Yoga is a great way to increase your strength and flexibility and it’s also one of our favourite ways to relax and find a few minutes of calm within the chaos. For all of us who’ve never done yoga before but want to start, these are the best yoga poses for beginners to try at home.
We teamed up with yoga teacher extraordinaire Mandisa Nduli (who owns Yoga Fitness and teaches vinyasa yoga all over Joburg) to find out which yoga exercises for beginners she recommends for those of us who want to start doing yoga at home. Her step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow pictures will make it easy for you to master these yoga basics.
Read more: 8 ways yoga can help you lose weight
Finding time in your day to practice these 5 yoga poses for beginners will not only make you stronger and fitter, but probably calmer and happier as well!
5 of the best yoga poses for beginners
If you only do one of these yoga poses for beginners, make it a sun salutation. It works your whole body, but it’s particularly good for strengthening arms and abdominal muscles. Get into the habit of doing a few rounds of this sequence when you wake up and it’ll soon become second nature.
1. Stand with your feet mat width apart and your hands together in front of your chest.
2. Inhale as you raise your hands to the ceiling.
3. Exhale as you hinge from your hips, folding forward as close to your legs as you can and placing your hands on the ground.
4. Inhale and raise your head and back as you gaze forward. Make sure your back is flat.
5. Exhale deeply and step or hop backwards into plank with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your back rounded.
6. Inhale, then exhale deeply as you slowly drop onto your knees, then your chest, then your chin. Once you’ve mastered this, you can try lowering yourself from plank onto the floor without dropping onto your knees, chest or chin. Make sure your elbows draw into your ribs.
7. Inhale as you press your palms into the floor, point your toes and press your chest forward, reaching the crown of your head towards the ceiling for a baby cobra.
8. Exhale, tuck your toes under, and push your hips back up into downwards facing dog. Hold this pose for at least three breaths.
9. Hop or step your feet back towards your hands into a forward fold as you exhale and then inhale as you raise your head and back — maintaining a flat back.
10. Exhale as you repeat the forward fold.
11. Inhale deeply for a reverse swan dive — sweep your hands out to the sides of the mat and up to the ceiling as you hinge from your hips to straighten your torso.
12. Exhale as you bring your hands to your heart in prayer. Repeat this brilliant beginner yoga sequence as many times as you want.
Twisting poses can help you destress and improve your spine mobility and back health. You’re much less likely to suffer from back pain if you incorporate these easy yoga poses for beginners into your daily exercise routine. This pose also works your arm, leg and abdominal muscles.
1. From downward facing dog, lift your left foot and step it forwards to the front of your mat, placing it between your hands.
2. Drop your right knee to the mat and point your toes.
3. Gently raise your left hand up to the ceiling stacking your shoulder blades one above the other. Hold this pose for at least 3 breaths.
4. If you can, tuck your toes under, raise your knee off the ground, straightening your right leg and lifting your hips. Hold this pose for at least 3 breaths.
5. Step your left foot back into plank or downwards facing dog and repeat this beginner yoga pose on the opposite side.
It might seem easy, but mastering yoga basics means it will be easier to move onto more complicated poses. Tree pose stretches leg muscles, builds calves and even works those abdominals. Plus, it’s easy to do at home, or even in the office!
1. Standing on your mat with your feet hip width apart, start by grounding your left foot into the mat and raise your right knee towards your chest.
2. Turn your knee to the far right and place your foot as close to your groin as possible, whether it’s above or below your knee. Resist your thigh against your foot and vice versa.
3. Place your hands to your heart and hold this pose for as long as you like. You can also vary the pose by raising your hands above your head, opening up your arms wider than shoulder distance apart and gazing to the ceiling.
4. Repeat this pose on the opposite side.
If you’re doing yoga at home, you definitely need to incorporate these two poses into your routine. Both of them strengthen legs, shouders, arms and core musles, open hips and improve balance. And best of all, they also tone your bum! Done correctly, warrior 1 and warrior 2 work your whole body and develop endurance. They’re such effective yoga poses for beginners — and pros!
1. From downward facing dog, step your left foot forwards or raise your leg backwards towards the ceiling into a three-legged dog before you step your left foot in-between your hands.
2. Swivel your back foot 45 degrees (toes drawing to the front of your mat, heel digging out) and make sure that your front heel lines up with the edge of your back heel.
3. Inhale to raise your hands to the ceiling, palms facing together and shoulders relaxed.
4. Move from warrior 1 into warrior 2 by swinging your right hand to the back of your mat and adjusting your feet so that your front heel dissects the centre of your back foot. Check that your front knee is stacked above your ankle and lines up with your front toe.
5. Gaze towards your left middle finger, cartwheel both hands down and step into plank or downwards facing dog.
6. Repeat this beginner yoga sequence on the opposite side.
If you’d like to find out where and when Mandisa teaches her yoga classes around Johannesburg, visit yogafitness.co.za or email [email protected]. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll definitely benefit from her expertise and passion for yoga.