A Beginner Flow for Strength and Flexibility

Whether you have never stepped on a mat before or have been practicing on and off for years, everyone has got to start (or restart) somewhere.   These 7 poses are a great way to get your yoga journey started or make it a new habit.

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Whether you have never stepped on a mat before or have been practicing on and off for years, everyone has got to start (or restart) somewhere.

These 7 poses are a great way to get your yoga journey started or make it a new habit.

No props are required for this practice, just roll out your mat and begin.

1. Child's Pose - Starting from a kneeling position, bring your big toes to touch, and take your knees as wide apart as feels comfortable for you. Note that the wider the knees, the more intense this will feel. If you start to experience discomfort lessen the width of the knees. Sit back on to your heels, then start to walk your hands forward and fold down. Melt the heart towards the mat as you take some slow and steady breaths. Continue relaxing the hips, belly and chest as you hang out for a few cycles of your breath. When you are ready, walk the hands in to lift the chest back up. Child's pose is great for increasing flexibility through your hips and inner groin.


2. Table Top - Make your way in to a table top position on your hands and knees, Set your palms up directly below your shoulders, spreading the fingertips wide and pointing the middle finger forward. Check that your knees are directly underneath your hips and the same width. Ground down into your fingertips and knuckles. Take a few rounds of cat and cow. With your inhales, drop the belly, lift the gaze, and curl the tailbone up. With your exhales, round your spine, drop your tailbone down, and tuck the chin towards the chest. Keep going through this, in tune with your breath for 5 cycles. Return to a neutral table top, drawing the low belly in and flattening the spine. Push in to the tops of your feet and see if you can lift and hover the knees an inch or so off of the mat. Immediately feel your core and abdominals engage. Hug through your midline, and notice if you're rounding your spine. Hold the hover for a count of 5. Doing this will help you to increase your core strength and make your way towards being able to do poses like plank.

3. Lunges - From table top, step your right foot forward to the top of your mat. Check that your right knee is directly over the right ankle (and not going past it). Drop the hips down as you lift your chest. Tuck the toes of your back foot under. Come up on to your fingertips, and lift your back knee from the mat. Your feet should be hip width apart, rather than in one line. Push in to your feet, engage your legs and see if you can lift the torso to come up into high lunge. Reach the arms up overhead. Draw the ribs in and down, engage the low belly, lengthen the tailbone down. Sink the hips down, keeping the right knee bent. Lunges are a great way to strengthen your low body and stretch in to your hip flexors.


4. Ragdoll - Step forward to the top of your mat, standing up tall with feet hip width apart. Lean on to your right foot, then lift your left knee up. Engage hip flexor strength, and flex your foot. Hold here or challenge yourself further by straightening the lifted leg in front of you. This requires quite a bit of core and hip strength. Exhale and release the foot back down. Take your feet wider than hip distance apart and fold forward. Bend your knees generously and clasp hold of the opposite elbows. Sway gently side to side if it feels good to you. This pose is not so much about a hamstring stretch as it is about decompressing the spine, so bend your knees as much as needed to do so. After holding here for a few breaths, release the fingertips down, bend your knees further. Pushing in to your heels, slowly roll all the way up to standing. Head and shoulders come up last.

Repeat 2-4 over again, taking the lunge and lifts on the other side.

5. Temple Pose - Turn to face the side of your mat, and step the feet wide. Turn your heels in and toes out at about 45 degrees (so they are roughly pointing towards the corners of your mat). As you inhale, circle the arms up overhead, bringing the hands together to touch. As you exhale, bend your knees and draw the hands down to the center of the heart. Keep pushing your knees open wide, so they are aligned over the ankles rather than caving in. As you inhale, straighten your legs and circle the arms back up, exhale down repeating the cycle through 3 times total. On your last one, stay low. From here, interlace your fingers together, flip the palms, and reach your arms up overhead.


6. Wide-legged Standing Forward Fold - Bring your hands to your hips, and turn your feet parallel to the shorter edges of your mat. Inhale, lift and lengthen. As you exhale, tilt your pelvis forward to fold down. Bring your hands down to the floor. Shake your head gently side to side a few times to release tension. To avoid locking your knees up, make sure to keep a small bend in them. Notice if your weight is either rocking forward in to the balls of your feet, or back more in to your heels. Aim to keep the weight evenly distributed. Walk your hands out in front of you, lifting the chin and chest up. Toe/heel your feet in together.


7. Seated Forward Fold - Come to a seat, facing forward towards the front of your mat again. Extend your right leg out in front of you, bringing your left foot to the inner edge of your right thigh. Sit up nice and tall. Inhale, as you reach your arms up overhead. As you exhale, fold over your right leg. Keep a nice flat back here, you may not go as far as you would if you rounded but that's not the goal here. Think instead of pulling your heart forward. Slowly sit back up. Lift your left knee up, then cross your left foot over your right thigh. Hug your left thigh with your right arm, bringing your left fingertips behind you and opening to the left to take a twist. Avoid rounding forward and slouching in the pose, rather sit up nice and tall. Unwind and repeat this through on the other side.

Be sure to take Savasana before moving on with your day. Lay down on your back, extending your arms and legs. Taking up space, turning the palms up to the sky. Think of this as giving your body time to digest what you just did, just like your stomach would after a big meal.

Prefer a verbal class? Or visual guidance? Check out the video below to practice this same flow.



Namaste,
Kassandra

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