Lots of People Love Yoga. Try These 3 Sample Poses

What do Lady Gaga, LeBron James and Matthew McConaughey have in common? They all practice yoga.

It seems like lots of people are doing it — and with good reason.

  • Yoga is a well-rounded body workout you can do your whole life.
  • Performing the movements can make you more flexible and stronger.
  • Yoga can relieve stress and center you.
  • Yoga appears to help prevent or improve chronic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and even some cancers.

Even if you’ve never taken a yoga class, you’ve probably done a little yoga and not realized it. Some of the warm-up and stretching exercises people use for athletic performance are from the yoga tradition.

You can try the three beginner exercises to get a taste of yoga. See how it feels.

 

Get ready

The basic way to do yoga is to keep control of your body as you move carefully into a position and remain there while you’re breathing slowly and deeply. 

It’s important to try to get the form right. (A teacher can guide you when you decide to learn more.) You want to feel your body engage (expend more effort than normal), but you don’t want to force it or feel pain.

You don’t need much equipment to do yoga or try it out: a mat, some clothes that are easy to move in and some instructions. Don’t have a mat? A towel, blanket or carpeted surface will do. Just make sure it’s not going to slide around.

 

Go!

These are basic poses you’ll use in almost any yoga class. Be sure to try them all so you get a whole body experience.

  1. Standing Side Stretch (Standing Lateral Flexion)

    Stand straight, feet about a foot apart and toes straight ahead. Take a breath and lift your right arm straight up over head, extending up from your navel center and reaching as far up as you can. Keep your left arm straight down against your side to support your spine. 

    Keep your body straight and hips facing forward.

    Exhale and reach your right hand over your head, bending your body sideways to the left, your left arm sliding down your side as you go. When you’ve reached as far as you can, stop and hold the pose for one or two breaths. Breathe deeply into sides, ribcage, waist, chest.

    Avoid letting your upper body fall or bend forward. The lower body stays strong, with both legs contracted, while the upper body keeps lifting. Make sure your top arm maintains straight alignment with the space between your feet.

    Then switch sides and repeat.

    Variation: If this is too hard, try placing your hand on your hip for more support. If balance is difficult try spacing your legs a little further apart.

    Benefits: This pose stretches and strengthens your back, shoulders, waist and abdomen.

  2. Balancing Table Pose (Spinal Balance)

    Get on all fours with your hands and your knees on the ground. Hands should be directly under your shoulders, knees directly under hips. Your toes should be extended so the top of your foot is on the floor. Your back should be straight. Your head looking down at a point between your hands.

    Inhale and extend one arm straight forward, and lift and straighten the opposite leg so the arm, torso and leg form one straight line. Do not lift the leg higher than your hips.

    Holding the pose, keeping your core and abdominal muscles engaged (active) to support the midsection. Pull energy from the center of your body and reach forward through your fingertips, backward through your leg. Focus on lengthening your limbs instead of lifting higher. Keep the supporting shoulder firm; don’t let it fall. 

    Hold for a count of three, then exhale and release back to the all-fours (table) position.

    Do the same thing with the opposite arm and leg.  Repeat as many times as you find comfortable and then relax.

    Variation:  Do this pose on your belly. If your knees hurt put a folded blanket underneath.

    Benefits: Strengthens your back and core muscles; helps improve balance.

  3. Lying Down Spinal Twist

    Lie on your back. Bend your right knee, keeping your left leg extended and on the floor. Take a deep breath and bring the right knee to the left side of your body, keeping your body in a straight line from the crown of your head down the straight leg to the heel. Keep your right arm out to the side, perpendicular to your body.

    Exhaling, use your left hand to gently press your right knee downward -- but do not force it if it begins to hurt. Look over the right shoulder, if comfortable. Breathe into the midsection, keeping both shoulders down on the floor. Hold the pose for a couple of breaths or as long as comfortable.  Exhale a final time, returning your right leg to its original position.

    Repeat on the opposite side.

    Variation: Place your foot on the inside of knee, if placing it on floor is not comfortable. Or bend both knees, keeping feet, ankles and thighs stacked, to make the twist less intense.

    Benefits: Strengthens and releases tension in lower back, torso and abdomen, hips, shoulder 

 

How Did That Feel?

Your body should feel looser, more relaxed and energized. You should be feeling a little calmer, a little better. 

Since yoga seems to have benefits for everyone, why not explore it a little deeper? You can learn from books and online videos. A class with a good teacher will help make your experience more positive, especially if you have any physical limitations. Aurora Health Care offers classes across our footprint. See our offerings online.

Meet the Author

Mina Marie DeMarco, DO is a Family/Sports Medicine physician at Aurora Advanced Healthcare with offices in east Mequon, Good Hope, and Grafton, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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