Yoga Tips for Beginners
As a fitness professional and Yoga Instructor I am quite excited to see yoga more widely recognized. It is being acknowledged for its many health benefits as well as a valid option for fitness.
However, yoga can seem daunting to those who are unfamiliar with it. I am always asked what is a good YouTube channel or local class for beginners. The truth is, any and all. Like any activity or skill, the best way to start is to just start. However, this answer is tends to be unsatisfactory and many will not “just start” without any prior knowledge.
So, for those who need a little at home practice before joining a class I suggest learning the Hatha Surya Namaskar series, or Sun Salutation. This series of postures or asanas, is a great way to start or end the day. There is also the Ashtanga Surya Namaskar series, one of the main differences being the movement of jumping back to the plank position from a forward fold. This can be a bit daunting for beginners. However, once you’ve mastered the Hatha Surya Namaskar Series, I certainly suggest looking into the Ashtanga series!
1: Pranamasana – Salutation Pose
This is the beginning posture in your Hatha Surya Namaksar. Standing tall, engage the abdominal muscles to maintain a long, neutral spine. Tail bone should be pointing down towards the earth. Palms gently press together, elbows out to the side, shoulders rolled back opening the chest and heart center. Gaze (dristi) is ahead, with chin parallel to the ground.
2: Hasta Uttanasana – Arms raised pose
From Pranamasana inhale as you arch up and back through the spine reaching the hands, shoulder distance apart, overhead. Being sure not to compress in the lower spine, even though this is a bend elongating the spine is still important to keep in mind. This is done by squeezing the glute muscles, and staying engaged in the abdominal muscles. Neck is relaxed in this pose.
3: Uttanasana – forward bend or hands to feet pose
From Hasta Uttanasana exhale arms forward and down into the forward bend. Notice in the image that my head is not hanging down. In this pose try to maintain a straight spine rather than rounding through the back and forcing the head towards the shins. This is done by strongly engaging the core muscles and drawing the navel back towards the spine.
4: Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Equestrian Pose or horse riding pose
From Uttanasana inhale as the right foot steps back, curling the toes and grounding through the ball of the right foot. The front knee must be aligned over the front ankle, the weight distributing down into the front heel rather than the toes. It should be easy to lift the toes in this pose if the weight is distributed properly. Arch up through the spine and neck to bring the dristi (gaze) towards the ceiling. The fingers reach for the ground, roll the shoulders back and melt them away from the ears, keeping the chest lifted and open.
5: Parvatasana – Mountain Pose
From Ashwa Sanchalanasana exhale as the palms press into the mat and the left foot steps back to meet the right. Draw the heels down towards the mat, flexing through the muscles of the legs to do so. The biceps are aligned with the ears, the drisit (gaze) is directly down towards the mat. Press the hips high, drawing the navel back towards the spine to maintain a long straight spinal collumn. Keep the neck free by pressing the shoulder heads away from the ears, feeling the shoulder blades slide down the back towards the tail bone.
This pose is very similar to the Adho Mhuka Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog. The difference is in the placement of the feet. Unlike Adho Mhuka Svanasna, in Parvatasana the feet are touching each other in a centered position.
6: Ashtanga Namaskar – Eight Limbed Pose
From Parvatasana keep the hands and feet in place; exhale as the elbows bend diving the chest forward and down. Keep the hips high, first contact with floor starting with chin, then chest, followed by the knees. In total the chin, hands, chest, knees and toes are making contact with the mat, hence eight limb pose. The elbows squeeze in towards the body aligning with the torso. The elbows should not be pointing up towards the ceiling. To avoid this, roll the shoulders back and down.
7: Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
From Ashtanga Namaskar keep the hands in place, inhaling as you press into the hands lifting the chest and lengthening through the body. Press the tops of the feet into the mat so even the pinky toes make contact. Squeeze the elbows towards the body keeping a slight bend in the joint. It is very common for the shoulders to shrug up towards the ears in this pose. Remember to press the shoulder heads down keeping the shoulders in their sockets. The chest is lifted and the drisit is up towards the ceiling.
8: Parvatasana – Mountain Pose
From Bhujangasana keep the hands in the same position, exhale as the hips shift up and roll over the feet so the heels may press down into the mat.
9: Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Equestrian Pose or Horse Riding Pose
From Parvatasana inhale as the left leg draws under the body and steps between the hands at the top of the mat. Push the pelvis forwards and lift the torso and tilting the head back, arching the back and looking up to the sky.
10: Uttanasana – Forward bend or hands to feet pose
From Ashwa Sanchalanasana exhale as the right foot steps forward to meet the left and straightening through the knees.
11: Hasta Uttanasana – Hands raised pose
From Uttanasana inhale the hands up and over head, arching through the spine and pressing the hips forward.
12: Pranamasana – Salutation Pose
From Hasta Uttanasana exhale as the palms come together drawing the hands down through to heart center. Coming to a full standing position, ending where you had begun. Repeating the sequence, but stepping back with the right foot from Uttanasana to Ashwa Sanchalanasana and moving through the series again. This series can be worked through as many times as needed.
Surya Namaskar is a wonderful way to condition the mind and body. Work on coordinating the breath with the transition of asanas, this is a very important aspect of yoga practice. This series brings flexibility and strength into the whole body. Along with this, practicing Surya Namaskar will bring familiarity to what might otherwise be a foreign concept. Surya Namaskar will show the body how it needs to move and be aligned in these important postures, making classes seem less intimidating.
Pure Energy offers some great yoga classes for all levels. Come see us Tuesdays, and Thursdays at noon. As well as Wednesdays at 5:30 pm!
Happy Wednesday to you all, Namaste!
Alex has her A.S in Exercise Science and is a certified Personal Trainer with the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NSCF) and the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT). In June of 2016 she traveled to India to gain her 200 hr Yoga Teacher Certification. In Rishikesh she studied the ancient practice at its origins. Alex has spent time teaching yoga in Spain while volunteering at a yoga retreat, as well as teaching weekly classes in her hometown Sheridan, WY. She is currently practicing at PURENERGY Fitness where she also teaches a H.I.T.T inspired class three times a week. Alex wants to share with her clients and students the mental, physical and emotionally healing qualities of exercise and movement. She believes everyone should have a healthy relationship with their bodies and strives to thread that concept throughout her career.