How Yoga Can Help Improve Fitness and Wellbeing.
The followingBeginner Yoga Poses will serve as a great foundation to overall fitness and wellbeing. Whether you simply do them on their own, or even better, incorporate them into a varied fitness regime, you will find them very effective and helpful to your mind and body.
Yoga is a great form of exercise, suitable for all age groups, but it is particularly beneficial for fifty-somethings. As we get older our bodies can start to bend and hunch over. Bad posture and habits can take their toll, but the strengthening and toning properties of yoga can help to re-align your body and refresh your mind as you concentrate on the individual movements.
Our minds and bodies are put under stress from modern lifestyles on a daily basis. Yoga is an ancient art form that incorporates movement and breath and which can alleviate stress whilst simultaneously build muscle tone and strength. Even the most mundane yet essential activities such as sitting at a computer or driving, can put stress on the body, creating tension both physically and mentally.
If you take some time as often as possible to do these 7 yoga poses to the best of your ability, you will help to restore your body, aid breathing and at the same time improve your mental clarity and focus. The mind and the body are so connected and it can be a good step to fix the physical side of things to help give the mental side a boost.
Even doing just the breathing exercises alone will help to strengthen and expand the lungs, whilst the actual poses will increase flexibility and core strength.
You can find out more information on poses and the correct techniques here: http://www.yogabasics.com
Just a note of caution, many of the poses involve balancing, so if you are worried about this it would be best to avoid them. It’s always worth checking with a doctor when starting a new fitness regime.
7 Great Beginner Yoga Poses.
Basic Breathing Techniques
Taking longer and slower breaths can really help to ground us in the here and now. Being aware of your breathing really helps to bring things into balance both physically and mentally. The result is improved oxygenating of the blood, as well as benefitting the circulatory, respiratory and digestive system.
Basic Steps for Yoga Breathing
- sit with your spine straight and your legs relaxed, either on the floor or in a chair
- Breathe in and out gently and deeply, directly the breaths around the back of your throat to create a soft exhalation sound.
- Really concentrate on the mechanism of your breathing.
- Continue with the exercise for 5 minutes.
2) Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart and hands relaxed by your sides
- Rock back and forth on your toes to ensure even distribution of your weight, then plant them firmly on the floor.
- Look straight ahead and concentrate on lengthening your back and neck, imagining there is a string attached to your head, pulling it upwards.
- Keep your chest raised and open
- Take between 10-20 breaths in this position, and then relax
3) Crescent Pose (Anjaneyasana
- Stand with your feet together, and bend forward at the hips until you touch the ground. Bending your knees is fine.
- Brace your arms and upper body on the floor with your fingertips and step your right foot back into a lunge position.
- Bend your left knee to form a 90-degree angle with your left thigh.
- Make sure that your weight is evenly distributed between your left foot and the ball of your right foot
- Whilst in the lunge position, inhale and raise your arms above your head. Keep your head straight and keep looking forward.
- Exhale slowly, repeat the breathing and hold the pose for up to one minute.
- Repeat the pose using the opposite leg.
4) Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Note: People who have high blood pressure, glaucoma, or an ear infection, or have suffered a stroke should not attempt this pose.
Basic steps for Downward-Facing Dog Pose:
- Start on your hands and knees, arms should-width apart and legs hip-width apart. (If supporting yourself on hands and knees is uncomfortable or if your joints don’t allow this pose, see the “Puppy Dog” variation below.
- Plant your hands on the floor, fingers spread. Curl your toes under, like you’re getting ready to stand up.
- Straighten your legs and stretch your arms forward, keeping elbows straight and shoulders down, to create a 70-degree angle with your body. Keep your head aligned with your arms and back, not hanging and not raised.
- With an exhalation, raise your rear up, and push your thighs back and your heels to the ground—you should feel your calf muscles stretch, but make sure not to lock your knees straight. Concentrate on lifting your pelvis and rear end to the sky and pressing down evenly on your heels and palms.
- Throughout the pose, focus on firming the outer muscles of your arms and the inner muscles of your legs
- Hold this pose for 1 minute. Return to hands and knees and relax.
5) Warrior One (Virabhadrasana)
Warrior One Pose increases flexibility in the hips and strengthens and tones the legs, ankles and feet. Working on Warrior One helps to also improve all standing poses.This pose gives a twist to the spine and also opens up the shoulders and the side of the body. It is a fairly complex pose, but worth building up to gradually as strength and flexibility improve.
Basic Steps for Warrior 1 Pose
- Begin in Tadasana/Mountain Pose
- Step your right foot towards the back of the mat creating a long stance.
- Turn your right heel down and angle your foot to a 45 degree angle.
- Bend your left knee as close as you can to a 90 degree angle.
- Extend your arms upwards .
- Attempting to angle both hips towards the front is ideal, but not necessary AND should be avoided if you experience pain in the hips, knees, and/or low back.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths before returning to Mountain Pose and repeating on the second side.
6) Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)T
The Bridge pose strengthens the back of the body, particularly the calves, hamstrings and glutes. The chest and shoulders also benefit from the gentle inversion in the pose.
Basic steps for Bridge Pose:
- Lie on your back on the floor. If you don’t have a yoga mat, place a folded up towel or blanket underneath your shoulders to protect your neck and head.
- Bend your knees and move your feet as close to your rear as is comfortable, keeping your feet flat on the floor and hip-distance apart.
- Rest your arms on the floor, exhale, and press your weight into your feet to lift your hips and glutes up towards the sky. Engage the muscles in your legs, keeping your feet and thighs parallel, to lift your body up so that only the tops of your shoulders are supported on the floor.
- Make sure your knees remain behind the line of your toes, lift your chin away from your chest, keep your arms firm, and broaden your shoulder blades as much as is comfortable.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Exhale and release the pose, rolling your body gently to the floor from the top of your spine down.
7) Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Triangle pose is great for stretching your hamstrings, hips, and spine. To help you keep your balance and align your body properly, you can also try doing this pose with your back against a wall.
Basic Steps for Triangle Pose:
- Begin in mountain pose and then step your right leg out to the side until feet are three to four feet apart, toes facing forward. Raise your arms so that they are parallel to the floor, which will help to balance you.
- Turn your left foot slightly to the right and turn your right foot 90 degrees, so that it faces directly right. Turn your right thigh out and make sure your right kneecap is aligned directly toward the center of your right ankle
- Exhale and bend your torso at the hip to the right, reaching down with your right hand to rest it on your right toes (or ankle) to balance yourself.
- Focus on opening up your torso to the front and stabilisng your body by firming your leg muscles and pushing your heels into the floor.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Straighten back to mountain pose and repeat, this time leaning over the left leg.
Once you have gone through these you will definitely feel a difference. The slow controlled movements can be quite challenging – you will definitely build up a sweat!
Some Further Workouts to add to your Yoga sessions
If you would like further inspiration for some additional workouts to incorporate into your fitness regime along with these yoga moves, check out this post on shorter workouts that you can do at home: http://www.fiftyanything.com/highly-effective-15-minute-workouts-you-can-do-at-home/
Thanks for reading xx I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below.