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While the physical and mental benefits of yoga are well-known at this point, it can still feel daunting to get started. If you’re intimidated by yoga, you’re not alone. It’s difficult to watch others participate in advanced yoga classes, kicking up into a headstand with ease, and feel confident in your own ability to partake. I’ve seen so many people completely cross yoga off of their workout list in fear that they’re not flexible enough — without even giving it a chance!
When I used to teach yoga classes in person, I would tell my students that yoga is for the inflexible to become flexible. Like other forms of exercise, yoga can be adapted to suit any skill level. And it’s worth it to take the plunge: Yoga has been shown to relieve stress, decrease muscle pain, help manage anxiety and aid in weight loss. And you don’t have to do any crazy moves to reap the benefits.
If you’re new to yoga, I’ve prepared a yoga routine for beginners to help you ease into it. It is a great way to start or end your day — and enjoy more flexibility in your mind and body!
Take each pose slow the first few times, and as you become familiar with them begin to string them together into one, continuous flow, which we refer to as a sun salutation. Follow these instructions to perform each part of the flow:
Mountain pose into raised arms pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
Stand up straight with your arms by your sides and take a deep breath in. From mountain pose, inhale and bring your arms toward the ceiling, reaching the fingertips up toward the sky and rooting down through the heels.
As you exhale, reach your arms out to the sides and down toward the floor into a forward fold. Try to touch your fingertips or palms to the floor. If you can’t, bend at the knees just a little or place a yoga block in front of you that you’re able to reach.
From forward fold, press your fingertips into your shins and inhale. Bring your shoulders back, and lift your chest away from your thighs so that your back is flat, forming a 90-degree angle at the hip. Look forward without straining your neck and avoid rounding your spine.
Exhale and return to forward fold. Bring your chest closer to your thighs and reach your fingers down toward the floor in front of you.
Swan dive up and then back to center
From forward fold, take a deep breath in and bring your hands out to the sides as you bring your torso up to standing. Reach your arms up toward the sky and then bring the palms together at the center of your chest.
Here are a few other poses that you will often perform in a yoga class.
Step your right foot forward and lunge into the front leg, forming a 90-degree angle at your knee. Reach the heel of the left foot up and toward the back wall as you press down with the left toes. Reach your arms out to the sides and up toward the sky, alongside your ears, lifting your chest and head up, too. Take a deep breath and focus on your balance. Then come back to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Modified downward facing dog
If you don't have the flexibility to perform a downward dog, this is a good modification that will help you get there. Place your palms flat on the wall in front of you. Back your feet away from the wall and bend slightly at the knees. Keep your back in line with your palms so that your upper body forms a straight line. Engage the core to keep your spine straight. Hold for five slow breaths.
Lie face down on a yoga mat. Place both palms flat on the mat directly beneath your shoulders. Add a bend to your elbows, keeping them tucked into your sides. Inhale, then raise your chest off the mat as you exhale. Roll your shoulders back, keeping your neck neutral. Maintain the position for up to 30 seconds.
Begin standing tall with your back straight. Keep your right foot flat on the ground. Bend your left knee and bring the left foot to the inside of your right thigh. For a modification, you can place the foot onto the calf or even onto the ankle. Make sure to point your bended knee outward toward the side of the room. Place your hands together in prayer position at your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.
Start in a wide stance with both feet pointed forward and your arms straight out to your sides. Turn your right foot and knee to face the right side of the room. Turn your left foot on a slight diagonal toward the right foot. Bend the right knee so that it tracks over the second toe on the right foot and look over the right fingertips. Keep the left leg straight. Make sure your torso stays centered over the hips. Relax the shoulders, and bend the knee so much so that the right thigh is parallel to the floor. Check to see if you need to scoot the right foot forward to keep the right knee over the right ankle. Hold for 3 breaths, then press the right leg straight and switch sides.
Begin at the bottom of a pushup position with your palms flat on the ground under your shoulders and your feet stretched out behind you. Push the ground away from you to lift your body up off the ground, balancing on your hands and toes. Make sure to keep your hips from sagging down by engaging the muscles in your legs and abdominals. Hold for 10 seconds, rest, then repeat two more times.