Beginner Yoga Moves Anyone Can Master

November 08, 2019

11.10 - PM

While it’s certainly not a new trend — it’s been practiced for millennia in India — the benefits of yoga are becoming more understood in modern times. With that understanding has come a huge rise in its popularity as a practice for mind and body wellness. 

So, maybe you’re curious: is yoga something you can do? Is it going to help you? What if you’ve never done anything like it before? 

Rachel Land is a yoga medicine teacher in Queenstown, New Zealand. Here’s her take on those questions: 

“Even though I've been practicing yoga for almost three decades, I still find myself drawn back again and again to the "simple" poses. I've played with more advanced postures, but beginner-friendly, foundational postures and practices seem to offer the greatest long-term benefits with the lowest risk. Without supernatural strength or flexibility, we can mobilize and lubricate our joints, improve our posture and balance, stimulate digestion, boost energy, soothe the nervous system, and create mental focus and clarity, at any age or stage of life.”

She goes on to describe 10 simple yoga poses that anyone can do, even if they’ve never tried yoga before. They’re safe for seniors, children, and even people with limited mobility. Rather than describing each pose for you in detail (we encourage you to visit Rachel’s slideshow for that) we’ll summarize the moves behind these poses to break down how easy and beneficial they really are. 

(Note: As with any exercise program, if you have special needs or are recovering from injury, it would be best to speak with your doctor before beginning. And, if any of the following moves cause you discomfort, simply stop.) 

Mindful breathing

What it is

Lying flat on a yoga mat, simply relax your muscles naturally, close your eyes, and breath deeply into your belly. In through the nose, hold it a moment, then out through your mouth. Repeat as many times as you’d like.

Why it’s beneficial

This effortless move is a wonderful break between more active poses and truly enhances the stress relieving and health restoring benefits of mindfulness. 

Flowing like water

What it is

This move can apply to any joint, including your spine. You simply need to focus on a joint and gently explore the joint’s full range of motion using slow, deliberate motions. As you get to the limit of the joint’s movement, hold that position for a moment before slowly reversing the motion. Repeat as many times as you like, with whichever joints you would like. 

Why it’s beneficial

It’s an excellent warm-up that gently stretches muscles and tendons, warms and mobilizes joints, and stimulates blood flow. Also, since it’s naturally limited by your existing range of motion, you’re in complete control of how you move, stretch, or hold each joint. Over time, it can lead to greater mobility and flexibility, making other exercises like walking, climbing stairs, or strength training easier. 

Standing tall

What it is

Many simple yoga poses are built around straightening the spine and aligning the invisible line that connects the top of the skull with a point in the middle of the pelvis and between the feet. Rachel’s most basic example is the Mountain. 

Why it’s beneficial

Bad posture can impact most of the body. It influences breathing, digestion, muscle and joint pain, and even impacts our mood. These simple yoga poses encourage us to focus on good posture and couple it with deep breathing and limber movement. This can translate to better overall posture when we’re off the mat, too. 

Standing balance

What it is

Taking the “standing tall” moves a step further, these moves involve standing still or moving through a series of poses while balanced on one foot. This category includes some of the most visually impressive yoga moves out there, but there are also several simple poses beginners can easily use to get their practice off on the right foot. (Sorry.)

Why it’s beneficial

Balance is an example of a basic human skill we rarely think about or focus on improving. But, when it fails us, it can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and even dangerous. By helping us improve our balance, these yoga moves build both physical and mental resilience and confidence in our bodies. Improved balance can be especially powerful for seniors who are often more prone to falls. 

Deep stretches

What it is

Any yoga pose that urges you to straighten and lengthen a major muscle group falls into this category. One of the best-known poses of this type is the Downward-facing Dog: with feet and hands flat on the mat and hips high, your body forms an upside-down V. Done correctly, this move gently stretches some of the largest muscles and tendons in the body, from the Achilles tendon at the heel to the glutes. 

Why it’s beneficial

Athletes have long understood the value of stretching before a workout, and we’ve all probably done the rudimentary shoe grabs and elbow pulls before a weekend basketball game. But deep, intense stretching is really a powerful workout in itself. It reduces pain and inflammation, promotes healthy circulation and muscle recovery, and significantly reduces the chances of injury during other physical activity. 

Twists

What it is

Experienced yoga practitioners may seem almost like contortionists as they bend and twist their bodies into seemingly awkward or graceful positions. As a beginner, most of those types of poses may seem impossible. But, there are also many simple moves you can master immediately that incorporate the twisting motion. In some moves, it’s held as a stretch for the lower back, shoulders, hips and thighs. In others, it’s a balanced movement more akin to the “flowing like water” poses described above. 

Why it’s beneficial

Core strengthening is one of the key benefits avid yogis gain from their practice, largely due to the movements and poses built around this twisting motion. It works muscles in the abdomen, hips, and lower back that are hard to isolate and effectively train in other ways. These same muscles are highly prone to injury and chronic pain since they’re often far too weak due to the sedentary lifestyle most people have adopted. It also does wonders for loosening and lubricating the spine, promoting circulation within abdominal organs, and aiding digestion. 

Planks

What it is

At its core (sorry again,) the plank involves supporting your bodyweight on hands and feet while maintaining a straight spine and hips. This means most of your bodyweight is being supported by your core muscles — abs, hip flexors, and lower back. A simple plank or side plank is effective on its own, but many other yoga poses use the plank as a foundation for other useful movements and stretches, too. 

Why it’s beneficial

As described above with “twists,” the benefits of core strengthening can’t be overstated. The plank and side plank are staple core exercises anyone can do to promote strength and stability in the core. There’s also an element of balance required to perform effective side planks and many of the plank-based yoga poses. 

For more in-depth instructions for specific poses based on these basic moves, here are some great resources to check out: 

And, if you’d like to try out a beginner’s yoga class, work with an instructor in your area, or pick up some basic yoga equipment so you can build your habit at home, learn how you may save money as a member of the Wellness Complete discount plan.

Learn more about Wellness Complete

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