At-Home Yoga for Beginners
What Is Yoga Practice?
Everyone has heard the word "yoga" at least once in their lives. However, not everyone can give a clear explanation of its meaning. Yoga is an amazing practice that has originated in India and spread all over the world, bringing health to the human body and soul. Yoga will teach you to breathe and relax properly, normalize your arterial blood pressure, and help you get rid of insomnia.
In the full sense of the term, yoga is a special way of life that helps achieve enlightenment. This is the oldest philosophical doctrine about the essence of human life.
If you decide to practice yoga on a regular basis, you should realize that a new lifestyle will require a lot of time, and you will have to give up some benefits of civilization.
Yoga practice will make you consider your vital principles and habits. It requires immediate refusal of everything that is harmful or bad. You should learn to take control over your feelings and emotions, and obtain mental and physical balance. Independence from your own feelings, ability to meditate and fully concentrate your attention can help you attain perfection of the soul.
If you see yoga as a set of asanas (special poses), it is just gymnastics, but nothing more. And it probably won't bring the desired effect. In this case, yoga is a combination of various exercises aimed at improvement of health, normalization of functioning of particular body organs, perfection of the body shape.
The Origin of Yoga
The history of yoga is long and rich. The Indian seals dating back to the 2–3rd century B.C. have images of figures in yoga meditation poses. Such concept is found in the "Rig-Veda" – one of the oldest Upanishads dating to the 10th century B.C. The basic idea of yoga is explained in the "middle" Upanishads of the 6th century B.C., namely "Mahabharata", "Bhagavad-Gita", and "Yoga-Sutra".
The earliest school has been called "Raja-yoga". It is also known as "Mind management yoga". "Yoga-Sutra" contains the definition of "Ashtanga-Yoga" – eight steps of "Raja-yoga".
These steps are divided into two main parts:
- Four lower stages (limbs) that are "Hatha yoga";
- Four highest levels that are actually "Raja-yoga".
Benefits of Yoga
Any person who regularly devotes a few hours every week to yoga can feel the full health benefits of yoga. Two months are enough to feel positive changes in your body and mind. Special exercises can help you forget about chronic pain in all sections of the spine. Most asanas are aimed at maintaining its proper functioning.
Yoga therapy treats all systems of the body: Cardiovascular, Digestive, Endocrine, etc. All internal organs that are responsible for normal body functioning are massaged during performance of asanas. Regular yoga practice can make your body more flexible. Correction of poor posture not only eliminates the factors that cause joint pain, but also helps you walk more gracefully.
Meditations in asanas increase the ability of the immune system to resist diseases. Also, they decrease the risk of heart disease. Yoga exercises can fill you with vital energy, help you gain self-confidence, and make you calmer and less exposed to stress than usual.
Contraindications to Yoga
Everyone can practice yoga. However, as well as any other kind of gymnastics, yoga has certain contraindications. You shouldn’t start doing asanas without a doctor’s advice in the following cases:
- mental disorders, especially schizophrenia;
- inguinal hernias;
- high arterial or intracranial blood pressure;
- heart disease, especially after a heart attack;
- acute diseases of internal organs;
- within the first year after a stroke;
- joint disorders and spinal injuries;
- immediately after having surgery;
- cold, flu, and elevated body temperature;
- exercising is not recommended for women during menstruation period, and also after the third month of pregnancy.
If you feel worse after exercise, you should stop practicing yoga. In this case, medical consultation is needed.
Rules for Beginners
Before you start, you should learn few key points that can help you practice yoga with numerous health benefits for your body and mind:
- Yoga activities require regularity.
- You should decide on the time for training. It is believed that every morning you should devote a couple of hours to yoga practice. At this time, your body is more flexible, besides, asanas are easier to perform.
- If your working day is too busy, you should find at least 15 minutes every day to exercise – it is better than trying to make up for lost time in one day.
- You should exercise on an empty stomach or a few hours after eating.
- Perform the exercises on a non-slip mat or on the floor.
- Do yoga barefoot.
- Yoga practice requires complete silence and concentration. Therefore, all external sound sources should be turned off.
- While performing the exercise, you need to focus on your body, and, at the same time, you should completely relax. You should perform asanas very slowly and carefully, feeling every inhale and exhale. You can fully relax your body and calm down your mind with proper breathing only. Here lies the effectiveness of yoga.
Things You Shouldn’t Do
Yoga has been always considered as a quite calm and safe practice that can help cope with constant stress, improve body shape, and enhance immunity. All of that is true. However, you need to perform each exercise with a proper technique and concentration. While performing asanas, you should protect your spine from injury and avoid any uncomfortable sensations or pain in the spinal region.
If you feel discomfort in some yoga poses, you shouldn’t perform them. In this case, you need a doctor’s or coach’s advice. You should not force mastering of advanced asanas and difficult movements because of the risk of muscle strain. If you feel pain in your knees when performing specific asanas like the "Lotus pose", you should pay special attention to the proper technique of performance and smoothness of your movements. This way, you can avoid injury.
Basic Asanas (Exercises)
You can start to perform the basic asanas even without a coach’s assistance. They will benefit even if your exercise technique is not absolutely perfect. These simple asanas can help you better understand and feel your body. There is no need to hurry. You just need to focus on the sensations of your body.
The easiest yoga poses for beginners:
Stand straight and relax. Use your right hand to help place the sole of your right foot against the inner left thigh.
Extend your arms to the sides, and then bring your palms together at the chest level. On the inhale, raise your arms up towards the ceiling as high as possible. Hold the position for a few seconds.
Draw your arms back to open your chest. Afterwards, you can do the same with your other leg if you want. Move slowly.
This asana helps create a graceful posture and strengthen the spinal column.It can be performed at the very beginning of yoga practice, because it prepares the body for a specific activity that is about to take place.
Slowly lean forward and place your buttocks on your heels, so that your stomach rests on your thighs and your forehead touches the floor, and stretch your arms out in front of you.
Hold this position, relax, and maintain calm breathing. Perform 5–7 breathing cycles. Then lift your torso and return to the starting position.
This asana gently relaxes tight back muscles and relieves the tension in the neck.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Place your hands on the floor under your shoulders, shoulder-width apart, with your fingers widely spread for support, and your palms pressed to the floor. Your feet should be hip-width apart, parallel to each other. Press your toes into the floor and push your hips up toward the ceiling.
Relax your neck. Keep your hands immovable and try to put your heels on the floor, without lifting your toes from it.
Make sure your fingers and palms rest against the mat and do not move. Your weight should be distributed evenly between the palms and feet.
Meanwhile, do not round your back, but keep it straight. Begin to shift the load to your hands as though you are trying to push the floor away from you on the inhale, and try to put your heels on the floor on the exhale.
This asana can make your legs slimmer and relieve the tension from the shoulders and back.
Hand under Foot Pose
Place your feet shoulder-width apart, bend forward, rest your hands first against your thighs, and then against your knees. Bend your knees and feel the stretch in your lower back. Continue to bend your knees until you can step on the palms of your hands.
You should place your palms under your soles. Your heels should be between your middle and index fingers, and your toes should touch your wrists. Point your elbows outwards if you can. Press your chin to the chest and bring your shoulder blades together as you reach your knees.
Then you need to push off from your feet and extend your back – this provides maximum stretching.
The advanced version of this pose is Kundalasana in which you place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and at the ending point you move your shoulders behind your legs (as shown on the image).
This asana provides flexibility to the legs and tones the body.
Lie down on your stomach, with your arms extended by your sides. Place your legs slightly apart, do not keep them together. Bend your knees and grab your ankles from the inside.
Slowly raise your head and your upper body. Try to lift your hips from the floor, as though you are stretching like a bow. Pause for 7–10 breathing cycles and return to the starting position.
This asana helps make your back straight and your arms slim, and also promotes strengthening of the abdominal muscles.
When practicing yoga, you should remember to do everything slowly and carefully. Feel your every movement and enjoy it. Do not forget about your thoughts – use yoga to take your mind off the problems, relax, and make yourself a little bit better than yesterday. Good luck!
Test. Guess Asana by the Picture
Yoga practice tones the body and promotes strength and energy. Can you guess what asana is on the photo? Share your results in comments.