A yoga routine helps to balance and harmonize the body, as well as calm the mind. It includes some standing and balancing poses, inversions and strength-building moves.
Start with Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and walk your feet to the outer edges of your mat, parallel with the short-edge sides. Then, fold forward with a tucked front foot.
Stretching exercises are important to both the general warm-up and cooling-down portions of a yoga routine. They are designed to help lengthen muscles and prepare them for exercise, which in turn increases their range of motion and decreases stiffness.
In general, stretching exercises should be held for a minimum of 20 seconds. This can be accomplished by counting to yourself or in a silent voice. Counting is not necessarily essential, but it helps some people stay focused and motivated to complete the entire exercise.
Asanas (or poses) also build relationships between muscle groups that static stretching in a gym often keeps separate. For example, the pose Sukhasana stretches the thighs, lower back, and psoas muscles, all of which are tightened by sitting for long periods of time at work or at home. To perform this pose, stand with your feet hip-width apart and clasp your hands above your head. Then, gently lean to one side until you feel a deep stretch in the muscles of the hip and thigh. Repeat on both sides.
Yoga builds both strength and flexibility, allowing you to move your body in all directions. This functional strength helps you carry your own weight and prevents injuries that can occur when muscles become stiff or overtrained.
Many yoga poses, such as Chaturanga (yoga push-ups) and plank pose build upper-body strength, while standing postures like the tree or mountain pose strengthen the ankles, calves, quads, and abs. Some yoga styles also involve balancing on one leg, which improves balance and core strength.
In addition, the slow, controlled movements of yoga help increase your range of motion. This is important, because when your joints don’t move through a full range of motion it can affect posture and cause injury. This is why yoga can improve your performance in other types of exercise and help prevent sports injuries.
Pranayama breathing exercises are a key part of yoga, as they help improve the flow of oxygen throughout your body. This helps to reduce stress and promote a healthier immune system, as well as improving your sleep and digestion.
A few of the most popular yogic breathing techniques include:
Ocean’s breath, also known as brahmari pranayama, is a powerful breathing exercise that helps calm the mind and release tension in the head and neck. It is a fast, bellows-like breath that should only be performed under supervision by a trained instructor.
Kapalbhati Pranayama, or Skull Shining Breath, is another powerful yogic breathing technique that increases concentration levels. It is a calming, but also energizing breathing technique that involves alternating short explosive exhales with long, deep inhales. It should be performed only under the guidance of a qualified teacher, as it can weaken your lungs, heart and nervous system if practiced incorrectly. This yogic breathing technique should only be done while sitting in an upright position and is not recommended for those with high blood pressure, ear or chest infections, hernias, asthma or other medical conditions.
In yoga, meditation is an important part of the practice. It helps your body relax and slow down from the hectic pace of your daily life and it encourages you to focus on your breath and calm your mind.
Sit on your mat or on a chair with your legs extended in front of you. Close your eyes and bring the focus of your attention to a spot just above the floor or at the front center of your mat. This is your drishti, the point you will return to throughout your yoga practice.
Stand over the long side of your mat, taking up space and placing your feet about 3-4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and keep the palms facing down. Face your right foot and angle it toward the front of the mat with the left foot at a 45-degree angle to the right foot. Rest your right hand on the outside of your left knee and twist your torso to the left, feeling the length in the side body.