Building upon its ancient roots as a system for achieving physical, mental, and spiritual growth, modern yoga has become a popular activity for achieving relaxation and self-development. However, it’s also become perceived by non-practitioners as an activity that requires considerable flexibility. This can become a deterring factor for those primarily exposed to more complex poses which are used as visual shorthand for practicing yoga. However, there is more to yoga than just stretching and twisting your limbs while maintaining a hard-to-balance position.
Though the precise number of Asana or yoga poses differs depending on the source, there is agreed to be at least a hundred main variations. Among these, some sources count at least 29 beginner yoga poses that even non-flexible people can try. If you’re thinking about getting into yoga, we’ve isolated the five simplest ones to help you decide if yoga is right for you:
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
To do the Mountain Pose, you should first stand with your feet close together and your big toes touching. But keep some distance between your heels. The next goal is to try to distribute your weight as evenly as possible over the lengths of your feet. One recommended way to do this is by lightly rocking back and forth and side to side. Once you’ve achieved the right balance, try to keep your upper body loosened up by relaxing your arms with your palms facing forwards. The last stephas more to do with achieving a calm and meditative state as you try to maintain a straight posture for 30 seconds to a full minute.
This pose’s main benefit is in how it helps with improving posture. As a very stable and neutral position, it’s also considered as a common starting position for most standing yoga poses. And as a resting pose, it’s also a great starting position for those who are into meditation and mindfulness exercises.
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
In spite of its name, this can be a challenging pose for people with bad posture. You can think of it as the sitting version of the Mountain Pose. You set yourself up for the Easy Pose by first sitting down on the floor with your legs outstretched in front of you. Then, pull your left leg back to you in such a way that your left food ends up under your right thigh. After this, do the same for your other leg but this time, with your right leg ending up beneath your left shin. Like with the Mountain Pose, try to sit up as tall as you can while keeping your back straight. Once you’ve achieved balance and relaxation, try to keep the pose for several minutes while breathing steadily. After one cycle, uncurl your legs and repeat after reversing the position of your legs.
Much like the Mountain Pose, the Easy Pose is also an ideal pose for meditation and mindfulness exercises. It’s also a good way to prepare your muscles for more advanced poses as your knowledge of yoga becomes more advanced.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
The Child’s Pose in yoga is done by first kneeling with your knees spread about as wide as your hips, with your feet meeting behind you. Then, exhale as you bend at the waist, all the way forward. At this point, your torso should be between your thighs, with your forehead as close to the floor (and touching it) if possible. Your arms should just be extended in front of you and over your head. Maintain this position for 3-5 minutes, trying to stay as relaxed as possible as you try to deepen the pose with each calm breath.
Despite being a simple pose, it can offer benefits for nearly your entire body. Indeed, doing this pose helps stretch your neck, shoulders, spine, lower back muscles, and much of your legs. And because of how easy it is, it’s an excellent warm-up and even a great exercise to help you get ready for sleep.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
You can get to the Cobra Pose by beginning at a face-down position with your legs spread a few inches apart. Then, push down on the floor with your hands as if doing a pushup, while keeping your pelvis down. At this point, it’s best to not overdo it and just stretch yourself out as far as your body will let you. Try to hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute before relaxing your elbows and letting yourself slowly lie back down on the floor. Alternatively, it’s also possible to transition to this position from the Child’s Pose or vice versa. This adds a more dynamic element to both poses.
The Cobra Pose has the benefit of stretching out the abdominal muscles while also strengthening your back. Done properly, it can also make your glutes more defined. Just make sure to not push yourself too far to avoid overstretching your back.
Bridge Pose (Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana)
To do the Bridge Pose, you start by laying your back flat on the floor. Your knees should be bent directly over your heels, almost at a 90-degree angle. And with your arms at your sides with palms facing down, exhale and press your feet into the floor as you lift your core and hips into the air. At this point, you clasp your hands under your lower back as you press them further down for some extra lift. You should end in a position where your hips are parallel with the floor, while your chest is close to your chin. This position should be held for around 30 seconds to one full minute while breathing steadily and released by slowly relaxing and going back down to your original starting position.
The Bridge Pose is great for strengthening your chest, back, and lower body—specifically, your glutes and hamstrings. It can also help with relieving back pain, improve digestion, and improve blood circulation. As an added bonus, it’s also a great exercise to give your back more flexibility to tackle harder poses.
Despite its growing popularity, there are still popular myths that surround yoga. One of the most popular ones is that it’s ideally done by people who are flexible. This can’t be any further from the truth. What’s most important about yoga is being able to reduce stress by finding peace within yourself. As a budding yoga practitioner, you’ll find that flexibility is not at all a requirement and is more like an aspirational goal along the road to self-improvement.