Simple Yoga Poses for Beginners – To Stretch and Strengthen

Recently during a class I noticed the man in front of me trying to figure out how to do a cat and cow pose. He couldn’t benefit from the poses because he was looking at the instructor while attempting it and not focusing on his own body going into the poses. Afterwards I remembered my first yoga class and that I had a similar problem. Having to learn the basics in a class can disrupt the flow of your practice, but if you know simple yoga poses for beginners you can enjoy the class and get the full benefits right from the start.

Understanding the purpose

Why do you wake up in the morning, why do you go to work and why are you alive? I am sure you can name several reasons, but in the end it all boils down to PURPOSE. Understanding the purpose of the things we do can improve the way we do them. The original intent of something. Why do we do yoga? It serves us in some way, right? If we understand the original intent of those that created yoga, we can fully benefit from it.

The main goal of yoga is to achieve optimal mental and physical health. Yoga helps us achieve this by teaching us how to train the body and mind to fully observe ourselves. To become aware of your true nature.

Yoga is meant to cultivate: discernmentawareness (of ourselves and all around us), self-regulation in all you do and a higher level of consciousness.

Simple poses for stretching and strengthening

We will now look at 10 poses that are quite easily accessible to most people. I want you to still have the feeling of a flow, so we will transition from each pose into the next.

1. Cat and cow (Marjaiasana & Bitilasana)Cat pose on the beach

A simple sequence of two poses. This sequence poses many benefits: It stretches the core, lower spine, hips, chest, lungs and back muscles. It increases flexibility of the spine and can release tension in the upper back, shoulders and neck.

How to:

– Start on all fours, hands under shoulders, knees under hips (table-top position).

– As you inhale, drop your belly, arch your back, open your chest and look up to the ceiling.

– As you exhale, curve your back upwards(round spine), release the crown of your head to the floor.

– You can continue with this sequence for about 10 times moving between the cat and cow pose.

2. Downward facing dog (Adho mukha svanasana)

There is a very good reason the downward facing dog is so well-known, even people that do not practice yoga has heard of it. This is both a stretching and strengthening pose. The focus here is on the lengthening of the spine. It targets both upper and lower body, you will feel it in your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, back, hamstrings, calves and all the way to the arches of your feet.

How to:

– The downward facing dog can be painful without a proper warm up, don’t expect your knees to be straight or your feet flat on the ground right from the start!

– You can start in a table-top position, this is a good way to ensure your arms are shoulder-width and legs hip-width apart.

– on the exhale, lift your knees and send your hips up to the ceiling, keep sending the weight up and out of the upper body into the legs.

– Bending and straightening the legs one by one can help release the tension in your thighs.

– Push away from your hands and avoid hunching your back

– Relax your neck and head. BREATHE

3. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

When you think of a warrior, you think of a strong being, right? This asana helps strengthen and stretch your arms, shoulders, legs, ankles and back as well as stretch your abdominal muscles, A great pose to energize the body.

How to:

– Remember this pose can be done on the left and right side, I will give directions for one side. This pose can be done from a variety of positions, we will start from downward facing dog.

– As you exhale step your right foot in between your hands, make sure your knee is stacked directly over your angle (do not overextend).

– Left foot turns to a 45 degree angle (this helps to square your hips), make sure the outer edge of your foot is firmly grounded.

– Arms should be perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.

4. Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)Warrior I on the beach

This warrior’s focus is on improving concentration and balance. It strengthens the legs and shoulders, it helps open the hips and chest. Groundedness to energize the body.

How to:

– We are moving from warrior I to warrior II.

– On the exhale open your hips and arms to the side and widen your stance. Your shoulders should be stacked on top of your hips

– Your back foot is now at a 90 degree angle.

– You are reaching through the fingertips(palms facing down)

– Your focus is over the front hand’s fingertips.

5. Triangle pose (Trikonasana)

This pose serves as a deep stretch for the hips, hamstrings and groin area. It helps to strengthen the muscles in the thighs, hips and back. Also, a good to help open the chest.

How to:

– We are moving from warrior II into this pose

– Straighten both legs, but keep the angle of both feet as they are.

– On the exhale, stretching the crown of the head towards the front and then moving the hand to the shin or ankle, the other hand in line pointing up to the sky.

– Keep the chest open and look up(or down if this is too much for your neck).

6. Plank and four-limbed staff pose (Kumbhakasana & Chaturanga dandasana)

I combined these two poses because they work so well together. A yoga sequence similar to a push-up, BUT NOT a push-up. There is actually a big difference. This sequence strengthens and tones the whole body and helps to understand alignment. It is a great sequence that prepares you for a great number of different asanas.

How to:

– From the triangle pose, plant both hands on the floor and step the front leg to the back into your plank position with your inhale.

– Strong core and shoulders. Don’t let your shoulders kiss, they should be away from each other while pushing into your hands.

– We are now moving into Chaturanga, keep your core engaged.

– With the exhale roll on your toes, your body is moving forward.

– Keep your elbows tucked in and directly above your wrists (your aiming for a 90 degree angle in your elbows).

7. Locust pose (Shalabhasana)

Helps strengthen the muscles of the legs, buttocks, spine and core. Also, a stretch to the shoulders, chest, core and thighs.

How to:

– From your four-limbed staff pose, lower your body down to the floor.

– Your arms alongside the body.

– On the inhale, lift your upper body away from the floor and let your legs follow.

– Your big toes are moving in towards each other, lifting with your inner thighs and extending from your hips.

– Stretching back with your feet and forward with your heart, you can now also lift your arms.

8. Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

A pose to strengthen the hamstrings, buttocks and back as well as a great stretch for the chest, neck, spine and hips.

How to:

– After releasing the locust pose, roll onto your back. Knees bent and feet on the floor(hip width apart).

– We are going to lift our hips up to the ceiling, the lift will come from your tailbone, keep your glutes relaxed.

– On the inhale, lift your hips up. You can interlace your hands under your body (pinkies to the floor).

– Hold for a few seconds and release with an exhale.

9. Butterfly pose (Baddha konasana)Butterfly pose

When in a simple upright position this pose is a nice stretch to help open the hips and thighs. You can also combine a forward bend with this pose, to help stretch the back and even more so the hips and thighs. A reclined butterfly pose can serve as resting pose, while still stretching the hips and thighs.

How to

– Lying on your back after releasing from the bridge pose, come to a seated position.

– Your knees are opening to the side with the soles of the feet to touch.

– Press your feet together and the sitting bones down.

– Try to extend your knees away from yourself.

– You can go for a forward bend or just stay here.

10. Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)

The focus is a stretch for the spine, lower back, shoulders and hamstrings.

– From the seated butterfly, just straighten the legs in front of you and remove the flesh from under your sitting bones.

– Engage your legs and flex your toes toward you.

– On the inhale, sweep your hands up (remember to keep your shoulders away from your ears).

– On the exhale, start to hinge from your hips, keep your back straight.

– If you can reach your feet, you can hold on here or just rest your hands next to your legs.

– Reach with the crown of your head to your feet.

After releasing from the forward bend, you can lay down on your back for

How it serves you

I recently went to a blindfolded yoga class and I intend to write more on that later, but what I want to share today is something I learned there: Feeling the pose rather than trying to look good.

Most yoga studios will have mirrors and it is great to see where you are at. But remember, just because you don’t look exactly like the instructor in a specific pose, does not mean you are not benefiting from the pose.

Each body is different and the main goal of the poses are to benefit from them. Spend time in your poses, listen to your body and trust yourself. It’s not about what you can do for the pose, it’s about what can the pose do for you. How can it serve you? Your mind and body will thank you later.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this and can benefit from it.

If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Namaste

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