One of the best things about yoga is that it’s accessible to almost any skill level. It’s also really good for the mind and body, but we’ll get into that shortly.
Heading into a yoga class can be rather intimidating, especially if you’re out of practice. You might think the moves will be too challenging for you, and it can be tough to muster up that courage to ‘fail’ in front of a group of people.
First, you should know that a good class will encourage you to simply take a resting pose when you’re feeling like you can’t hold a more involved pose, and second, you can do yoga at home instead.
If you’re just starting out, seeing all the popular yoga Instagram accounts can be really inspiring, but hey… we’re not asking you to do a headstand.
There are amazing inversions and poses you can work your way up to, but they ALL begin at a much more basic level, and you have to begin somewhere.
Whether you choose to do a full yoga session or practice certain poses throughout the day, simply striking a pose has some rather surprising health benefits.
One of the most convincing studies on this links the positive psychological effect of yoga poses to the functioning of the vagus nerve. You might be familiar with the ‘power pose.’
Politicians use it often, and it’s suggested that you do a power pose before you head into an interview, for example. Standing up tall and straight with your chest out actually does boost confidence.
While the benefits of extended yoga, the meditative properties of it, and yogic breathing have been studied more extensively with unequivocal data, simply getting into position could increase subjective energy and self-esteem according to this research.
Because yoga poses will increase confidence in your own performance, it will increase positive emotionality and your belief in your ability.
Now, back to the vagus nerve to wrap things up here. While a power pose is associated with confidence and also dominance, the yoga argument is a little different.
Deep breathing and chest lifting improve vagal tone which is thought to increase bodily energetic resources. This means we actually have more resources to use. Think of it this way: you’re standing at the bottom of a hill.
Having more bodily energetic resources means you will feel confident in your ability to make it to the top. Considering the focus on dimming the ego, yoga’s focus is far from dominance.
You could be a pose away from believing in yourself. How cool is that? Here are some poses to get started with at home.
Simply holding one of these poses for 1-2 minutes could help restore you throughout the day, boost self-esteem and confidence, and subsequently boost focus, productivity, social interactions, and creativity.
I will provide some basic instructions and photos, but I highly recommend checking out YouTube for instructional videos or (free) full yoga sessions.
I also recommend checking out community or donation classes in your area. Yoga can be expensive, but you can generally find $5 nights at your local studio where you can learn the basics before making a commitment.
The high lunge is a great pose for opening up the hips, but it’s also good for opening up the chest. Sitting all day can really wear on the body, and this pose is a good break if you’re spending most of the day in a seated position.
The photo above depicts a more advanced high lunge, but you can keep your hands on the ground if you’re a beginner and rest on your knee if needed, or you can use a yoga block to support the back leg.
Start in standing forward bend, bend the knees, and step the left leg back so the ball of your foot is on the floor. Your right knee should create a right angle. Lay the torso on the front thigh and lengthen.
Now, lengthen the left leg to stand on your toes while pushing the heel back, and let the groin soften by letting it sink.
Your hands will be on the ground at this point supporting you, but you can choose to lift them up, opening them to the sky, or turn to your right with one elbow resting on the outside of the knee, bringing in your right hand to meet the left.
All the while, make sure to focus on pushing slightly upwards with the chest. This pose should feel breathable. Look forward or to the side you’re turned to keep the back straight.
Now, don’t worry – it’s okay if your hands don’t touch your feet for this one! If you keep practizing, you’ll eventually gain enough flexibility to do so.
It’s all about opening the chest for those confidence-boosting benefits, and this one does a great job. It will increase lung capacity and stimulate all those important hormone-regulating glands like the thyroid, adrenals, and pituitary.
It will also open up the chest, hips, and abdomen. Opening up the abdomen can improve digestion.
Rest on your calves and begin with your legs at a 90-degree angle and your hips perpendicular to the shoulders. Slightly rotate the hips inward, and keep them soft.
Rest the hands on the back of the pelvis which will help you spread it and lengthen the tailbone for you to move lower into the pose.
Ideally, you want to keep the thighs straight without puffing out the groin and reach back toward your feet, but only reach back as far as you can without pain and without the thighs dipping down as well.
You also want to avoid compressing the lower back.
Here’s another good chest opener for you to show off your inner warrior. This is a rather easy pose to get into, and it’s great for people who don’t feel comfortable getting into lunge yet.
The warrior is a good transition pose in yoga and it offers a good rest. It can help stretch chest, lungs, shoulders, neck, abdomen and legs. It also helps to strengthen the shoulders, arms, and back muscles.
Begin in mountain pose – standing straight with arms above the head like the photo above. Step the feet to around 4 feet apart. Turn the left foot in around 45 degrees and the right foot 90 degrees to the right.
Align the heels and rotate the torso to the right. Bring your right knee over the right ankle, sure to keep your left heel planted. The shin should be perpendicular to your mat.
Reach through the arms as you focus on lifting the ribcage up from the pelvis. Keep the head and neck neutral, and make sure to keep gazing forward – not upwards.
We love planking, and we’re always going to advocate for it! The plank is a great way to practice balance, stretch out, and strengthen the core. A strong core is the foundation of each and every yoga pose as you’ll quickly find out.
Each pose has a core element to it, and you really want to drive that home. Without the core, you’re much more prone to injury and not performing each pose correctly. Each bodyweight movement has benefits for a strong skeletal system and keeping bones strong.
The forearm plank is easier to do than a plank on the hands. Place the elbows directly beneath the shoulders keeping the palms flat to the floor.
Tuck the back toes so the body is in one line extending from the crown of the head all the way through the heels. Hold for as long as possible, and try to challenge yourself to go for longer.
Part of the reason why yoga poses have great benefits is due to the increase in heart rate as it improves helps improve vagal tone. If heart pumping is the goal, holding this pose will definitely get it up… gently.
Chair pose is like doing a wall-sit without the wall. It opens the chest, stimulates the diaphragm of heart, and works both arm and leg muscles.
Stand in mountain pose and raise the arms so they’re perpendicular to the floor. You can keep the arms spread apart or place the hands together. Bend the knees and try to keep the thighs parallel to your mat.
The knees should come out a bit past the feet, and lean forward slightly. The front torso will nearly form a right angle with the thighs.
Firm shoulder blades against the back and push thew tailbone towards the floor. Hold for around 30 seconds.
Savasana (corpse pose)
While there’s not much to master with this pose, it’s still super important. It’s the ultimate relaxation pose. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you know you end in Savasana.
It’s a good pose for reflection to stretch out and just let the mind wander or be quiet. This one is especially good for stress relief, and it gives the nervous system a break which is often much needed.
Wake up or go to bed with Savasana. Just try not to take an accidental nap if you get into corpse pose midday!
Close your eyes and lie on your back, keeping the arms by your side and your palms facing up. Allow the ankles to fall outward, and your body to melt into the mat.
Focus on breathing as you melt deeper and deeper. Stay in this pose for a minimum of 5 minutes for maximum restoration.
Now, it’s time to relax! If you’re brand new to yoga, I want to recommend YouTube again for getting these poses down.
I also encourage you to take a class to learn the ropes and find that space to feel confident, self-assured, and take some space to simply breathe. Namaste!