The practice of yoga has so many incredible healing benefits to both our mind and body. The word Yoga in Sanskrit actually means, to yoke or bind, to unite [mind, body and spirit]. Far too often I hear people say that they aren’t flexible enough to go to a yoga class. If that’s you – this stops now! Yoga is a life-long practice that has no goals or expectations, that’s the beauty of it. In addition to strength and endurance, flexibility is an essential component to leading a healthy, fit life as we grow older. In the words of K. Pattahbi Jois (founder of ashtanga yoga), “Whether you do your first downward dog at 14 or 44, it’s not your history but your presence on your mat that counts.”
These are 7 beginner yoga poses that you can do at home everyday to increase flexibility. Here are some free, short at-home yoga videos you can watch too.
1. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend): Contrary to what it looks like, this pose is not just flopping forward over your legs. Stand evenly on both feet hip-distance apart, micro-bend your knees to avoid hyper-extension and hinge over your legs from your hip joint (not your upper back). Engage the quadriceps and hamstrings so vigorously that you feel yourself finding more extension in your back and folding deeper. Keep tucking your lower belly in to avoid too much rounding in the low-back. Inhale, find length in the back and exhale, fold deeper.
2. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose): This is a great intro to deeper backbends. Lie on the floor with the tops of your feet, thighs and pubis bone pressing firmly into the mat. Place your palms underneath your shoulders and on an inhale, lift the sternum. Draw your shoulder blades down the back to create space in the neck. Work on pressing your palms into the mat as you find length in the upper back, possibly straighten your arms–but be careful not to compress the lower back (this might mean you keep your arms bent, as pictured). Stay for 10-15 breaths.
3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog): This is an incredible stretch for your entire body. Start on your hands and knees with your hands 4-5 inches in front of your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Inhale, and on your exhale begin to lift the hips and straighten the legs. Press firmly into all 10 fingers, especially the index fingers and thumbs. Gaze at your belly or in-between your thighs. Read more on alignment for this pose here.read more