As a long time yoga instructor, I have worked with lots of clients and many of them have a different reason or goal that brings them to class. The great thing about yoga is that it can meet you where you are. No matter what your goal, just start practicing and see what develops, you cannot go wrong with yoga.
Asanas, yoga postures, are a physical practice and one aspect of yoga, but it’s the one that gets the most attention in our current times. Many people want to use yoga as physical exercise to help attain a larger range of motion through joint action, aid in balance and stability as well as build muscular strength without adding bulk.
Yoga can aid in weight loss, help maintain bone density and ward off a host of common illnesses that plague our population. Yoga can deliver. If you are looking into yoga as a purely physical practice, you may be surprised at what else you find on the mat, so keep an open mind, breathe deeply and let’s get started.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
People who are already exercising and are looking to add another dimension to their routine will love the sun salutation series. If you are just beginning to exercise, you can still do the below series, but take your time. For those that have high blood pressure, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, do not begin to practice without speaking to your physician first and make sure you can get up and down from the floor on your own.
If you do have a medical condition, you will want to reach out to a yoga teacher and take some classes in person before starting. Your instructor can help tailor a program just for you until you are able to keep up with the rest of class. Many yoga studios do offer medical or gentle classes for those with any physical problems.
Because we are using these yoga asana as physical exercise I am adding some lunges that you may not see in a more traditional sequence. The lunges will add an extra bit of challenge to your routine, and take out the jumping that is included in the traditional version. Repeat the series several times, making sure to change the lunging leg each round, so that your legs get equal work. When teaching a yoga as fitness class I often use the below as a base sequence, adding other poses such as twists, standing poses, lunge repeats, etc. in to increase the challenge.
Step 1. Stand erect and be well balanced on both feet. This pose will help correct muscle imbalance in the legs and spine.
Step 2. With an inhalation, sweep the arms up over head and stretch up. Try to make yourself as tall and long as possible. Eventually you may be able to lean back slightly, but don’t collapse into the lower back in order to add the back bend. Keep the lower back long and the abdominals drawn in.
Step 3. As you exhale, fold over into standing forward bend, keeping your spine lengthened as you do. Many people are tight in the hamstrings or back when they begin, don’t force. You can bring your hands to your shins, or even thighs for more support as needed. Keep your kneecaps drawn up and your spine long.
Step 4. Step the right leg back into a low lunge. See that the shin is perpendicular to the floor and that your chest remains lifted. You can put your hands on yoga blocks or books if they don’t reach the floor without rounding your chest over your forward leg. When ready to transition, straighten the back leg into a high lunge (not shown).
Check out image explanation about this exercise here!
Step 5. From the high lunge, step your forward leg back into downward facing dog. Press evenly into your hands and your hips up and back. Your heels may not touch the floor, which is OK. Stretch the calves down. Hand and feet should be shoulder with apart.
Step 6. Depending on your upper body strength you can lower down into chaturanga dandasana (four limbed staff pose, or “push up pose”)with your legs straight, or by first lowering your knees down to the floor. Just make sure you r elbows point directly back and stay close to your ribs. Protect your shoulders by not allowing them to round forward. Keep your shoulders moving in toward each other.
Step 7. Inhale and list your chest into a mild backbend, cobra. Keep your thighs on the floor here and use your back muscles more than your arms. After you build up enough strength, you can come into upward facing dog with the chest lifted and thighs off the floor. Build up to the latter slowly, yoga is not to be rushed.
Step 8. Lift your hips back to downward facing dog, either by keeping your legs straight or by bringing your knees first down to the floor and then lifting the hips up and back.
Step 9. The same leg you stepped back with in step 4 now steps up into a low lunge.
Step 10. Moving through a high lunge, bring your back leg forward into standing forward bend.
Step 11. As you inhale, keep your back as straight as possible as you stand back upright and sweep your arms overhead.
Step 12. AS you exhale, lower your arms back to your starting position and repeat, this time changing the leg you stepped back with in Step 1.