Seven Essential Yoga Poses to Learn Before Your First Class
Starting anything new can be a daunting experience. Do you remember how nervous you were on your first day of kindergarten? Or maybe you've seen how nervous your kids were more recently? A lot of people feel the same way before going to their first yoga class, which is totally normal and natural. One thing you can do to prepare for your first yoga class and help calm your nerves is to have an idea of what to expect.
Here are seven poses that you see in almost every yoga class. Take some time to familiarize yourself with them and practice them at home before you walk into your first yoga class. If you have already started going to yoga classes then take the time to brush up on these poses and you will experiences the practice on a deeper level. Remember, yoga is a practice and everyone starts at the beginning.
Mountain Pose is a seemingly simple standing pose. But looks can be deceiving. In this pose your feet are hips-width distance apart and your arms are by your side. This pose is often seen toward the beginning of class as a way to center the body and find your balance. You want the weight in your feet to be equally spread between the heels and the balls of the feet while making sure your toes aren't gripping the mat. Palms can be facing your thighs or facing forward for a more energetic stance. Feel a very small bend in your knees and engage your core to start to find activation through the center of the body.
Downward Facing Dog is a great arm-strengthening, heat-building, and hamstring-stretching pose. Your hands are placed shoulder-width distance apart at the top of your mat. Your feet are at the bottom of your mat and hips-width distance apart. A trick to make sure your feet and hands are the right distance away from each other is to come forward into plank and then lift your hips up to the sky.
Cobra is done by lying flat on your belly, engaging the core to support the lower back, and lifting your chest up while the feet press into the mat. Your hands are on the ground underneath the shoulders and the elbows are by your hips. If you want to build more strength in your lower back lift your hands about an inch up off the ground and use only back strength to lift. If you want a little more of a stretch through the front of your body, gently press your hands into the ground as you lift.
Forward Fold can be a transitional pose between other poses or it can be done on its own for a deep hamstring or spine stretch. Feet are hips-width apart, knees are in a very slight bend, and the torso is hanging down over the legs from the hips. Making sure the knees are not locked is very important because that will prevent pulling in the lower back. Also, be sure to let the head hang down toward the ground to release the neck. There are many options for your arms in this pose. My favorites are holding onto opposite elbows or reaching the arms behind the legs to pull a little deeper into the stretch.
Warrior I is a great pose for building leg strength, flexibility in the hips, and core strength. One leg is forward with the foot at the top of the mat, with the toes facing forward, and the knee bent over the ankle. The other leg is about two or three feet back with the foot pointed out to about 10 or 11 o'clock (if 12 is at the top, and 6 at the bottom). The torso is upright with the arms reaching over head as the palms face toward each other.
Warrior II is the sister pose to Warrior I with a slightly different arm and leg position. In this pose one leg is forward with the toes facing the top of the mat and the knee bent over the ankle just like in Warrior I. The back leg is straight with the toes facing out to about 9 o'clock. The torso is straight with the arms reaching out over the legs. The gaze is out over the front finger tips.
Savasana is the pose that is practiced at the end of every yoga practice. It looks simple from the outside but can be very mentally challenging. In this pose you lie on your back with your eyes closed. If your lower back is bothering you, try placing a bolster (yoga pillow) or rolled blanket under your knees. You can also place a blanket under your head as a little pillow. Rest with your arms out at your sides, palms facing up, and fingers curling in gently. This is the pose where your body will absorb all of the physical and mental benefits of your practice. Try to keep your mind in the present by focusing on your breath and taking your awareness through different areas of the body.
If you’re a military spouse, head on over to the InDependent|Fitness Facebook group for a yoga challenge involving these seven essential yoga poses. I’ll be there to guide you and answer any questions you may have about the poses. Can't wait to see you there!
If you’ve never been to a yoga class before, what are you most concerned about? Or, if you’re already practicing, what was the one thing you wish you would have known before stepping into the studio for the first time?