Leave Your Mat a Little More Zen With This Beginner-Friendly Sequence
Regardless of your level, cultivating a home yoga practice is an option for everyone. Both beginners and more advanced practitioners will love this straightforward yoga sequence that builds a strong foundation and focuses on the building blocks of a good practice. Spend a few minutes on your mat, and enjoy this sequence that will leave you feeling refreshed, focused, and a little more zen. Source: POPSUGAR Photography
The most important pose to have under your belt before your first yoga class? The oh-so-relaxing Child's Pose, of course! Child's Pose is the perfect place to reconnect with your breath and give your body a moment to recoup. Whenever you're feeling overwhelmed during class or your breathing feels shallow or harried, drop your knees and hang out in Child's Pose for a few deep breaths. It will change everything.
- Kneel on your mat with your knees hip-width distance apart and your big toes touching behind you. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs. Try to lengthen your neck and spine by drawing your ribs away from your tailbone and the crown of your head away from your shoulders.
- Rest your arms beside your legs, with palms facing up, or try extending your arms out in front of you.
- Stay here for (at least) five breaths.
Downward Facing Dog
You'll be asked to step back to this upside-down V shape all the time during class! It will feel very active and difficult in the beginning, but with time and practice, you'll come to experience it as a resting pose. Do your best to let your arms and legs equally share the weight of your body. It's your best bet to feel stabler and more comfortable in Downward Facing Dog.
- From Child's Pose, press back on your hands, and come into a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be underneath your shoulders, and your knees should be underneath your hips.
- Inhale as you tuck your toes under your heels. Then exhale to lift your hips, coming into the upside-down V shape called Downward Facing Dog.
- Spread your fingers wide, and create a straight line between your middle fingers and elbows. Work on straightening your legs and lowering your heels toward the ground. Relax your head between your arms, and direct your gaze through your legs or up toward your belly button. Hold for five breaths.
Standing Forward Bend
Standing Forward Bend is another pose that looks like it's all relaxation, but you will feel a deep and intense stretch in your hamstrings and upper back. While the full expression of the pose calls for straight legs, if that feels like too much on your body, give a little bend to your knees to create more space.
- From Downward Facing Dog, keep your hands on the mat, and slowly step one foot at a time to the top of your mat so your feet meet your hands. Inhale with a flat back, and gaze slightly forward.
- As you exhale, engage your abs to fold forward with a straight back. Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders, and extend the crown of your head toward the floor to create a long spine. Shift your weight forward onto your toes, trying to straighten the legs as much as possible. If this feels uncomfortable, allow your knees to have a little bend so you can focus on releasing your back.
- Place your hands on the ground, fingertips lining up with your toes.
- Hold here for five breaths.
Upward Facing Dog
Upward Facing Dog is another common pose in any Vinyasa-style yoga class, but it is not as easy as it appears! This chest-opening pose requires ample arm strength to lift your hips up and away from your mat. If the stretch feels too intense from the start of class, don't be afraid to start off in Cobra Pose, a gentler alternative that offers the same benefits to your upper body.
- From Standing Forward Bend, inhale and lift your chest up with a flat back. Rest your hands on your shins or just below your knees to release your spine.
- As you exhale, place your hands on the mat and step your feet back one at a time to the top of a push-up or plank position (known as Four-Limbed Staff or the start of a Vinyasa.)
- As you exhale, slowly lower your body in a straight line down toward your mat. Inhale a breath as you scoop your chest forward, balancing on the tops of your feet and your hands, coming into Upward Facing Dog.
- Keep your hips lifted and off the ground, and do your best to press into the tops of your feet and palms simultaneously. If this feels comfortable, start to lift your chin, and lower your head back between your shoulder blades without losing the backbend feel. Pull your shoulder blades down your back, and hold for five breaths.
- When you've completed five breaths, drop your knees to the mat, and press your hips back to Downward Facing Dog.
Warrior 1 opens up tight hips while strengthening your whole lower body. Do your best to turn and square your hips toward the front of the room while straightening and engaging your back leg in Warrior 1. These tips will help your body get the most of the stretch, and you'll be able to stay comfortable in this pose for a longer period of time.
- From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Turn your left heel in, press into your feet, and lift your torso up.
- Lift your arms up, and press your palms together. Draw your shoulder blades down toward your hips, and gaze up at your hands.
- Stay here for five breaths. Then come back to Downward Facing Dog, and step your left foot forward to do Warrior 1 on the other side.
Warrior 2 is another quad-strengthening and hip-opening pose you'll need to know for class. Once you take the initial shape, roll your shoulders back to loosen up your neck, and continue to extend your arms toward the front and back of the mat. If you start to feel the burn, remember that's good! Breathe deep, and stick with the pose.
- From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward between your palms, and come back to Warrior 1.
- Extend your arms out into T position as you rotate your torso to the left, coming into Warrior 2. Ideally, your front thigh should be parallel to the ground and your right knee directly over your right ankle. Make sure your shoulders are stacked directly above your pelvis.
- Gaze past your right fingertips, holding for five breaths. Then place your hands on the mat, and step back one foot at a time to return to Downward Facing Dog. Step your left foot forward, and do this pose on the other side.
Reverse Warrior Pose
Reverse Warrior Pose looks simple enough, but it can prove to be challenging to balance if your Warrior 2 isn't set up properly. Once you stretch back into your Reverse Warrior, keep your chest open. It should never feel like you're crunching your side into this pose; it's all about that big opening in your ribs while you strengthen your thighs.
- From Warrior 2, gently arch back and rest your left hand on the back of your left leg. Raise your right arm overhead, feeling the stretch through the right side of the body. Make sure you continue to lower your hips and press your front knee forward so it's directly over your right ankle.
- Remain here for five breaths. Lift your torso up, place your hands on the floor, and move back into Down Dog. Step your left foot forward, and do this pose on the left side. When you're finished, come back to Downward Facing Dog.
The pretzel-like Open Triangle pose might look a little confusing, but just follow these step-by-step instructions to build this pose from the ground up. Once you're in your full expression of Open Triangle, try to swing your upper body and chest back to be in line your hips. You'll feel an amazing stretch across the side of your body!
- From Downward Facing Dog, step your left foot forward between your hands, and rise up into Warrior 1.
- Open your hips, arms, and chest into another Warrior 2.
- Straighten your left leg, and turn your right toes slightly to the left, making a 45-degree angle. Keep both legs straight as you reach your left hand straight out over your left leg. Lower your left hand, resting it on your left shin or a block, or place your palm flat on the floor. Extend your right arm straight up, and gaze at your left fingertips.
- Stay like this for five deep breaths. Then turn your upper body toward the mat, drop your hands to the top of your mat, and step back to Down Dog before repeating this pose on the other side.
Fierce Pose is one people either love or loathe, but this pose works your whole body — especially your core and legs. Pretend you're sitting back in a chair while keeping your chest open toward the front of your mat. Engaging your glutes will keep your sink deeper and grow stronger.
- From Downward Facing Dog, step or hop your feet together at the top of your mat.
- Gaze slightly forward before rolling up, vertebrae by vertebrae, until you're in Mountain Pose.
- Bend your knees and lower your hips as you raise your arms overhead.
- Focus on sitting back onto your heels. Tuck your tailbone in and engage your abs, keeping your spine straight. Relax your shoulders as you gaze up toward the ceiling. Stay like this for five breaths.
Mountain Pose may look like a break, but it can prove to be the most transformative part of your practice. Reconnect to your deep belly breathing, and see where any tightness or tension is rising in your body or mind. Breathe into these spaces and find freedom.
- After a strong Fierce Pose, stand up tall with your feet together, legs active, and arms by your sides.
- Take a moment to bring your awareness inward and reconnect with your body and breath. Stay here for (at least) five breaths.
Butterfly Pose might remind you of childhood gymnastics classes, but it's an amazing stretch for adults — especially those who sit at a desk all day. This posture helps you focus on your breath, bring your attention inward, and stretch out a tight lower back. Instead of rounding your back and slouching over your feet, lean into this pose with your chest, and only round your back when you can't go any further.
- From Mountain Pose, sit down on your bottom and bring your feet together.
- Using your hands, open your feet up like a book, pressing your knees toward the floor with your elbows. If you want more of a stretch, extend your arms out in front of you.
- Stay here for 10 breaths.
Before you jump into a full Wheel Pose or any sort of crazy backbend, you need to build a solid foundation, and Half Wheel is the perfect inversion for beginners. It stretches out a tight torso and has a surprisingly calming effect on your whole body.
- From Butterfly Pose, come to lie on your back.
- Bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor. Walk your heels as close as you can to your tush, and turn your heels out slightly so the outside edges of your feet are parallel with the outside edges of your mat.
- Lift your hips up, and place your hands on either side of your lower back. Rock your weight from side to side so you can pull your shoulder blades closer together.
- Stay here for five deep breaths, actively pressing your feet into the floor to lift your hips up and increase the stretch in your torso and neck.
- Gently lower your bum back to the ground, and hug your knees into your chest.
- Work your way back to Down Dog, and repeat this sequence on your left side.
If you're looking to test your core strength, Boat Pose is a great indicator. Don't be afraid to keep your knees bent in this core-toning posture; you'll be able to extend your legs out with time. Also, don't bail if your body starts to shake, it just means your center is engaged and working!
- From Bridge Pose, sit on your bottom. Bend your knees, and lift your feet off the floor, balancing on your tush.
- Keep your spine long, and straighten your legs as much as you can without rounding your back. If this is too hard, keep your knees bent — you're still working your core.
- Hold for five complete breaths.
Here's the moment you've been waiting for! Nearly every yoga class ends with Savasana (or Corpse Pose), which is basically an extended meditative nap. When you hear the teacher call out Savasana in class, you know that the active portion of the practice is behind you.
- After Boat Pose, lie on your back and close your eyes. In order to relax and open your body fully, extend your arms a few inches away from the body, with your palms facing up.
- Bring about 15 to 20 inches between your feet, allowing them to fall open with your toes pointing out. Actively shrug your shoulders and shoulder blades down toward your hips. Lengthen through your spine as much as possible, and try to press the small of your back into the floor.
- After you've found a comfortable position, enjoy the stillness for five to 10 minutes.