For those of you just starting Yoga or wanting to start doing yoga, beginning a practice can certainly seem daunting. Just looking up “yoga” on the internet provides pictures of people doing arm balances and complicated twists.
For those curious about the flexibility and health benefits that yoga provides, these images can force you right back down on the couch saying, “Yeah, that isn’t me.” or “I can’t do that.” I want to assure you… yoga is as simple as sitting and breathing. Those poses are only ONE of the 8 limbs of yoga. Pranayama, another limb of yoga, consists of focusing on the breath. Now, the easiest way to focus on your breath is simply to sit and breathe deeply through the nostrils. This can be challenging in itself. Yoga also focuses on using the breath with movement. Combining breath with movement is the first step to starting a yoga practice that involves poses.
First, start in a simple seated position on the floor. This can mean crossing your legs, or sitting with your legs stretched out in front of you. From this seated position, try to align your shoulders over your hips. Sometimes sitting with your back against a wall helps to keep this alignment.
Start by gently closing your eyes and taking in a deep breath through your nose if possible. (If this is not possible, breathing through your mouth is fine) Exhale slowly. Try to simply focus on the sensation of the breath going in and out of your nostrils. Try to ignore outside distractions. Completely fill your lungs with air and let your belly expand. Simply try this technique a couple times. Feeling your breath go into your lungs… to the bottom of your lungs… and out again.
Once you have achieved a comfortable sitting position and can breathe deeply, you may want to incorporate some breath with movement. Bring your arms out to your sides with your fingertips resting on the ground. Slowly inhale and raise your hands towards the ceiling/sky/up. Try to keep your shoulder blades down your back and your shoulders relaxed. On your exhale, slowly drop your hands back down to the ground.
After finishing this exercise, lay down on your back and resume your normal breathing. Try to relax your muscles in your body and your face. Allow your tongue to hang loose inside your mouth and close your eyes. Stay like this for several minutes. When you feel ready, start wiggling your fingers and toes to wake up your body. Slowly roll to your right side and push yourself up into a seated position (either legs out front or legs crossed – like before). Take a deep inhale and a slow exhale.
Tada! You just did Yoga. See how easy that was?
Hope this helps you begin a yoga practice. Come back for the next lesson: Beginning a Yoga Practice: Part 2 – Combining More Breath with Movement