An Ancient Art

Yoga has been practiced for centuries in the East. The famous Yoga teacher BKS Iyengar said, “When I practice, I am a philosopher, when I teach, I am a scientist, when I demonstrate, I am an artist.” Many people may resonate with this, but to be honest, you don’t have to be artistic and you don’t have to give a hoot about philosophy to practice Yoga, although you may just feel like a performing artist when you’re fluidly floating through space and holding power poses. The point is you can just be true to yourself. Yoga is for everyone. Simply stay genuine.

Yoga is universal; it’s up to you to make it your own. After all, you and only you are you.

Get Your Yoga On

First, let’s clarify that there are many forms of Yoga. We’ll be going over the popularized style of Yoga in the West known as Hatha Yoga, which focuses on physical postures and mental fitness. Yoga means “union” and the ultimate goal of all Yoga styles is to unite body and mind, merging with the Divine Self.

This doesn’t mean you have to walk around with long white drapes dragging ever so spiritually behind you or wear a bindi every day (unless you want to.) You can opt instead for the increasingly popular leggings or even sweats. Or you can wear nothing at all and go for Yoga au naturale. Actually, in the traditional texts of ancient Yoga, it is said that Yoga should be done daily – naked. It doesn’t matter, really, what you wear (or don’t wear), as long as you feel comfortable.

Let’s Get Physical

It’s important to understand proper techniques. For you new Yogis, these basic Yoga asanas (poses) are fundamental for your practice. Give them a try.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

  • Stand with your feet pushing firmly into the ground. Distance them so that the outer rim of the feet, top of toes and heels make a perfect square shape. Lift your toes and find balance by distributing your weight evenly on the balls your feet and then release them down. Push into your mat and outward as if you are trying to spread imaginary boards apart or tear a sheet of paper.

  • Now that you’re grounded, active the legs and lift the kneecaps.

  • Tuck that tailbone in, pointing straight down to the Earth, and open the pelvis by rotating your thighs inward.

  • Straighten the curve of the lower back and apply your root lock, which is similar to a kegel exercise, to lift the pelvic muscles.

  • Raise the shoulders up and then roll them back to melt the shoulder blades onto your back. Make sure your rib cage doesn’t protrude. Tuck your chin inward to straighten the neck and then imagine that a string is pulling your head into the sky, elongating the spine.

  • Let your arms hang at your side with your fingers flexed and slightly spread.

  • Breathe deeply to your diaphragm.

This is an important primary posture for many standing poses and flows.

Table Top Position

  • Come onto your hands and knees and stack the joints. Stacking is extremely important for proper alignment during your practice, therefore avoiding any injury. In Table Top Pose, stack the joints by lining up the shoulders directly above the elbows and the elbows directly above the wrists to create a straight line. Similarly, your knees should be placed directly under you hip joints.

  • Spread your fingers and push your hands into the ground.

  • Place the top of your feet flat on your mat.

  • Gaze between your hands and tilt your pelvis inward straightening the lower back. Use that imaginary string to pull the top of your head and tailbone outward in opposite directions.

  • Breathe.

This basic pose is the foundation for various poses. Now that you have Table Pose down, you’re ready for Cat and Cow Pose.

Marjariasana (Cat & Cow Pose)

  • Inhale as you drop your navel toward the ground creating an arch in your spine.

  • Squeeze the shoulder blades together and drop them down onto your back.

  • Tilt your head back to look upward and tilt the tailbone up as if trying to bring the two together.

This is Cow Pose.

Now, reverse that.

  • Drop your head down to gaze toward your navel as you exhale.

  • Tuck the tailbone down and in to curve your back.

  • Push your hands into the ground to lift the middle of the spine as high up as possible.

This looks similar to a cat stretching after a nap, hence the name Cat Pose.

Repeat this process fluidly flowing and following each breath.

Balasana (Childs Pose)

  • Come back to a flat Table Top position and then push yourself back to sit on the heels of your feet with your forehead on the mat for an Extended Child’s Pose.

  • Bring the arms down to rest at your side for a basic Child’s Pose.

  • Let go. Completely relax and rejuvenate the body in this pose.

  • You guessed it – Keep breathing.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

  • Again, come to a flat Table Top position preparing for the well-known Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Tuck your toes under and drop your head to look toward the navel.

  • With an exhale, push your hands into your mat as you lift and pull the hips up toward the sky.

  • Rotate the pelvis upward and notice the amazing stretch in your hamstrings.

  • Your weight should be supported by the strength in your legs and core leaving minimal strain on the arms. Release all tension in the neck allowing the head to hang loose.

  • Let’s use that imaginary string again – this time drawing the hips diagonally into the sky and top of the spine into the ground.

  • Like always, breathe. Hold this pose for five breaths.

This pose is beneficial for the entire body. It significantly stretches the legs, back and arms and lengthens the spine. Downward-Facing Dog also sends blood flow to the head for better brain function and energy.

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

  • While in Downward-Facing Dog, look forward and begin gently walking forward to bring your feet between your hands.

  • Exhale as you fold into yourself.

  • Our goal here is to eventually bring the stomach to rest upon the thighs and place our forehead on the shins. Try to bend a bit deeper with every exhale.

Standing Forward bend is another awesome stretch for the hamstrings. It also sends ample blood flow to the head.

Vriksasana (Tree Pose)

By far one of my personal favorites, Tree Pose strengthens the body, empowers the spirit and calms the mind. This pose requires patient, stability and balance skills but it’s completely enjoyable.

  • Standing in a tall Mountain Pose, place your palms together at your chest (otherwise known as Prayer Pose) and shift your weight onto your left leg.

  • Rest the right foot against your ankle until you feel steady and then use your hand to guide your foot onto the inner thigh. Make sure your foot isn’t pressing into your knee as this applies pressure and strain on the joint and can cause injury.

  • Push your foot into the thigh and the thigh back into the foot as you rotate the knee back exposing the pelvis – This is a great hip opener.

  • Bring the arms up and extend them outward like the branches of a tree.

  • Breathe and balance, then repeat on the other side.

Asana / Pose Videos

Enjoy Your Existence

Yoga is an awesome way to tone your muscles, stretch the entire body and increase flexibility while simultaneously stilling the mind. It does require presence, discipline and control, but the balance you attain is transferred over to other aspects of your daily life. Be patient and compassionate with yourself – and keep it consistent! Empower yourself with a beautiful body and mastered mind.

Silvia Rodrigues

Silvia Rodrigues is a Yoga Instructor, Graphic Designer and artist who is currently completing her 500-hour Yoga Teacher Certification Course. She is a Portuguese native who was raised in Santa Cruz, California but decided to go back to her roots and is now enjoying life in the beautiful town of Cascais, Portugal. Silvia believes in keeping the body fit by staying active... Read More

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