Whether you’re a serious athlete or just beginning your exercise journey, a regular yoga regimen will help you build strength, increase flexibility, and relax. Here is a quick series of yoga postures (or asanas) for the whole you, from twists to deep stretches to heart openers. These asanas are designed for all experience levels, so honor your body and really make it your OM.
Extended Child’s Pose
Come to a table-top position on your hands and knees. Shoulders should be stacked over your hands, and hips stacked over your knees. Bring your toes together to touch behind you. Walk your knees out to the width of your mat or what is most comfortable for your body. Bring your hips down toward your heels and rest your chest between your legs. Place your forehead on the mat. Extend your arms out long in front of you. With every inhale, lengthen your spine and walk your fingertips more forward. With every exhale, press your hips back toward your heels. This is a great grounding posture to start out your yoga routine and can be returned to throughout the yoga sequence whenever a break is needed.
Modification: Try traditional child’s pose with your legs together underneath your chest and arms along your sides.
Downward Facing Dog
This is a great posture for lengthening the backs of your legs while simultaneously strengthening your arms. Again, from a table-top position with shoulders over wrists and hips over knees, lift your hips and lengthen your legs, creating an inverted “V” shape with your body. Palms should be shoulder-width distance apart and feet hips-width distance apart. With every inhale, press your chest back toward your legs and biceps by your ears. With every exhale, press your heels down toward the mat (Note: Your heels may never touch the mat and that is okay!).
Modification: Allow a slight bend in your knees if your hamstrings are tight. Bending your knees will also take some of the pressure away from your arms and lower back.
Step to the top of your mat. Bring your toes and heels together to touch. Bend at your knees and sit your hips back like you’re sitting down in a chair. Reach your arms up, bringing your biceps toward your ears. Rock your weight back into your heels, tuck your tailbone down, and relax your shoulder blades. You will feel the burn quickly in this posture—you’re building strength!
Modification: Extend your arms wide, making a “Y” shape with your upper body. Feet may also be hips-width distance apart.
From downward facing dog, bring your right foot between your hands. Place your foot on the floor, with all ten toes of your front and back feet facing forward. Your right leg will be bent with your knee stacked directly over your ankle. Keep your left leg extended behind you. Walk your right foot to the top right corner of your mat, bringing both hands to the inside of your right leg. You may remain on your palms, or for a deeper hip flexor stretch, drop down to your forearms. Relax your neck and breath. Repeat on the opposite side.
Modification: Place your back knee on the floor.
Prep for warrior 2 similar to runner’s lunge by bringing your right foot between your hands. However, lift your shoulders over your hips and turn your hips to face the side. Pivot your back toes to the top left corner of your mat, right toes point forward. Bend deeply into your right knee, stacking it directly over your right ankle. Extend your arms out laterally, reaching through the fingertips. Repeat on opposite side.
Modification: less bend in your front knee.
From downward facing dog, step your feet towards the top of your mat, outside your hands. Sit your hips down toward your heels. Bring your hands together at heart center. Press your elbows into your knees and bring your shoulder blades together behind you. Point your tailbone toward the floor and sit up tall.
Modification: Place a yoga block underneath your bum for extra support.
From chair pose, bring your right arm underneath your left, wrapping at the elbows and if possible, at the wrists. While keeping the bend in your left knee, lift your right leg up and over your left, crossing at the thigh. To add a challenge, wrap the top of your right foot around the back of your left calf. If you’re still working on balance, place the tip of your right toes on the floor outside your left leg. Bring your weight back into your heel and lift your chest to stack your shoulders on top of your hips.
Modification: If you have shoulder pain, wrap your right arm under your left at the elbow and reach for opposite shoulders with your palms.
From downward facing dog, bring your right knee in toward your right wrist, and your right ankle toward your left wrist. Lay your shin down parallel to the top of your mat. Lower your hips to the mat. Flex your right ankle. Extend your left leg long behind you. Start by first walking your palms in toward your hips to sit up tall. Then fold at your waist, bringing your chest over your right leg. Find a place to rest your head, be it on the mat, stacked forearms, or on a block. Allow yourself to relax here, finding a deep stretch in your hip flexor. Continue to breath deeply into the stretch. Repeat on the opposite side.
Modification: lay on your back. Bend both of your knees and place feet flat on the floor. Bring your right ankle on top of your left knee. Reach between your legs and grab the back of your left thigh. Lift your left leg and pull it in towards your chest.
Find a table-top position on your hands and knees. Come to standing on your knees with knees about hips-width distance apart on the mat. Place your palms on your lower back, elbows bent and pointing back. Draw your shoulder blades together behind you. Take a deep breath in and begin to trace your gaze up. Press your hips forward so they remain stacked above your knees. Focus more on lifting through your chest than bending backwards. Continue to walk your gaze up and back to as far as you comfortably can.
Modification: Decrease degree of lift up and back.
Legs Up the Wall
Move to lying on your back, legs extended long. With inner thighs together, stretch both legs straight up toward the ceiling, creating a 90-degree angle. Work to take as much bend out of the knees as possible. Flex your feet back toward your face. Remain here for several breaths.
Modification: Complete the same position against a wall.
From lying on your back, bring your right knee into your chest. Keep your left leg extended long. Interlace your fingers on top of your shin and give your leg a squeeze. Release your grip and use your left hand to guide your right knee across your body to the left. Extend your right arm out to your side, creating a “T” with your body. Gaze to the right. With every inhale, lengthen your spine, and with every exhale, twist a little bit deeper. Repeat on the opposite side.
Modification: Decrease the degree of twist.