With all the benefits of yoga that have been proven by research, from better flexibility and balance to less stress and a better mood, it’s not surprising that so many people are eager to roll out their yoga mats and try it for the first time. If you want to start a personal yoga practice at home, you might want to try out a few foundational yoga poses, like the ones below, which focus on making and keeping the body stable and flexible.
Focus: Mobility of the Thoracic Spine
Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you breathe in, soften your belly toward the floor, arch your back gently, and tilt your tailbone and chin up toward the ceiling. As you breathe out, gently round your back by bringing your chin toward your chest. Then, move your hips back toward your heels. Again, take a deep breath in and shift your weight forward to get back to the “all fours” position. Repeat this sequence of movements for 5 breaths.
The Bridge pose is all about hip mobility and keeping your core strong.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. The feet should be close enough to the body that you can lightly touch the back of the heels with your fingertips. To keep the lower body straight, you might want to put a block between the inner thighs. Rest your arms next to your body with your palms facing down. Let the back of your headrest comfortably on the mat. When you take a slow, gentle breath in, lift your glutes off the floor and move your pelvis toward the ceiling. Hold for 3–5 breaths at the top, then slowly lower back down to the starting position and repeat.
Bridge Pose (Kegel)
Focus: Mobility of the Thoracic Spine and Jips
From a high kneeling position, take a step forward with your right foot toward the front edge of the mat. Put a folded towel or blanket under your left knee for extra comfort and support. Move your weight slightly forward and bend your right knee further so that your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your knee in line with your second toe. Set a block on the inside of the right foot at a height that is easy to reach. Put your left hand on the block and bring your right hand to your right hip while keeping your chest in line with your right thigh. On an inhale, lengthen the spine and move the crown of the head forward a little bit. On an exhale, twist your upper back to the right as you pull your right shoulder back and your left shoulder forward. This opens your chest toward the right side of the mat. With each breath in, keep the spine long, and with each breath out, experiment with a little more rotation in the spine, depending on what feels right for your body. Hold this pose for three to five breaths, then switch sides and do it again.
Supported Half Kneeling Gentle twist
The focus is on shoulder and hip mobility and stability in the core.
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. On an inhale, bring both arms up over the head, bringing the upper arms up to the ears and the wrists up above the shoulders. Shoulders should be loose and down, away from the ears. Palms should face each other. On an exhale, hinge at the hips and bend the knees, lowering into a modified squat by letting your torso lean forward just a little bit. At the same time, reach your arms back and touch your fingertips to the back edge of the mat with your palms facing each other. When you start your next breathing cycle, turn the movement around and press down through your feet to stretch your arms and legs. Do the same series of moves for 3–5 breaths.
Upward Salute to Chair Pose Variation
Sit down so that your legs are stretched out in front of you. You might want to sit on a folded towel or blanket to give your back more support and keep it straight. Spread your arms out to the sides of your body and press your palms into the ground in front of each hip, with your fingers pointing forward. Engage the quadriceps and bring the toes toward the shins by moving the ankles backward. Keeping this engagement, press down hard through the palms and engage the core. This will lengthen the spine and allow the torso to become perpendicular to the floor. Make sure that your ears, shoulders, and hips are all in line with each other. Hold this centered and active position for 3 to 5 breaths.
Assisted Reclining Hand-to-Big Toe Pose Variation
Hamstring flexibility and ankle mobility are the main points.
Lie on your back on the mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Using a yoga strap or a towel, pull the right knee toward the chest by looping the strap or towel around the sole of the right foot while holding the strap or towel in both hands. With an inhale, start to extend the right leg by pressing the right heel toward the ceiling. Extend the arms and the right leg as far as you can. Drop your shoulders slightly toward the floor and bring your right leg as close to straight as possible to the floor, keeping your hands as high as possible on the strap. Keep pulling the knee toward the face for a deeper stretch. Hold this stretch for 3–5 breaths, then move the ankle for 3–5 breaths (pull the toes toward the shin, pull the toes away from the shin, and move the ankle from right to left). To get out of the position, bend the right knee back and take the strap or towel off the foot. On the other hand, do it again.