Yoga Stretches For Beginners
Earlier this week I talked about how meditation and yoga changed my life, so I reached out to my lovely friend Annie from Simply Annie. Annie just moved back to Denver and admittedly I’m jealous she still gets snow right now. She is a wife and mother to Lilly (her little girl is ridiculously cute!) and a certified yoga instructor. Today she is going to explain yoga stretches for any of you newbies out there. I for one know that once my bundle of joy arrive I will be coming back to this to ease my way back into yoga. I’m so excited to have her be my first guest post and hope you all enjoy her as much as I do.
When you think of yoga I bet you think of headstands and super bendy people who can put their foot behind their head and go upside down all at once, don’t you? Yeah… I think that’s the case for lots of people. But there is so much more to yoga! Yoga has sort of become a fad lately and it is everywhere, but this is one fad that I totally 100% endorse and am excited about. Yes yoga can be about arm balances and inversions. Yes it is a great workout and you sweat a lot in a heated class. Yes you can work towards the crazy postures. But what I think people forget is that yoga starts so much smaller.
The word Yoga means yolk, a union between mind and body. A union between your heart and soul, with the way your body moves and feels. A yoga practice never starts with the crazy flexibility and freakish handstands. Any good teacher will tell you that it is called yoga practice, not yoga perfect. Every great yogi started somewhere. They started not knowing how to do crow pose, not being able to touch their toes, not knowing how to understand their body. Every yogi started from the beginning. Which is why I think it is so important for everyone to start slowly into a yoga journey, to introduce yourself so it can introduce itself to you. So today I want to share with you my favorite poses to get you started on your yoga journey. Each one, if done a few times a week, can help you learn your body, become comfortable with moving, and will introduce you to a great yoga practice. They don’t all have to be done together or in this order. Find what works for you, what feels good, and go from there.
Please know that while having completed my teacher training I am not able to predict everyones body. Please be cautious when doing stretches and only do what you are comfortable with. If you have any pain or twingeing while doing these stretches, gently exit and do not continue.
1.) Child’s Pose – This posture is good for hips, shoulders and body awareness. In this pose you can asses how your body is feeling, where there might be tightness, or if you are having pain. Spread knees wide to the edges of your mat and bring big toes to touch. Reach hands above your head and lower hips to heels.
2.) Cat Cow – I love this stretch! It is a great back opener which is always what I need at the beginning of class. While starting in a tabletop position with wrists lined up under elbows and knees under hips, arch your back like a cat while tucking your head down. Then drop belly down towards mat and open shoulders for cow.
3.) Forward Fold – Holy hamstrings, Batman! This one is always a huge release for me. My hamstrings are always tight and the first forward fold of class is always a bit rough. From a standing position simply fold forward and reach for the ground. Eventually bringing forehead to shins.
4.) Halfway Lift – Sweet release after a forward fold. This is another hamstring stretch and helps aid in a deeper forward fold when done in this sequence. With feet together lift halfway. Hands can be on shins, thighs, or mat. Make sure you have a flat back and are looking 10-12 inches in front of you (so as to keep a long spine).
5.) Shoulder Opener – This is fabulous for your shoulders and upper back. While clasping your hands together behind you in a standing position, pull shoulders down your back. Slowly fold forward and let your arms fall over head. Try bringing palms together for more of a stretch. If this is too much place a towel in your hands and you will get the same effect.
6.) Narrow Prasarita – Another fabulous hamstring stretch, this is sometimes considered easier than a forward fold. With your feet spread (a bit wider than hip distance) fold forward. I like to grab my ankles to help my fold deeper. Move weight to toes and breathe.
7.) Narrow Twist – Twists are known to detox the body. I’m a huge fan of twists but sometimes they can be a bit much for people. If you feel ANY pinching or twinges, please do not do this pose. From a wide forward fold (like narrow prasarita) place one hand on mat and gently twist from your shoulders/upper back while raising the other hand to the sky. It helps to slightly bend the knee that you are twisting towards. Always keep hips square to the ground in this posture.
8.) Flying Monkey – Gotta love the names! This one is another great hamstring opener, as well as calf and hip! Extend one leg long while squatting over the bent knee of the other. Flex the foot of the extended leg to help keep knees protected.
9.) Happy Baby – Totally awkward photo to take so bare with me… but this one is a release for your back and another hip opener. While laying on your back, pull knees to chest and grab the soles of your feet. Spread your knees wide and stomp the soles of your feet to the ceiling. Make sure your tailbone is on the ground and tuck your chin slightly to protect your neck.
10.) Cow Face – I’m all about the hip openers. Did you know we hold almost all of their emotion in their hips? This pose is a sweet release for them and is a great way to work out any kinks! From a seated position bend one knee, take the other knee and place it on top of the bottom bent knee. The key to this posture is to stack your knees, one on top of the other and eventually have your shins parallel to the edge of the mat. But if that isn’t possible for you, just let your shins rest closer to your body. Flex feet to protect knees.
11.) Seated Forward Fold – From a seated position simply fold forward and reach for your toes. Another great hamstring stretch but also a great stretch for your lower back.
I hope you enjoy these stretches, they are some of my favorites! Again please know that you can injure yourself if not careful. Please use caution when doing these stretches and do not do anything your body is not comfortable with.