Sometimes, the most difficult thing about a yoga practice is beginning it.Most of us already feel too busy, which is exactly why we should start. The stresses in the body and the drain in the brain create burnout. A yoga practice can recharge your batteries. It’s funny how we know when we have to charge the battery of our phone or car when it’s depleted, but we ignore our bodies when they’re flashing “low battery.” So, how to get started? We’ve rounded up yoga tips for beginners.
By Colleen Saidman Yee
Yoga Tips for Beginners
1. Realize that yoga isn’t something that you’ll be “good at” when you begin a practice. We all look silly initially.
2. Don’t think up reasons why you can’t do yoga. I’ve heard many people say: “I don’t do yoga because I’m not flexible, or “I can’t do yoga because I’m not strong.” That is exactly why you SHOULD do yoga. It will make you stronger than all the weights in all the gyms in America.
3. Set aside 15 minutes twice a week and just begin. It can be helpful if you have a friend to start with because you can hold each other accountable. What poses should you begin with? It’s helpful not to feel defeated right off the bat. I recommend starting with standing poses, which anyone can do, and the effect is immediate. Working our legs and feet creates a feeling of being grounded, relaxed and awake. Relaxation comes from the final release at the end of a sequence or class after you’ve worked the legs. (If you’ve been sitting all day, it’s hard to relax because a major part of your body, the legs, haven’t been working). As you begin, it’s best to repeat poses several times rather than stay in them for a long time.
Here we go.
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Stand with your feet firmly planted, arms hanging alongside the torso. Feel how your weight subtly shifts side to side, front to back. Watch how your roots grow deeper. From the foundation of your legs, float your torso up and balance your head high above your spine. Inhale, feel your feet, exhale, and feel your chest. Stay for 10 breaths and feel the power of your legs.
2. Volcano Pose (Urdhva Hastasana). From Mountain Pose, inhale and reach your arms actively upward. This is the start of moving up from our roots, trusting that we have a solid foundation from which to extend. Elongate from the waist and try to touch the ceiling with your fingertips. Inhale, feel how your feet contact the floor, exhale, and take your arms higher until you feel a hollow in your lower belly. Hole for 5 breaths.
3. Tree Pose (Vrikshasana). Spend 3 breaths in Mountain Pose, then bend your right knee and take your right foot to the inside of your left thigh, as high as is comfortable. (Feel free to use a nearby wall for balance). Reach your arms straight up alongside your ears. Keep the feeling of floating your chest and head. Focus on something about 6 feet in front of you that isn’t moving. Try not to become rigid as you stay for 5 breaths. Lower the foot to the floor and repeat on the left side for 5 breaths.
4. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana). Stand at the front of your mat and step to the right so that your feet are 3 to 4 feet wide. Inhale as you raise your arms up and out, parallel to the floor. Turn your left foot in 15 degrees and your right foot out 90 degrees. Inhale and strengthen your legs, then exhale and extend your torso to the right over the plane of your forward leg. Rest your right hand on your right shin, a block, or the floor just outside your right foot. Lift your left arm straight up toward the ceiling. As you did in Mountain, root your feet to strengthen your legs and draw energy up from the inner ankles, first to the pelvic floor, then through the top of the sternum. Align your head with your heart center, and twist your upper torso to the left while pushing strongly into your right hand. Stay for 5 breaths. Press down firmly on your big toe mound to initiate the lift of your torso, and come to stand on an inhale without wobbling. Change sides and repeat.
5. Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parshvakonasana). Turn your left foot in 15 degrees, your right foot out 90 degrees. Exhale and bend your right knee to 90 degrees, knee directly over your heel, thigh parallel to the floor. Exhale and lower your torso toward your front thigh. Press your right hand to the floor outside of your right foot and reach your left arm up and alongside your ear. If you can reach the floor easily, support your hand on a block outside the foot or press your elbow on your thing. Strengthen your back leg and again feel the energy flowing up along your inner leg from your angle to your pelvis and through your torso to the top of your head. Twist your upper torso to the left; come in and out of these poses 3 times and only hold for 2 breaths each time. This counting of your breaths will ensure that you are in fact breathing. Press down through your left big toe to come up to stand. Keep the feeling of pumping energy through your legs as you repeat on the other side. Then lie on your belly and come into 6. Sphinx pose. This is great because it is a symmetrical pose with brings the spine back to neutral after all of the asymmetrical standing poses.
6. Constructive Rest, feet on the floor, knees touching, and watch 5 cycles of breath.
7. Final Relaxation (Shavasana). Lie on your back and let your muscles release completely. Empty all expression from your face. Soften your eyes. Clean the slate.
Colleen Saidman Yee is an internationally respected yoga teacher. For 30 years, she was a top global fashion model, represented by Elite and Ford Models. She opened Yoga Shanti Sag Harbor in 1999; and since then has opened locations in New York City and Westhampton Beach, which she runs with her husband, Rodney Yee, and partners. With Donna Karan and Rodney, Colleen created and runs the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program, utilized in healthcare facilities around the country. She has been featured in dozens of yoga videos by Gaiam. Articles about her have appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, Vanity Fair, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among many others. She lives in Sag Harbor, NY.