Rise with the sun and start your morning moving with your breath, opening your body and mind for the day ahead. Join me at 6:30am at Sangha Yoga Shala for Express Hour Yoga for a positive start to your Thursday. See you soon!
The 11 Beginner Yoga Poses Everyone Pretends To Know (But May Be Doing Wrong)
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Stand tall, spine straight with feet parallel and big toes touching. Look straight ahead.
Common mistakes: The ribs and butt should not stick out too far. Try to keep your spine, from the top of your head to your tailbone, in one straight line.
Sochocki says: “Unlike regular standing, here you stand with a purpose, feeling the four corners of your feet, lifting up the knee caps, engaging the legs, drawing the the tailbone down and lifting the belly button in and up. Soften the shoulders down the back and turn the palms to face forward, imagine you have heavy rocks in your hands. Look straight ahead and feel the power of the Mountain!”
2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Knees bent over the ankles, thighs as parallel to the floor as possible. Torso should form a right angle over your thighs. Move the feet closer together for a more advanced pose. Inhale as you raise your hands up.
Common mistakes: Knees should not go past the toes.
Sochocki says: “Place more weight over the heels to pull the knees away from hovering over the toes.”
3. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Start in mountain pose. Hinge from the hips on an exhale and fold over forward, keeping the spine as straight as possible. Let the head hang heavy, and relax the jaw. Keep feet hip-width apart for beginners or touching for intermediate/advanced students.
Common mistakes: A straight spine is more important than having straight legs. Bend your knees as much as needed to keep a straight spine with your chest touching your thighs.
Sochocki says: “Consistency in yoga is important and over time, the back of the legs will open in forward fold. Keep the knees soft, and don’t lock them.”
4. Downward-facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From plank position, with your feet hip-width apart and hands shoulder-width apart, lift your hips toward the ceiling on an exhale until your body makes an inverted “V.” Eyes are looking between the legs or toward the belly. Pull the belly and ribs in.
Common mistakes: People with tight hamstrings and calves tend to form boxy poses. To correct this, bend the knees more, and draw the chest toward the tops of the thighs, pressing your hands firmly against the floor to pull the hips back.
Sochocki says: “It is more important to keep your back straight and less important to keep the legs straight.” You shouldn’t be afraid to bend the knees or lift the heels if needed. “Imagine that you are a fish and you’ve been hooked at the tailbone and are being pulled back to the boat. This will help lift the hips back and up.”
5. Warrior One (Virabhadrasana 1)
From downward-facing dog, step your right foot forward between your hands, turn your left heel in, and raise your torso and arms up on an inhale. The front foot’s heel should line up with the back foot’s arch, with the front of the knee directly over the ankle. Face both hips forward, draw the tailbone down, and pull the ribs in. Repeat pose on the opposite side of the body.
Common mistakes: The back hip should be facing forward and not outward, and the back foot should be closer to a 45-degree angle, not a 90-degree angle.
Sochocki says: “Imagine both your hips are headlights. You want both headlights facing forward.”
6. Warrior Two (Virabhadrasana 2)
Similar to warrior one, but with arms stretched out in opposite directions, parallel to the floor and in line with the shoulders. Raise arms and torso on an inhale. Back foot should be at a 90-degree angle, and front thigh should be parallel to the floor, with the front of the knee directly over the ankle. Eyes should look out over middle finger. Repeat pose on the opposite side of the body.
Common mistakes: The butt or belly should not stick out, and there should be no arch in the lower back. Foot alignment is also often wrong. Make sure that your front foot’s heel aligns with the back foot’s arch.
Sochocki says: “Imagine you are spreading your mat apart. To align your hips, place your hands on your hips to make sure you’re not leaning too much on one hip.”
7. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Step feet wide apart, creating a triangle from your feet to your pelvic bone. Start with turning one foot out by 90 degrees and the other inward by 15 degrees. Stretch arms out in line with the shoulders, and, on an exhale, rotate torso toward the outward-turned foot. Fingers should touch the shin for beginners or slightly touch the floor for advanced. The other arm should be reaching up with eyes looking at the raised hand, neck kept long and away from the shoulders. Shoulders and arms should form one line.
Common mistakes: The front hip should not jut out, and the back hip should not drop down.
Sochocki says: “To ensure good alignment, go into the pose very slowly.”
8. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a pose of surrender. Starting from a kneeling position, with toes touching and knees as wide as the shoulders, draw your hips down to your heels as your arms extend forward on the floor and your forehead lowers to the ground. Close your eyes and let your forehead rest on the ground. Breathe in whichever manner is comfortable to you.
Sochocki says: “There is no wrong way to do Child’s Pose. However, if you have tight hips, it can be helpful to place a blanket or pillow between your hips and heels and a block for your forehead.”
9. Baby Cobra (Ardha Bhujangasana)
This pose is done on the belly, with the pubic bone and the tops of the feet pressing into the ground. Feet are as wide as the hips and straight back. Hands are resting beside the rib cage, and elbows are squeezed back, reaching toward one another. Using the strength in the lower lumbar spine, peel the chest and upper ribs off the floor. Lift up on an inhale, take a few breaths, and lower down on an exhale.
Common mistakes: Hands should not be in front of the shoulders, and the shoulders should not be by the ears. To correct this form, draw the shoulders down the back, and pull the shoulders away from the ears.
Sochocki says: Your elbows should be at a 45 degree angle and you should use your lower back – with minimal push from your hands – to pull your torso off the floor.
10. Seated Twist with Leg Extended (Marichyasana)
The seated spinal twist neutralizes the spine. Start from a seated position, with butt on the ground and both legs parallel in front of you. Extend your left leg straight out, and flex the foot. Bend your right knee, and cross your right foot over the extended left leg. Left elbow pushes against the outside of the right knee, and right hand is placed on the floor on the right side of the body. Right hand should be planted behind the right side of the spine, supporting it. Look over the shoulder or as far as the neck allows. Repeat pose on the opposite side of the body.
Common mistakes: Do not round your back. Lengthen your spine by lifting your back up. Make sure your back hand is helping you life the spine up.
Sochocki says: “Exhale as you twist your spine. Inhale to create the space [in your torso] and the exhale will move you deeper into the space you’ve created.”
11. Upward-facing Dog* (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
From the plank position, with feet hip-width apart and arms shoulder-width apart, exhale and use your arms to slowly lower your body down until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. Use your toes to tilt your body forward and roll over your toes so the tops of your feet are flat on the ground. On an inhale, straighten your elbows so your entire torso, knees and thighs are lifted from the ground. Your hands and feet should be the only parts of your body touching the ground. Look slightly upward, past the tip of the nose. Exit the pose on an exhale.
Common mistakes: “I most commonly see students go into this pose before their back is ready for it. You can tell when their shoulders are high and near the ears. I recommend that beginners start with a cobra pose, closer to the floor. Cobra has little to no weight in the hands and will slowly build up the strength in the back.”
Sochocki says: “For those who are determined to master the up dog, make sure you press firmly down with the feet and keep drawing the chest through the arms. Lift from the center of the heart while pulling your shoulders down your back.”
The back bends - [My boyfriend took some B&W film photos of my monday morning practice. The photos where taken on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. We just got the prints back today, he did an amazing job, I love how they turned out!]
We’re having so much fun with these challenges that we decided to keep it going for the third month in a row! Join us in October as we each build up to one of our favorite difficult poses. Your hosts - Cat, Rebecca, Stef, Karel, and Chante - will trade off leading the charge every six days. We’ll do five days of prep poses before going for the hard one, with plenty of variations to make it easier or more challenging as we go. Sometimes you just gotta break a pose down to get it right, so the theme this month is #PoseByPose
How-To: 1. Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your waist so that your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor.
2. Inhale and press your inner hands firmly into the floor and slightly back, as if you were trying to push yourself forward along the floor. Then straighten your arms and simultaneously lift your torso up and your legs a few inches off the floor on an inhalation. Keep the thighs firm and slightly turned inward, the arms firm and turned out so the elbow creases face forward.
3. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks.
4. Firm the shoulder blades against the back and puff the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Look straight ahead or tip the head back slightly, but take care not to compress the back of the neck and harden the throat.
5. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana is another pose that you could flow into after Chatturanga Dandasana. You can also practice this pose individually, holding it anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor or lift into Adho Mukha Svanasana with an exhalation.
Benefits: This pose will strengthen your spine, arms & wrists, and give your chest, lungs, shoulders & abdomen a good stretch. It is said to relieve mild depression, fatigue, & sciatica and also be helpful for those who suffer from asthma.
(see previous “healing through yoga” entries here!)