Yoga Asanas for Beginners
It is magical to witness a class of yoga practitioners flow between asanas in unison; creating a beautiful dance of connected breath and movement to soothing, exotic melodies filling the air.
Breath. Fluidity. Movement. Beauty.
Asanas are yoga postures which are the focal point of any yoga practice. The word Asana is Sanskrit meaning ‘seat’ or ‘to sit down’ and commonly used in reference to yoga postures or positions. These
body positions are intended to restore and maintain a yoga practitioner's well-being, improve the body's flexibility and vitality, and promote the ability to remain in seated for prolonged meditation.
Performing asanas benefit the body more than just stretching and building core strength, as they also open the body’s energy channels, chakras and psychic centers, purify and control focus of the mind.
There are approximately 84 asanas that can be performed during a yoga practice, however beginners to yoga should identify, attempt and practice the easier asanas. Only after they have mastered the posture and alignment to these easier asanas should beginners proceed to trying more difficult ones.
SEVEN EASY ASANAS FOR BEGINNERS
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Sukhasana is the easiest asana where you just sit comfortably.
- Waist and lower region of the waist become flexible
- Ideal for doing meditation
- Mind remains calm
- Sit comfortably on a yoga mat or a carpet.
- Bend both knees.
- Waist, back and neck should be in a straight line.
- Keep your hands on your knees.
Beginners Practice: This asana can be used for pranayama (yoga method of breathing) or meditation. Sit as long as you are comfortable. Duration of this asana can be gradually increased.
Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Padmasana derives from the Sanskrit word 'padma' meaning 'lotus' and is where the body takes the shape of a lotus and is the recommended asana for relaxation and meditation.
- Padmasana strengthens digestive power, removes constipation and improves appetite.
- It removes diseases of heart and strengthens the muscles of the waist and lower limbs.
- Regular practice brings peace of mind.
- Sit on your yoga mat or a carpet and spread both legs forward.
- Bend your right knee at knee joint. Hold your right foot with both hands (hold ankle of right leg with right hand and catch the toes of right leg with the left hand). Lift the right foot upwards and place it on your right thigh, so that your right heel is as close as possible to your navel.
- Now bend the knee of your left leg. Hold your left foot with both hands (hold ankle of left leg with left hand and catch the toes of left leg with the right hand. Lift your left foot and fix the left heel at the base of right thigh.
- Both knees should be on the ground and the soles of your feet should point upward.
- The position of your legs may be switched after a period of time if the posture becomes uncomfortable.
- Keep your neck and back straight.
- Keep your eyes closed.
- Keep both hands on your knees in position of gyan mudra (touch the index finger with tip of the thumb, keeping three other fingers straight).
Beginners Practice: As you begin practicing, do this asana for half a minute then slowly extend the duration. Your flexibility will improve with practice and you will be able to do padmasana for longer periods of time.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Tadasana brings the body into alignment. Tadasana derives its name from Sanskrit word 'Taad' meaning 'mountain'. In this asana the body is stable and grounded like a mountain, which is why it is also called mountain pose.
- Improves posture
- Strengthens arms and legs
- Helps with indigestion
- Good for regulating the menstrual cycle
- Come to stand with your big toes touching.
- Lift up all your toes and let them fan out then drop them down creating a wide solid base. You can separate your heels slightly if your ankles are knocking together uncomfortably.
- Bring your weight evenly onto all four corners of both feet.
- Let your feet and calves root down into the floor.
- Engage your quadriceps and draw them upward, causing your knee caps to rise.
- Rotate both thighs inward, creating a widening of your sit bones, and tuck your tailbone in between your sit bones.
- Tone your belly, drawing it in slightly.
- Widen your collar bones and make sure your shoulders are parallel to your pelvis.
- Your neck is long, the crown of your head rises toward the ceiling, and your shoulder blades slide down your back.
Beginners Practice: Repeat this asana 2 to 3 times and try to increase the duration in which you stay in it. As you deepen your practice, while standing on your toes take 4 steps forward and 4 steps backwards (this will improve your grace while walking).
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Adho Mukha Svanasana derives from the Sanskrit words 'adho' meaning 'downward', 'mukha' meaning 'face', and 'svana' meaning 'dog'. Adho Mukha Svanasana is a transitional and resting asana that is also a great body strengthener. Adho Mukha Svanasana will probably be the first yoga asana you encounter as you begin a yoga practice and done many times during most yoga classes.
- Strengthens the whole body
- Tones arms and legs
- Gets blood and lymph flowing which takes pressure off the heart
- Builds self-confidence and reduces anxiety and depression
- Come to your hands and knees with your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
- Curl your toes under and push back raising your hips and straightening your legs.
- Spread your fingers and ground down from your forearms into your fingertips.
- Outwardly rotate your upper arms broadening the collarbones.
- Let your head hang downward, move your shoulder blades away from your ears towards your hips. Engage the quadriceps strongly to take the weight off your arms, making this a resting pose.
- Rotate your thighs inward, keep your tailbone high and sink your heels towards the floor.
- Check that the distance between your hands and feet is correct by coming forward to a plank position. The distance between your hands and feet should be the same in these two poses. Do not step your feet toward your hands in order the get your heels to the floor. This will happen eventually as your muscles lengthen.
Beginners Practice: Try bending your knees, coming up onto the balls of your feet, bringing the belly to rest on the thighs and the sit bones up high. Then sink your heels, straightening your legs keeping the high upward rotation of your sit bones. Also try bending your arms slightly out to the side, drawing your chest towards your thighs. Then re-straighten your arms.
Virabhadrasana (Warrior I Pose)
In Hindu mythology, Virabhadra is the name of a fierce warrior hero born from a hair that Shiva (the chief of the gods) threw on the ground when he was distraught over an affront to his wife, Sati. Ultimately, Virabhadra leads an army and prevails over the perpetrator. This asana was named after this great warrior and is meant to bring out your inner warrior when being practiced
- Strengthens legs and stretches arms and legs
- Opens up hips and chest
- Improves circulation and respiration
- Develops concentration, balance and groundedness
- From standing position, step your left leg behind your right leg, pivot on the ball of your left foot and drop your left heel on to the floor with your toes turned out about 45 degrees from your heel.
- Bend your right knee directly over your right ankle so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Draw your right hip back and your left hip forward so that your hips are squared to the front. Bring your arms out to your side and lift upwards.
- Bring your palms to touch and gaze up toward your thumbs, coming into a slight backbend.
- Slide your shoulder blades down your back.
- Repeat on the left side.
Beginners Practice: Step your left foot out toward the left side of your mat a bit to allow more room for your hips to square. Place your hands on your hip bones so you can feel whether they are squared forward. Draw your right hip back and your left hip forward. When you bring your arms up, keep them shoulder’s distance apart if that is more comfortable.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Balasana derives its name from the Sanskrit word 'bala' meaning 'child' and is where the body takes the shape of a resting child. This asana is recommended for resting and relaxation.
- Stretches the thighs, hips, and ankles
- Expands the lungs and heart, and elongates the spine, thus providing relief from neck and back pain.
- Keeps the internal organs of the body supple
- Relieves fatigue and stress, and relaxes the mind
- Drop your knees to the floor and spread as wide as the mat, keeping your big toes touching
- Bring your belly to rest between your thighs and your forehead to the mat.
- There are two possible arm variations: Either stretch your arms in front of you with your palms toward the floor or bring your arms back alongside your thighs with your palms facing upwards.
Beginners Practice: Balasana should be performed at any time during your yoga practice if you get tired or are out of breath.
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Shavasana derives its name from the Sanskrit word 'shava' meaning 'dead body'. In this asana the state of body takes the posture of a dead person. Therefore, this asana is also known as 'corpse pose'.
- Body is relaxed, fatigue vanishes and body feels lighter
- Reduces high blood pressure and regulates respiratory system
- Helps to cure heart disease, insomnia, nervous debility, mental imbalance and lack of memory
- Very effective in ensuring sound sleep
- Lie down in supine (lying face upward) position on a yoga mat.
- Keep both your legs a little apart about one to one and a half feet from each other.
- Keep both your hands a little away from the side of your body.
- Now let your left toe point towards your left and your right toe towards your right.
- Your head may be kept straight or may be inclined towards your left or right.
- Your palms should face upwards.
- Your whole body should be in a straight line and relaxed.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Imagine that your entire body is relaxed. This way each and every organ of your body will get relaxed. Concentrate your mind on your body parts from your toes to your head and feel your body is getting lighter.
- While in this asana carry out normal rhythmic breathing.
Beginners Practice: Shavasana is used for giving rest to your body while doing Ashtanga or Power Yoga where asanas are performed in flow (the constant movement from one asana to the next while synchronizing the breath) or while carrying out asanas in supine position. It is also routine to end your yoga practice with shavasana for relaxation.
Now that you have a few fundamental asanas to begin your yoga practice, it is also important to remember that yoga is more than just a physical exercise. Your mental framework while doing your asanas is essential.
Start each asana with faith and determination and in no time you will be ready to take on more challenging asanas and deepen your practice.