(Picture above is Janice Lennard, 74. Janice has been involved with ballet, yoga, and pilates through study, practice, and instruction for over 65 years.)
If you feel stress, anxiety, panic, fear or sadness or even if you just want a calming exercise, yoga is here to help you. The practice is open and available to everyone no matter what your budget for practicing is. It is also an accessible exercise that can be practiced in the comfort of your own home. The phrase “begin where you are” has been used often in yoga as a starting point suggesting that wherever you are in your life, in the world or even in your specific state of mind you can begin with your breath and begin again and again.
Some yogis claim that diseases can be reversed by the simple flow of a Vinyasa yoga routine. Hypertension, stress, and heart disease all be tamed by a few simple flowing moves. Yoga is also a great form of exercise and helps shed unwanted weight. And it’s not all about standing on your head.
Instead, yoga is a systematic approach to healing and self-care. Even if the only thing you can start with yoga is standing still, this is a beginning. It’s ok to have no prior experience. It’s ok if you aren’t able to touch your toes. It’s even ok to just breathe for a few minutes before you start to move. Yoga has no expectations of you and the mat welcomes you as you are.
These are some simple poses that exist for every individual:
1) Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is one of the best beginning poses used to calm the mind. Kneel on your mat and place your forehead on the floor. You can leave your hands to rest beside you and behind you. This is a resting pose and it helps with digestion, as well as opening up the lower back and the hips (both of which can hold anger). You can hold this pose and breathe through it for as long as you need to.
The wonderful thing about Child’s pose is that it has the effect of making you feel safe. It reminds you that taking a break is sometimes necessary to maintain calm in your life. If you can’t stop thinking about one thing or many things in particular then begin with this pose. Try it for one week and see the results take root.
2) Warrior 1 Pose
Be a warrior well into your 50’s, 60’s or 70’s with this simple yet unique pose. Stand with your feet together then move your right foot back and turn it at a 45-degree angle. There should be a good amount of space formed between your body and your right foot. Then bend your left knee at a 90-degree angle and throw up your arms as if you’re reaching for the sky. Shoot them up straight above you. This pose is a pose of courage and freedom from distraction.
So why is it called a “warrior pose” if yoga is about peace? Perhaps it is because we learn to make peace with our own battles and shortcomings. We can breathe and accept ourselves for who we are. Once this happens we have conquered the mind, our greatest obstacle. So we are warriors in our practice. Warriors of peace, dedication and of life.
3) Tree Pose
This pose is a great way to improve balance. Stand straight with your legs together. Place your hands in a prayer pose and place your right foot on your inner left thigh. This pose can be held for long periods of time. After you have mastered it try it with your eyes closed and see of you can hold your balance. It is known to improve memory and strengthen the ankles and knee. It’s also a great pose if you’ve had a hip replacement.
This pose can seem simple at first but it takes a great deal of concentration. It also builds strength in both mind and body. Trees have great wisdom and resilience and this is what one begins to feel in this pose. It is as if nothing can tear you down and yet it is a peaceful pose. It signifies a simple human sophistication and ability to stand tall through any challenge.
4) Bridge Pose-
Lay on your back with your knees up and your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips up and connect your hands underneath you while your torso is still in the air. Hold the pose. Bridge pose is known to strengthen your core muscles and have a great effect on your nervous system as a whole.
The bridge pose can be challenging but as with any yoga pose, it takes time and breath. In order to master it, you can visualize yourself as an immovable object, a literal bridge between yourself and your soul. Once you master this pose it can release anger, frustration and it can leave more room for positive energy to flow through your body, mind, and heart.
5) Plank Pose-
Plank is done by relaxing face down on your stomach and then bringing your hands underneath your shoulders then pushing up to a push-up position. Instead of doing a push-up you hold this pose. The focus should be on your navel. That is the focal point of this pose in terms of breath. You can breathe in and out and send the breath through the navel. This pose is meant to improve self-confidence and willpower.
These routines may seem simple but try them at home alone or with a partner and see how long you can hold your focus for. Breathing in and out connects your mind to the task at hand and molds it together with your body in order to obtain clarity and sense of fearlessness. All of these poses are poses of both peace and courage. So sharpen your mind and release your breath into the possibilities of a daily yoga practice.
Which is your favorite yoga pose? What advice would you give to first-time yogis? Share your tips on our community forum.