New to Yoga? Stretches and Poses for Beginners - Part 1

Stretches and Poses for Beginners

In discussions about developing healthy habits and reducing stress, I’ve noticed a recurring theme -- reference to the benefits of Yoga. Studios are popping up everywhere with retirement communities and seniors centers being no exception. But what makes Yoga such a beneficial form of exercise? Studies show that incorporating Yoga poses and stretches into daily life helps to improve balance and flexibility, increase muscle strength and decrease joint and back pain. Yoga meditation helps us beat insomnia and deal with the stresses life throws our way! 

Here are a few poses to get you started so you may experience first hand, the benefits of adding Yoga to daily life.   All you’ll need is a yoga mat and comfy workout clothes!  

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Staff pose

This position helps strengthen the back muscles as well as the quadriceps to improve posture as well as strengthen the knees.

How-to: 

  • Sit tall with belly pulled in, on your yoga mat with legs extended forward. 
  • Place hands on the floor next to your hips pointing fingers forward. 
  • Flex thigh muscles while pressing them toward the floor. 
  • Rotate thighs inward and draw your groin muscles in toward your tailbone -- imagine your spine is a staff pressing into the floor.
  • Flex your ankles pointing toes toward your body. 
  • Hold this pose for two to ten deep breaths. 
  • Rest 

Seated forward bend

This pose helps reduce blood pressure, and using a chair will help you avoid overtaxing your back. As your strength and flexibility increase, remove the chair and practice this pose as a ‘standing forward bend’.

  • Sit with knees together and feet flat on the floor. 
  • Inhale
  • Bend forward, exhale slowly, round your shoulders and lean forward one vertebra at a time
  • Your chest should be touching your thighs, and forehead close to your knees.  
  • Let your arms hang at your sides.
  • Hold this pose for three breaths.

Wind relieving pose 

This pose helps relieve tension in the lower back, thighs and hips plus soothes stiffness in the spine and helps tone the muscles of the abdominal wall. It also helps relieve tensions and digestive gasses from the tummy and intestines. 

How-to: 

  • Lie flat with arms and legs extended. 
  • Exhale and draw both knees up to your chest.
  • Clasp your hands around your knees.
  • While holding your right knee against your chest, slowly extend your left leg to the floor -- hold for up to a minute. 
  • Now draw left knee up to your chest and clasp hands around both knees. 
  • Slowly release right knee and extend leg to the floor, holding again for up to a minute. 
  • Draw both knees to your chest and gradually release both legs to the floor while exhaling slowly.
  • Rest 

Note: always begin with your right knee drawn in and left leg extended. The right leg and knee will place pressure on the ascending colon. When you switch to left knee in with right leg extended, your left leg puts pressure on the descending colon. This right-left order correctly stimulates digestion and releases excess wind. Reversing the sequence and pressing on the descending colon first can cause intestinal discomfort.

Chair pose

This pose starts easy but holding it is challenging! You’ll engage multiple muscle groups for improved blood flow -- a benefit to the heart. 

How-to: 

  • Stand with feet together.
  • Swing arms out to the side and then raise them above your head, palms facing each other. 
  • Exhale and bend knees until your torso and thighs form a right angle. 
  • You’ll look like you’re getting ready to sit -- hold this position for up to a minute. 
  • Slowly stand upright while inhaling, then exhale while returning to standing position.     

Note: if this is tough at first, let your tailbone lightly touch the wall for stability. As your strength increases, move away from the wall and deepen your knee bends.  

Before starting a new form of exercise, be sure to talk with your Doctor or health care professional. Certified Yoga instructors are generally happy to suggest alternate poses for individuals with back pain or other chronic conditions. 

Written by Alice Lucette
Image by duchesssa of stock.xchng

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