Yoga is an excellent way to improve strength and flexibility without stressing the joints. Regular yoga practice also slashes chronic inflammation, which can lower your risk for many of the biggest health problems in America.
Depending on the intensity of classes, yogis may not get their heart rate up enough to count as aerobic exercise. However, more strenuous yoga styles like power yoga will certainly burn calories and work the muscles to a degree that counts as exercise.
Urdhva Hastasana, or Standing with the Hands Overhead Pose, is a simple pose that invigorates the entire body. It stretches the sides of the body and shoulder, helps relieve stress and fatigue, and improves digestion. It is also good for the neck and head.
Beginners may find this pose challenging because of the need to balance the feet together and the extension of the arms overhead. To help with this beginners can practice the posture backed up against a wall.
To begin, start in Tadasana or Mountain Pose, distribute your weight evenly and stretch your arms out alongside your body. On an inhale bring your arms up overhead and pause for a moment.
Lunges are among the most effective yoga poses to strengthen and tone all major muscle groups of the leg, hip, back, and core. They are also a great exercise to increase flexibility in the knee joint as well.
When practicing lunges, be sure to avoid pushing the front knee past its ankle. This can put too much stress on the knee joints.
Try to keep your back knee as close to the ground as possible for safety and to get the most juice out of the pose. You can use a block under your back knee to help with this. Adding a block increases the challenge by increasing the distance you have to stretch your torso over the back knee.
Extended Side Angle
Utthita Parsvakonasana, also known as Extended Side Angle pose, is a standing yoga exercise that strengthens the legs and core while stretching the hips and chest. It also helps relieve back pain.
Beginners often find the bent knee shifts forward over the ankle in this pose, which puts too much stress on the knees and shoulders. To avoid this, make sure the front knee is stacked directly over the ankle.
To take this pose to the next level, try binding in bound extended side angle (Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana). It opens the shoulder girdles and strengthens the neck muscles. You can do this by extending your left arm behind your back and clasping it with your lower wrist, interlacing the fingers or holding onto a strap.
Pyramid pose combines forward bending and backward bending while strengthening the legs and improving balance. It also strengthens the spine and can improve a weak core. This pose can be difficult, especially for students with tight hips and hamstrings.
Start with your feet a shoulder’s width apart and square them to the short front edge of your mat. This will help you maintain an active core and a long, flexible spine.
In the full expression of this posture your hands clasp behind your back in reverse prayer or you can rest them on the floor. If you have a back injury or high blood pressure, place blocks under your hands to decrease the forward bend.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) is a standing pose that stretches the groin and hip muscles and strengthens the legs. It also opens the chest and shoulders and encourages overall balance.
Start with your feet in a wide stance about three to four feet apart, with an imaginary line moving from the center of the front foot toward the back heel. Press firmly into the feet.
Stack the left shoulder over the right, and lengthen the upper back and neck. The top hand should rest on the shin or foot. The bottom arm is usually not load-bearing, but keep a block handy in case it is needed for support.
Happy Baby is a gentle yet powerful yoga pose that can be used as a resting or reclining stretch at the end of any workout. It stretches and strengthens the ankles, knees, hips and pelvic floor while opening the shoulders and spine.
The hips are connected to your sacral chakra and can hold deep, emotionally-charged memories and feelings. Practicing Happy Baby and other yin hip openers can release deeply held emotions and help you feel more balanced and grounded.
For beginners who can’t reach their feet, use a yoga strap around the arch of each foot. This makes the pose more accessible to beginners while still providing a strong, deep stretch.