothing and is excellent for people with lower back pain.
Start on your hands and knees. Position your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath the hips. Have your fingers fully spread with the middle fingers pointing straight ahead. Make your back horizontal and flat. Look at the floor. This is your "neutral" positioning. When your pelvis is in neutral, your spine will be at full extension, with both the front and back sides equally long. Breath in.
Next, lift from the center upward, exhale and lift your back up like a cat, with your pelvis rotating down. Press firmly in the mat with your hands, pressing the middle of your back toward the ceiling. Curl your head inward and look on the floor between your knees. Repeat the motion fluidly, back and forth, remembering to exhale on the upward motion and inhale when you come back to "neutral."
3. Child's Pose
This is your go-to relaxation position if you only have a few minutes. It is especially beneficial for those who work on a computer all day, as it relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck. Child's Pose is a wonderfully restorative position, especially after any kind of backbend position.
Beginning on hands and knees, gently lower your body over your knees and stretch your hands in front of you. Relax your sides and breathe. Completely relax your arms and head.
Modifications for those with knee issues, place a cushion between your rear and your heels. If this hurts your feet or ankles, place a thin cushion or rolled towel under your ankles.
4. Knees to Chest
This pose is beneficial for those suffering with digestive gas or irritable bowel syndrome. It is easy to do and helps keep your lower back limber. Like child's pose, it is used as a soothing counter-position to backbends and twists.
Pregnant women past the first trimester should avoid this pose, as should those recovering from abnominal surgery.
Begin lying on your back and as you exhale draw both of your knees to your chest. Clasp your hands around your knees and if you are able, wrap your forearms so that you can clasp your elbows.
5. Seated Cross-Legged Pose
This final pose, like all that we've mentioned, can be done on it's own as a meditative pose. This pose calms the mind and strengthens the back.
Sit on a folded blanked for support. Cross your shins, widen your knees, and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you bend your knees and fold the legs in toward your torso.
A good beginner's tip: Sit with your back to a wall, slightly closer than the length of a yoga block, and wedge the ends of the block between the wall and your lower shoulder blades.
You don't have to be a yoga expert to enjoy the benefits of these simple beginner positions. Taking the time to breathe, relax, and be in the present moment through each position is a simple way to relieve the stress of the day.