Many people avoid yoga because they're inflexible. The problem is, they're the ones who should take up yoga in the first place.
If you find yourself facing a similar situation, i.e., you'd like to start a yoga practice but don't feel flexible enough, here's the good news: There are plenty of poses you can start with while gradually deepening your practice.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind before you do the following poses:
1) Breathe deeply and evenly throughout the pose, and
2) Don't hold the pose for longer than your body allows.
1. Child's Pose
The Child's Pose is a basic resting pose you can hold for a few minutes.
How to do it: Begin with your knees and feet on the floor with your feet touching. Slowly lean forward to place your head on the floor while resting your belly and chest between your legs. Stretch your arms out in front of you.
2. Upper Chest and Back Opener
You can do this move almost anywhere and while either sitting or standing.
How to do it: Raise your arms to shoulder height with your elbows bent. Make your hands into loose fists that are facing each other. Open your chest by drawing your elbows back as if they were going to meet behind your back. Next, return to the starting position while continuing onward until your hands wrap around your shoulders with one elbow stacked on the other. Do two to three sets while switching which elbow is on top.
3. Chair Pose
Both sides of your body will move in and out of this pose at the same time. The Chair Pose is an excellent leg strengthener.
How to do it: Stand with either your feet together or hip-width apart if you're especially stiff. Bend your knees as if you're sitting in a chair while raising your arms alongside either side of your head.
4. Seated Forward Bend
If you're new to yoga, use a block and straps for this exercise, which increases flexibility in your legs and back.
How to do it: Sit on a block or blanket with your legs stretched out in front of you, knees slightly bent. Place the strap around your feet and gradually lengthen your spine as you move your upper body forward. Be careful not to round your spine.
5. Locust Pose
The Locust Pose is an excellent backbend for beginners that strengthens all of the muscles in your back.
How to do it: Lie on your belly and raise your arms, legs, and chest off of the floor. Your palms should face the floor as you focus on keeping your neck long while extending your head away from the chest. If you'd like, clasp your hands behind your back when you lift to create a deeper opening for your shoulders and chest.
6. Tree Pose
The Tree Pose is a one-legged balancing pose that helps center the mind while building confidence.
How to do it: Stand on one leg and bring the foot of your opposite leg up to your ankle (or higher depending on your flexibility). Lift your arms into the air to create the tree's "branches." It's OK to put a hand against the wall for balance or to stand with your back against the wall.
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