This workout is a process of self-realization. It’s designed to help you feel empowered and build your self-discipline. Follow these guidelines to improve your yoga experience.
- Never force a pose if you feel a painful strain. Only go where it feels comfortable.
- If your knees are uncomfortable, use a pillow, rolled towel or blanket as a cushion behind the knee joint (the popliteal area, if you know where that is).
- Resist locking your elbows.
- Stand against the wall if a pose makes it difficult to balance. Balance may differ from day to day. Imbalance during poses may reflect imbalances in other aspects of your life.
1) Standing Twist (Warms up spine; loosens body)With your feet shoulder-width apart (mountain pose) and your knees slightly bent with relaxed arms, twist you upper body loosely from side to side. Breathe normally for 30 seconds.
2) Standing Leaning Stretch (Opens lower back and obliques)Interlace your fingers and turn your hands palm side up above your head. Inhale deeply and exhale as you stretch to the right. Inhale and return to center, and exhale to the left. Repeat five times.
3) X (Warms up upper body)With your feet in mountain pose (feet together), bring your straight arms up to the ceiling in a V shape, with the palms facing each other. Inhale. On the exhale, cross your hands in front of your face, bringing your hands to shoulder height with the palms facing you. Inhale. Then, exhale and cross your arms again, switching the arm closest to you. This exhale should be sharp and come from your navel. Alternate your arms and proceed for 90 seconds.
4) Ladybug (Opens upper back, neck and lungs)Inhale deeply and place your fingertips on your shoulders with your elbows out to your sides, in line with your shoulders. Keeping your fingers on your shoulders, bring your elbows out in front on the exhalation. Keep exhaling and drop your head. Bend forward at the neck, and look down to your toes. On the inhale, come back to elbows out to side. Repeat five times.
5) Tightrope (Helps with balance; strengthens ankles)With your feet in mountain pose, bring your hands palm side up out to your sides at shoulder height. Lift your heels from the ground and balance on your toes. Hold this for 30 seconds, taking deep breaths from your navel up into your chest. Want a challenge? Do it with your eyes closed.RESEARCH: Mindfulness Can Make You Fitter
6) Tree (Helps with balance)With hands in prayer (thumbs against your chest) and feet together, slide your right foot up your leg, placing the sole of the foot flush against the leg. Lift your foot as high as you feel comfortable, bringing your knee into line with your hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Advanced version? Interweave your fingers palm side up and stretch them above your head.
7) Stork (Improves balance and focus; strengthens arms, shoulders and legs)While in the mountain pose, bring your right knee into line with your right hip, or as high as 90 degrees. With your right toes pointing toward the floor, inhale and raise your straight arms (palms facing up) in front of you, to shoulder height. Resist leaning forward. Keep your standing leg pressing into the ground, stand erect and gaze ahead at a fixed point. Hold the pose for 30 seconds. Return to the mountain pose and switch sides.
8) Horse (Strengthens quadriceps and knees)With your feet wide and toes turned out 45 degrees, bend your knees so they’re directly above your heels. Bring your hands to center and into prayer. Squat as low as you can, but with your tailbone no lower than in line with your knees. Feel the length of your spine elongating the distance from your tailbone to the top of your head. Hold the pose for 30 seconds.QUIZ: How Physically Active Are You?
9) Goddess (strengthens arms, quadriceps and knees, opens chest)While in Horse, extend your arms out to the side with your elbows slightly below your shoulders. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, with your palms facing upward. Relax into the pose. Don’t raise your shoulders. Keep them lowered and relaxed.
10) Triangle (Opens spine, helps balance body)Stand with your right foot pointing to the right, and your left foot forward at a slight angle. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, move your right hand down your leg toward your right ankle, stopping wherever you feel comfortable. Simultaneously lift your left hand, keeping your shoulder parallel to your hip the whole time. Resist twisting your shoulders. Take five deep breaths and switch sides. Do this twice.
11) Cat Back/Cow (Improves flexibility of spine and torso circulation)Get on all fours with your weight evenly distributed. Keep your knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Straighten your arms, but don’t lock them. Spread your fingers facing forward. Start with a straight line from the top of your head to your tailbone. Exhale as you lift your upper back and tuck your tailbone underneath. Look toward your belly button, tucking your chin in. Inhale as you reverse into cow and lift your tailbone up. Your belly button goes toward the ground. Look straight ahead as the top of your head faces the ceiling. Use your entire spine throughout the movement. Do five times.
12) Extended Cat Stretch (Warms up and awakens entire body; great for your spine)Adding to Cat Back, lift your left knee off the ground and bring it toward your forehead while simultaneously tucking your forehead under. Then inhale, extending your right leg behind you with pointed toes. Lift your head and look forward. During the entire smooth movement, keep your hips in line and your pelvis steady as your elongate your entire body. Do five times and switch sides.
13) Thread the Needle (Opens upper back and shoulders)Start on all fours. Take your right hand palm side down and slide it under your left armpit. Keep extending it as you exhale and slowly lower your right ear and shoulder to the mat. Simultaneously drop your left elbow onto the mat, or as low as you feel comfortable. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
14) Lion (Awakens and simultaneously relaxes facial muscles)While on your knees, sit erect and inhale deeply. Stretch all of your facial muscles apart on the exhale. Open you mouth as wide as you can. Try to touch your tongue to your chin, and open your hands as wide as you can, with palms facing outward. Look at the tip of your nose and make a loud “ha” sound. Do four times.
15) Wrist Extensions (Opens wrists; helps with carpal tunnel problems)Bring your hands out in front of you, palm side down. Interface your fingers chest high. Relax your shoulders and gently pull your elbows apart, creating space in your joints. While maintaining this space, raise your active left wrist and lower your passive right. Keep both forearms parallel to the ground. Now your right wrist is bending up and your left wrist is bending down. With fingers interlaced, gently go back and forth several times, opening up your wrists and switching your lead hand.
16) Camel (Opens chest and the front of the body; strengthens spine)While on your knees (use a towel if needed), place your knees and feet six inches apart. Place your hands on the back of your hips, fingers pointed down. Drop your head back completely and support yourself with your hands. Take a deep breath and exhale as you press your hips, thighs and stomach forward, using your spine strength. While taking deep breaths, hold bend for 20 seconds and come out slowly.
17) Lunges (Stretches your thighs and groin, and lengthens your spine)While on all fours with your knees below your hips and your hands below your shoulders, step your left foot forward, placing it next to your left hand. Your left shin stays perpendicular to the ground. On the inhale, bring both hands up onto your left thigh. Keep the front of your knee behind your big toe. Don’t raise your shoulders toward your ears. Keep them broad. If this is too hard, leave one hand down until it feels easy, and then come up. On the exhale, gently twist your right hip toward your left heel. You should feel a stretch along your back thigh. Inhale and exhale four times. Switch sides.
18) Down Dog (Strengthens and stretches the legs and shoulders; energizes the whole body)Start on all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart. Tuck your toes under. While inhaling, lift your knees from the ground and straighten your legs. Lift your hips back and up. Spread your fingers out, pressing palms flat to the floor. Keep your neck relaxed. Your head should be in a neutral position. Lift your quadricep muscles. Draw your heels toward the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and release back down to the mat while exhaling.MORE: Yoga for Beginners
19) Cobra (Develops strength and flexibility in your back)Lie on your stomach with your hands palm side down under your shoulders. Keep your fingertips directly underneath your shoulders. Your legs are pressed together tightly. Point your toes and put your toes and your elbows flush against your sides. While looking at the ceiling, use your spine strength and lift your torso off the floor just to the navel. Resist pressing with your hands, and arch your back as much as feels comfortable. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down away from your ears. Hold for 20 seconds.
20) Diagonal Reach (Strengthens your back with emphasis on your lower back and butt; improves coordination)While lying on your stomach, place your right hand, palm down, underneath your relaxed forehead. Bring your left straight arm beside your left ear. Then lift it off the ground while simultaneously lifting your right leg. Focus on stretching your left fingers as far as you can away from your right foot and feel, as your whole body lengthens. It’s more important to elongate than to lift higher. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides. Do twice.
21) Half Frog Pose (Stretches quadriceps; awesome for your knees)Lie face down and rest your forehead on the back of your left hand. Lift your right foot toward your right hip and grab your foot with your right hand. Pull the foot gently toward your outer hip. Breathe evenly and hold 30 seconds. Release and switch sides.
22) Down Dog One Leg (Strengthens and stretches the legs, stretches the calves, energizes the whole body)While in Down Dog, take your right foot off the ground and wrap it around your left ankle. This added weight will open up your calf. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.
23) Roll and Massage Back (Massages back of course, and improves balance)While lying on your back, bend your knees and clasp your hands on your hamstrings. Curl your tailbone up and round your back. Start rocking back and forth as it’s comfortable. Take notice of any skips in your roll. Try to round your body as much as possible, so it rocks smoothly back and forth. Do it for 30 seconds.
24) Little Boat Pose (Stretches hips, lower back and spine)While on your back, hug your knees in toward your chest with your hands. Release your left leg down (either straight or bent, whichever feels more comfortable). Interlace your fingers on the outside of your right leg, just underneath the knee. Pull the right knee slightly in toward your right shoulder as you relax your neck. Keep your shoulder down. Resist overextending your neck. Elongate it and look straight up. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.MORE: Bikram or “Hot Yoga” for Beginners
25) Little Boat TwistWhile on your back, reach your arms straight out to shoulder height, flush against the ground, palm side down. With knees bent and feet flat on the ground, exhale as you slowly drop your knees to your right and look straight at the ceiling. To increase the stretch, lift your knees higher. Keep your upper back and shoulders on the mat throughout the entire pose. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.26) Half Boat (Tones stomach and back)Sit on the floor. Keep your knees bent and together out in front of you. Hold your legs and lean back to a 45-degree angle. Slowly bring your feet up from the ground, with your calves parallel to the ground, and balance. Then release your hands to knee height. Want to try the advanced position? Straighten your legs into a “V” and hold for 30 seconds.
27) Butterfly (Opens hips and groin)Sit on the ground with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Interlace your fingers on the outsides of your feet and draw in your heels toward your tailbone. Place your hands on your legs if this is too hard. Slowly tilt your upper body forward with your back straight. As your hips loosen, you’ll ultimately be able to drop your chin down on the other side of your toes. Hold for 30 seconds.
28) Half Butterfly (Stretches back, hamstrings and calves)While sitting straight with your legs out in front, bend your left leg back into a Half Butterfly. Flex your right foot up (try not to contort your foot). Keep it straight as if there were a board below it. Inch your hands down your right leg, slowly lowering your forehead toward your right shin. Stop where it feels comfortable. Hold for 10 seconds, taking deep breaths. Switch sides. Advanced: Pull your toes back with the opposite hand.
29) Corpse (Relaxes entire body)Lie on your back and let your arms relax down to your side with palms facing up. Stretch your legs out straight and let your feet flop down. Travel mentally through your entire body with your eyes closed. Completely relax from the crown of your head to your toes. When you’re ready to come up, roll on your side. Hold for 15 seconds and slowly come onto all fours before standing.