by CASSIE MCINTYRE
Seeing all the powerful and amazing yoga poses in class and on social media can be intimidating enough for beginners and even for many seasoned yogis.
When I first began my yoga journey I felt like I didn’t have a chance at being as good as some of the people I saw online and in the studio. With consistent practice over the years I’ve realized it’s not about being as good as or better than so and so. It’s about bettering yourself. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength you can build is endless. The key is to remember to be humble enough to begin with the basics and put the effort in.
Last time we talked about how to not be so intimidated in your yoga class. Everyone starts somewhere and your practice is your practice. Nobody should be intimidating you to the point where you won’t get on your mat and try. You don’t need to be flexible to do yoga you just have to do it.
This time we will talk about mastering the basics and some key postures that can help you in class.
A few of my favorite poses to practice are Downward Facing Dog, Balancing Table Top Pose, Plank, and Dolphin pose. Many of these postures help you focus on core strength along with helping you to build the foundation for your yoga practice.
Downward Facing Dog. This inverted “V” shaped pose is a staple in any yoga practice. Starting from a table top position keep your palms pressing flat against the floor and your abs engaged. Exhale and push your hips up towards the sky as you come into your inverted “V” shaped pose. Your tailbone is reaching to the ceiling and your gaze is either toward your belly button or towards your feet, make sure your head is hanging comfortably. Your heels may not touch the floor and that’s okay. The more you practice the easier it will be on your hamstrings and calves to open and release so your feet are flush to your mat. This posture helps you concentrate on your breath and helps you build up your shoulder muscle endurance. Try holding this pose for five deep inhales and exhales.
Balancing table top pose. This posture builds abdominal and lower back strength. Because of the balance you perform here it also help you improve your focus and coordination. Begin on your hands and knees in a table top pose. Engaging your core, extend the right leg behind you and reach your left arm forward to shoulder height. Reach through your finger tips and lengthen through your back heel. Remember not to lift your leg higher than your hip/ shoulder level. Hold for five breaths and then go for the other side. Come down to your table top pose in between for a break.
Plank. Plank pose is one of the most fundamental poses in yoga. Plank will help you strengthen your arms, shoulders, back, and core. Practicing this pose may also help your posture over time. Starting from your table top pose make sure your belly is lifted (abs are engaged.) Your feet can either be together or hip distance apart. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders pressed away from your ears. Inside of your elbows should be facing each other. Try and hold for five breaths then return to table pose.
Dolphin pose. Dolphin pose is one of my favorites. It helps strengthen your shoulders, arms, and upper back. It also helps bring more flexibility into the spine, hamstrings, and calve muscles. Starting from your table top pose, lower your forearms down to the floor. Your arms should be about shoulder width apart, hands are flat to the mat. Keep your arms parallel to one another to keep your weight even. Tuck your toes and lift your hips, much like you would for downward dog. Your arms should be in line with your ears. Relax your head and neck, maybe look to your belly button or toward your feet. It’s ok if your heels aren’t on the mat. Make sure the crown of your head is not on the floor. Keep pressing up and out of your shoulders. Try and hold this posture for at least five breaths. Again, come down to table to rest.
Overall, yoga is a journey for inner discovery. While these postures will help you gain a better foundation for your yoga practice it is important to remember to practice.
Cassie McIntyre is a NASM certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and nutritional coach. She works at LA Fitness.