[Beginner’s Guide] Simple Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind and Strengthen Your Body

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[Beginner's Guide] Simple Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind and Strengthen Your Body

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is now. That’s it. That’s all there is to know. Good nightand thank you.Okay, it’s far more than that. But that sentence, Yoga is now , is the whole thing boiled down to three words.
[Beginner's Guide] Simple Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind and Strengthen Your Body
 The problem is that “now” is a pretty hard concept to putinto practice in our daily lives. Have you ever tried to live inthe moment, right here, right now, with no distractions andno other thoughts in your head? It’s dicult. That’s why aman named Patanjali, who lived during the second century BC, wrote the Yoga Sutras as a guide to yoga. “Yoga is now”is the first of his 196 sutras. But it’s only the beginning of his teachings.
 Patanjali, who is considered to be the founder of the philosophy of yoga, defines yoga as the ability to cease identification with the movements of the mind—in otherwords, to “live in the now.” The literal translation of yoga is“to yoke” or “union” or “to join.” Modern yogis translate thisas the union of the mind and the body. This is why when most of us think of yoga, we think of Down Dog or fancy balancing poses. Much of the work that we do in the physical practice of yoga is meant to carry over into our mental states.
 For example, if we hold a pose and work through some discomfort in our thighs or our arms, then we learn to understand that when we are faced with the pain that comes from the dicult times in our lives, we have the strength toget through it. The physical helps the mental and vice versa; therefore, one cannot exist without the other, and that is whywe have yoga—or the union of the two.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
Patanjali understood that there was more to yoga than just moving the body. Achieving the now is hard work. Using thelessons of his Sutras,he broke yoga down into the following eight areas or “limbs,” known as ashtanga
AMAS
self-control
NIYAMAS
methods of discipline
ASANAS
physical postures
PRANAYAMA
breath work
PRATYAHARA
assistance with withdrawing from the senses
DHARANA
concentration
DHYANA
meditation
SAMADHI
absorption or liberation from the mind and the body
 
As you can see, yoga is more than just a kickass workout.Asanas—the physical postures—are just one part of the yogapractice. In order to comprehend yoga as a whole, we needto understand all eight of these principles.
 
Styles of Yoga
While these styles of yoga all stem from the same historicalroots, they are distinct in their focus and beliefs. Here areseven of the most popular styles:
 
  • Ashtanga[Beginner's Guide] Simple Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind and Strengthen Your Body
  • Kundalini
  • Hatha
  • Bikram
  • Kriya
  • Raja
  • Iyengar

 

 

What Yoga Can Bring to Your Life
 
According to the latest Yoga in America study conducted bySports Marketing Surveys USA on behalf of Yoga Journal in2012, there are 20.4 million Americans who practice yoga,and 44.8 percent of them consider themselves to be begin-ners. When asked in the survey why people are doing yoga,the top five reasons for starting were as follows:
 
1.Flexibility (78.3 percent)
2.General conditioning (62.2 percent)
3.Stress relief (59.6 percent)
4.To improve overall health (58.5 percent)
5.Physical fitness (55.1 percent)
 
I can tell you from my own experience that all five of these reasons are excellent and valid reasons to come to yoga. However, there is far more to be gained from yoga than strength, flexibility, good health, and less stress.As one of the few forms of exercise that also focuses onthe mental aspect of health, yoga’s list of benefits is quite long. The following sections oer you a small sampling of what you can expect when you start to practice, but don’t besurprised if you notice other changes happening as well.
Increasing Your Sense of Space
Proprioception is the ability to understand how yourbody moves in space. It’s me standing at the front of theroom asking you to step your right foot forward and pointyour toes straight ahead. You do this without having tolook down. By focusing on alignment in the poses, yogis’proprioception increases.
Supporting Weight Loss
As a system of exercise that can increase your heart rate and build muscle, yoga inevitably makes weight loss possible. But one of the other benefits of yoga is that many people beginto eat more mindfully. Because they start to feel better over-all, they start to make healthier choices for their bodies.
[Beginner's Guide] Simple Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind and Strengthen Your Body
 Adding to Your Strength
The poses require you to hold your own body weight in avariety of ways. This stresses your muscles in a manner that encourages them to get stronger, much like lifting weights.
 Enhancing Flexibility 
This is the obvious benefit that comes to mind when youthink of yoga. Stick with the practice. You’ll find that your joints become more mobile and you wake with less stiness.
Improving Balance
Many poses in the practice work on balance, but one of the major components of every pose is engaging the core muscles. Doing so teaches you to center your body and achieve physical balance with ease. This balance sometimes starts to transfer into our daily lives as well. So, you might also create a better work-life balance, too.
 Easing Stress
Yoga gives you the tools to relax, either through asana,breath work, or meditation. Breathing in a deep mindful manner calms the nervous system. The physical practice produces endorphins, and meditation brings clarity. (Endor-phins are hormones that produce a feeling of well-being.)
 Perfecting Your Posture
Yoga strengthens the muscles of the core (generally, theabdomen and lower back), which causes your body to seekout a more proper upright position. It also keeps the spine supple and its surrounding muscles flexible.
 Improving Circulation
Yoga has many proven benefits for the heart, including lowering blood pressure and lowering heart rate. Also, the movement associated with yoga encourages the body’s lymph fluid to drain more properly. Lymph contains thewhite blood cells in the human immune system.
Enhancing Focus
One of the goals of yoga is to concentrate on the breath andthe alignment of the postures. Doing so clears the mind of extraneous thoughts. By training the brain to focus like thison the mat, you are able to focus in your daily life.
 Assisting with Sleep
Clearly, you expend energy when you move your body andare therefore more tired at the end of the day. But because yoga also works on easing stress and creating focus, it becomes easier to slip ointo slumber at night.
 Adding to Your Inner Strength
As your body gets stronger and more flexible, you tend togain a confidence that you might not have had previously.Through tapas (the heat you create to initiate change), you might find that experiences in your life improve without youhaving made a conscious eort.
 Protecting Yourself from Injury 
Because the asana practice of yoga focuses on strength and flexibility, many people will find that their bodies become stronger and more resistant to injury than they were prior to beginning yoga.
Improving Athletic Performance
Yoga strengthens the body and makes athletes agile and strong. It also brings a new sense of clarity or focus to athletes that they can use to improve their performances.If you name a sport, I guarantee you can find someone who has created a system of yoga poses that will produce sport-specific results and prevent common injuries.
Managing Chronic Conditions
Many dierent types of yoga have sprung up to help people deal with specific needs. There is pre-and post-natal yoga that helps expectant and new mothers adapt to the changes in their bodies. Yoga for the aging can helpkeep seniors active and free from injury. Yoga practice canalso benefit those managing diseases such as diabetes or multiple
sclerosis.
Regardless of your physical capabilities, if you have a desire to practice yoga, there is a way to do it. It’s simply a matter of sorting through your options and finding a practice that works best for you to create the greatest array of benefits.

A saying has been popping up in the yoga world lately that sums it up perfectly:“practice, not perfection.” In order to reap the benefits of practicing yoga, you have to put in the work, but your efforts don’t have to be perfect. You simply need to commit to practicing yoga on a regular basis. But how do you do that? And what do you need? Here are some answers to these very good questions

Now that you’ve got your yoga spot, what are you going to wear? Truthfully, if you’re in the privacy of your own home and you want to wear your birthday suit, go for it. However,if you’re looking for something a little more modest, certain fabrics and types of clothes are more suited to moving in and out of the poses than others. For example, big baggy T-shirts make yoga difficult. When you’re in Down Dog and your head is toward the ground and your hips are lifted, guess where that shirt is going? Right over your face. Unless you’replanning on doing yoga blindfolded, fitted tops are best because they allow you to move without distraction.

Getting Your Props

Once you’ve got your clothing figured out, there are a few more things you might need to help your practice. These items are listed in order of necessity.

YOGA MAT: This is a definite must-have. When shopping for a mat, place your hand on it to see if it slides easily. If it does, look for a different mat. You want a mat that has some stickiness or grip to it so that when you’re moving through the poses or holding them for extended periods of time, your hands and feet do not slip or slide.

YOGA BLOCKS: These come in pretty standard sizes, and you really can’t go wrong with your purchase. Stay away from anything that is too squishy, which might collapse if you put any weight on it; otherwise, any yoga block should work. If you’re purchasing blocks, then buy two. Having the second one will make some of the poses

YOGA STRAP: Yoga straps are pretty standard as well. They should be approximately as long as you are tall or even longer. Make sure there is a metal or plastic attachment on one end that allows you to make an adjustable loop.

BOLSTER: This is like a giant, superfirm pillow. These are great for relaxing or restorative poses. Of course, you can also just use a pillow or two to get the same effect.

BLANKET: Yoga blankets are usually made of wool and are pretty strong and durable. They have many differentuses, but again, you can improvise by using any blanket you have around the house.

Setting Up Your Space

After you have all the essentials you might need, you’ll want to set up your yoga space:

  • 1. Lay down your mat.
  • 2. Place your props close by.
  • 3. Keep the blocks at the front of the mat and put everything else to the side.

When you’re finished practicing, roll up your mat and put it away. If your space is limited like mine, use a basket or other container to hold your mat and all your props. Keep everything together and store it conveniently so you’re ready to practice again tomorrow. Once you’ve got your mat laid out and you’re dressed in your yoga clothes, it’s time to relax.

Relaxing

Relaxation is a key component to yoga. In fact, Patanjali say sit best:

 Practicing yoga in a relaxed manner withstrength creates harmony within the body.SUTRA 2.46, STHIRA SUKHAM ASANAM

Sthira means “strong and steady.”Sukham means “comfortable and relaxed.” Combine these two and you get anasana, or pose that works to create a happy body. Here’s a simple way to demonstrate the important balance between strength and relaxation:

  • 1.Sit up straight in a comfortable position.
  • 2.Notice which of your muscles are working and which ones are not. Your core is engaged to keep you upright, but your shoulders are relaxed.
  • 3. Tense your shoulders and bring them toward your ears. Suddenly this becomes a very uncomfortable pose. There is no way you’d be able to hold this for any extended period of time.
  • 4. Relax your shoulders. Now sitting there doesn’t seem so hard, does it?

This is sthira sukham asanamin action, the balance of strength and relaxation that creates a healthy yoga practice. Another essential element is breathing.

Breathing

The breath is an extremely important part of the practice. It helps heat the body and also calms the mind by giving it something to focus on. However, breathing in yoga is different than the breathing you’re probably doing right now as you read this.

In yoga, you breathe in and out through your nose. This is a specific method called ujjayi Pranayama. It is not required, but it certainly adds to the practice. It’s easy to learn in fact, you can try it right now.

  • Place your lips together softly.
  • Breathe in through your nose.
  • Exhale out your nose.

How did that feel? Perhaps the breath you took was pretty shallow. Maybe you felt like you needed a little more air. Try it again.

  • Concentrate as you breathe through your nose.
  • Make your ribs expand by filling your lungs with air.
  • Exhale slowly.

Did that feel a little bit better? I’m guessing it did. Take it one step further.

  • 1. Inhale slowly through your nose.
  • 2. Let your ribs expand.
  • 3. Keep breathing in and let your belly expand.
  • 4. Hold it there at the top.
  • 5. Slowly exhale.

That should’ve felt entirely different than the first breath you took. Continue to breathe in this slow, deep manner. As you get more comfortable with this breathing, add a slight constriction in the back of your throat, kind of like you were trying to fog up a mirror. This will create a soft sound, like an ocean wave that should be barely audible. This breath is the ujjayi Pranayama. You’ll hear teachers talk about it a lot as you move through poses

Daily Poses

Before we delve deep into asana, or the practice of the physical postures, I’ll teach you eight poses that you can practice daily. These are simple postures that aim to bring movement to your body, stretch out any tightness that may have developed over your day, help you relax, and keep you committed to the practice.

You can practice these poses by themselves for a short period of time or do them all together in sequence. However, you choose to practice them, make sure that you pay attention to the fundamentals: Find the balance between strength and ease and continue to breathe in a slow and conscious manner.

When it comes to poses that stretch your body, you never want to overdo it. Find that happy medium in your stretch and breathe through it. If you cannot breathe in a slow and controlled manner, you have gone too far and you should back off the stretch. This advice applies to all the poses in this article.

Easy pose

PURPOSE: Sukhasana is meant to be a grounding pose where you can meditate or practice breath work.

INSTRUCTIONS: Sit evenly on your sit bones and cross your shins in front of you. There should be space between your calves and your thighs. Once in the pose, relax your shoulders. Sit up tall. Take any extreme arch out of your back by using your abs to draw your lower ribs back into your spine


PURPOSE :Twists are said to wring out the toxins in the body and stimulate the digestive system. When it comes to twists, you always want to twist your torso to the right first and then to the left, following the direction of the digestive path.

INSTRUCTIONS :To begin, stay seated in Easy pose. Take your right hand and place it behind your right hip. Put your left hand on the out-side of your right knee. Inhale and sit up a little taller. Then,as you exhale use the placement of your hands as anchors to help you twist a little deeper. Hold for at least five breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Bound Angle Pose

PURPOSE: This is a great pose for opening your hips and releasing your lower back, especially if you’ve spent all day sitting at a desk.
INSTRUCTIONS: From easy pose, uncross your shins and draw the soles of your feet together. If this is a lot of stretch for the outsides of your hips, then place your hands behind you and sit up tall to support yourself.You can also sit on a blanket here as well. If your knees are far the floor. You can also place blocks or pillows under them for support. This will help ease any strain you might feel on the outside of your legs