Yoga concentrates on balance in the body and developing both strength and flexibility through the performance of poses or postures, each having a specific physical benefits. The poses are a constant, but your practice is always evolving and changing, so it never gets boring.
Anyone can start a yoga practice, even if you don't feel like you are very flexible or very strong. These things will improve the longer you practice. One of the most liberating things about yoga is letting go of the ego and accepting that no one is better than anyone else. Everyone is just doing their best on any given day.
Most Western yoga derives from hatha, one of the six major branches of yoga. Traditional hatha yoga consists of asanas (physical postures) and pranayamas (breathing exercises).Here are a few basic poses:
Mountain Pose or Tadasana. The starting position for each pose, mountain pose is standing on your feet with big toes touching, taking care to align your body, engage the thighs, and focus on being still. It can help to improve posture.
Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana. More of a transitional movement than a pose, downward dog builds strength, flexibility, and awareness, while stretching the spine and hamstrings.
Triangle Pose or Trikonasana. Creating a triangle with the arm, torso, and thigh, this pose is designed to stretch the spine, open the torso, and improve balance and concentration.
Cat Dog Pose or Kundalani. Mimicking the concave-arched back of a cat, then moving to the convex arched back of a dog, this basic spinal stretch done on all fours and increases the flexibility of the spine, and strengthens the abdominals.
Child's Pose or Balasana. Used as a resting position, child's pose is done through sitting on your ankles and leaning forward with the forehead touching the ground and arms outstretched in front of you. It can be a gentle stretch for the hips, thighs, and ankles.
The Cobra or Bhujangasana. Beginning from laying on the stomach with hands planted by the chest, cobra pose stretches the spine, strengthens the back and arms, opens the chest and heart, once the chest is lifted, creating the pose of a cobra.
Corpse or Savasana. Lying on your back in a state of stillness, this pose relaxes and refreshes the body and mind and relieves stress and anxiety, quieting the mind.
Standing Forward Bend or Uttanasana. From standing position with your arms out to the side and parallel to the floor, this pose requires bending from the waist with a straight back. With fingertips in line with the toes, palms pressed flat, and neck straight, letting your head hang, this pose lengthens and strengthens the hamstrings.
Warrior or Virabhadrasana. Named after the mythic warrior Vibabhadra, this pose is meant to promote a feeling of strength and power. Warrior I, the first of three warrior poses, takes a lunge position with arms raised above the head, and is good for strengthening the legs and providing a good stretch to your arms and shoulders.