Yoga is for everyone. Regardless of your current state of balance, flexibility, or strength, the physical practice of yoga asanas can help you improve your current state and lead you toward a more harmonious experience in your body. You only get one body to live in this life, so it’s essential to take great care of your temple.
The following yoga poses (aka asanas) are wonderful for creating an overall state of well-being. Once a level of proficiency has been achieved in each asana, you can begin moving toward fusing them together into a vinyasa sequence, con-necting each pose with the flow of the breath for a calm, centered mind state.
In the beginning, yoga can feel uncomfortable and even painful in some ways, as you are made aware of the areas in your body that are tight, weak, and out of balance. With consistent practice, each of these issues can be resolved and your body will find its way back to its intrinsic equilibrium, which is a natural and state of harmony and perfect balanced health.
The asanas in this article target the major areas of the body that often become tight, weak, or out of balance from daily living. So these asanas can help tremen-dously whether you spend your days riding waves on a surfboard or answering emails at a computer desk.
To begin, find a quiet, peaceful, and inspiring place away from distraction to practice. If you can be outside, that’s even better; being in nature and surrounded by the nourishing prana (energy) of Mother Earth is tremendously helpful to enhance your experience.
Before beginning the asanas, sit quietly for a few moments and begin to become grounded in your body and mind. Start to calm yourself and connect with your breath. As you inhale, feel your lungs expand and fill every cell of your body with prana, a cleansing and powerful life force energy. As you exhale, release any ten-sion or stress from your body and mind.
1. Butterfly: All Levels
Starting in a seated position, bend both knees and bring the soles of your feet together. Press your knees toward the earth, externally rotating the hips and opening the soles of your feet toward the sky. With each breath relax your hips more toward the earth. If this is too challenging for you at first, you may wish to place a cushion, rolled-up towel, or block under your hips to elevate them above your knees. This will make this hip-opening pose more accessible until your hips loosen up. To deepen the stretch, fold for ward as you continue to press your knees toward the earth. Hold for 5–10 breaths at first, and progress until you can hold the pose for 30 seconds or over a minute. The longer you can hold each pose, the deeper you will go and the more progress you will make. Continue to breathe and enjoy the journey.
2. Cow Face/Gomukhasana Prayer: All Levels
Start seated with your knees bent and stacked on top of each other, as closely as possible If you need to put a cushion under your hip, it may help until your hips loosen up. Place your hands in prayer above your head to make this a centering medita-tive pose. When both hands are together, in prayer mudra, you invoke a deep heart con-nection; elevating this mudra above your head will raise this connection to an even diviner nature.
3. Seated Spinal Twist: All Levels
Start seated with your left knee bent and the left foot near your right hip, right leg crossed over left, right foot placed near the outer edge of your left thigh. As you inhale, sit up straight and lengthen your spine. As you exhale, twist your torso, placing your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and your right palm on the earth behind your back. Hold for 3 breaths and repeat on the other side. On each inhale, lengthen the spine; on each exhale, twist a little deeper.
4. Mermaid: Level 2/3
Start with your left knee bent and forward and your right leg extended back while keeping both hips as “square” or flat toward the earth as possible. If this is not pos-sible yet, you can support the alignment by placing a block, cushion, or rolled-up towel under your left hip to keep the balance between both hips. Start with a few simple breaths in the basic hip opening pose, also known as pigeon, which is the foundation of mermaid.
From there, if your shoulders and hips are open enough to allow you to, bend your right knee (back leg) and reach your right hand back for the right ankle, opening the right quad and hip flexors. If it is possible for you to maintain your spinal alignment, reach your left hand back to bind with the right. Hold for a few breaths and then release and repeat on the other side.
5. Low Crescent Lunge: All Levels
Start in a low lunge, with your right foot forward, right knee at a 90-degree angle and left leg extended back behind you with the knee on the earth and the top of the foot planted firmly to stabilize. Engage your core to stabilize as you reach your arms above your head. Palms can be in prayer, or interlace the fingers to feel more centered. Radiate your hips forward and lift your heart to the sky. Hold for 3–5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
6. Low Crescent Lunge: Level 2
Start the same as low cres-cent lunge. If your spine feels open and flexible, start to arch your upper back, keep-ing the tailbone tucked under to lengthen the lumbar spine, as you lift your heart and gently arch back. Relax your arms down by your sides. Place your hand on the front knee or feel free to place your hands anywhere you feel will stabilize you to be able to hold this pose for at least 3 breaths. Be sure to do both sides.
7. Upward-Facing Dog: All Levels
Starting on your belly, place your palms beneath your shoul-ders and begin to lift your chest toward the sky while pressing firmly into the tops of your feet. Lifting your knees and thighs, engage your core and lengthen your spine as you arch your upper back into a strong yet gentle backbend. Hold for a few breaths and slowly lower. Repeat 3 times to build strength and flexibility.
8. Bow Pose: All Levels
Lying on your belly, bend your knees and reach back with both hands toward each ankle. With your shoulders internally rotating so your thumbs are point-ing down, reach back and grasp each ankle and start to lift your toes toward the sky. As your toes reach
toward the sky, use your arm and back strength to lift your shoulders up and back, com-ing into a nice backbend. Turn your gaze up toward the sky as you root down through your belly and pelvic area. Hold for 5 breaths, release, and repeat
3 times. After your final bow pose in the sequence, go into child’s pose to counterbalance your spine.
9. Crow: Level 2
This core-strengthening arm balance pose is the foundation for most other arm balances. To begin, place your palms shoul-der distance apart on the earth, spread your fingers, and grip the earth slightly to create a strong foundation. Engage your core and bandhas (yogic energy locks) to draw the energy in and up (imagine a magnet is pulling you toward the sky from your upper back as you root down through your palms). Place your knees on your upper tri-
ceps, one at a time, then lift your feet up and point your toes back. Look forward and shift some weight forward to create equilibrium.
10. Goddess: All Levels
Start with your legs wider than hip distance apart, feet turned out to the sides, knees above your ankles, legs spread as wide as they can go. Sink your hips as low as you can, engaging your glutes and thighs while maintaining a firm foundation with proper form. Lengthen your spine from the lower back by tucking the tailbone under a bit and lifting your heart and the crown of your head toward the sky. Hold for 5–10 breaths and then straighten your legs. Repeat 3 times.
13. Standing Hand to Foot: Level 2
Start as if you’re going into tree pose, with your right foot firmly rooted on the earth and quads engaged to activate your foundation. Bend your left knee and reach your left hand “peace fingers: index, middle, and thumb” to clasp the big toe on the left foot. Extend your left leg as straight as possible as you drop the left hip down parallel to the right hip and the ground. Place your right hand on your right hip and lengthen your spine, lifting the crown of your head to the sky, shoulders back, drishti (focus point) straight ahead. Hold for 3–5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
14. High Standing Crescent Lunge: All Levels
Start with your left leg forward, left foot firmly planted on the earth, left knee bent, right leg extended behind you, right knee lifted, stabilizing on your right toes, both hips squared to the front of the mat. Tuck your tail-bone slightly as you lengthen your spine and lift your chest toward the sky. Pull in your lower belly and engage your bandhas and core mus-cles. Reach your arms up by your ears, placing your palms together either in prayer or fire mudra, fingers inter-laced. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
15. Warrior 1 with Eagle Arms: Level 2
Start similar to high standing lunge, except turn your back foot flat with the toes rotated forward 45 degrees. Root down through the back heel and draw the front hip back to square the hips forward toward the front of the mat. With a long spine and strong core, wind your arms around each other, right arm under, left arm on top, plac-ing your palms together into a prayer position in front of your face. Press your elbows away from your chest and your fingertips toward the sky to open the upper back and shoulders. Breathe deeply for 3–5 breaths and repeat on the other side.