Before anyone on this side of the world had heard of it, yoga was practiced for millennia as a way of aligning all parts of self. It had as much to do with philosophy and developing wisdom as it did with physical fitness.
Some aspect of this history remains with our adoption of yoga techniques but it tends to take the form of an oasis for our busy minds and busier lives. It picked up steam as a fitness routine in the late ’90s after aerobics fell out of vogue, but it’s managed to endure because of the rewarding sense of wellbeing people often report after doing it.
It was long thought that yoga couldn’t possibly keep you as fit as aerobics because it uses up less energy, but some research shows promising effects on body weight reduction and risk of heart disease even compared to other exercises. So if you want to shape up your body while keeping yourself relaxed, yoga seems to be a good train to jump on.
If you’re curious, these 10 yoga positions should get you started on your journey to better health at your own pace.
1. The Wind Easing Pose (Pavanamuktasana)
You start by laying outstretched on your back with your feet together and your arms at your sides. As you breathe out, you then slowly bend your knees and bring them towards your chest. Once they get there, hug them in place and hold that position for about a minute.
Then breathe out and slowly return to the position you started in. Repeat this five times with a 15-second break between each pose.
2. The Pontoon Pose (Naukasana)
Start this from the outstretched position as the last one. Breathe in and raise your legs as high as you can. Remember to keep your legs straight the whole time and point your toes forward.
Then raise your arms and try to reach out to your toes until you’ve made a 45-degree angle with your body. Breathe and hold this pose for 15 seconds before releasing and returning to your starting pose. As with before, repeat it five times with 15-second rests between each one.
3. The Half-Boat Pose (Naukasana)
This is similar to the Pontoon, but you can start it from a sitting position. Bend your legs and then put your hands face down on the floor behind your back. Then raise your half-bent legs until your shins run parallel to the floor. Like before, reach out with your arms and try to keep your back straight.
Do this for long enough to breathe in and out 10 times, then release.
4. The Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
Begin on your hands and knees with your arms fully extended. Then tuck your toes under your feet as shown and walk your feet back until your legs are extended. Inhale and stare just ahead of your hands and try to keep your body as straightly aligned as possible. Hold this position for as long as possible and then exhale and return to your knees.
As with before, repeat it five times with 15-second breaks.
5. The Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Start by lying on your stomach with your hands face-up at your sides. As you breathe out, bend your knees until your heels are as close as they can get to your buttocks and grab your ankles. Then lift your heels away from your buttocks, which should bring your chest and head upwards.
Breathe normally and hold your position for 15-30 seconds. Then release and return to your laying position for 15 seconds before trying again.
6. The Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Start by laying flat on your stomach with your hands face down next to your shoulders and your elbows against your rib cage. As you inhale, slowly straighten your arms and raise your chest from the floor. Stop straightening your arms when it gets uncomfortable, but make sure there’s a nice arc to your back.
Hold this for 15-30 seconds and release yourself back down to the floor.
7. The Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, inhale and raise your arms high above your head perpendicular to the floor. As you breathe out, bend your knees and make your thighs run as parallel to the floor as you can. Slowly lower your hips and lean into this position while shifting your weight to your heels.
Hold this for about a minute and then straighten your legs back into a standing position.
8. The Bridge Pose (Setubandhasana)
Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Put your arms at your sides with your palm facing down and your fingertips slightly touching your heels.
As you inhale, press your feet into the floor and lift your hips up while squeezing your knees together. Then press down into your arms and shoulders to lift your chest up. It may help to interlock your fingers together while you do this.
Hold this position for about four to eight breaths and slowly roll your back down to the floor.
9. Warrior Pose #1(Veerbhadrasana 1)
Stand with your feet about four feet apart and turn your right foot out at a right angle. To support it, turn your left foot in at about 45 degrees and make sure it’s firmly planted. Then square your hips to face your right knee and raise your arms over your head, making your palms touch.
Bend your right knee until your shin is parallel to the ground and hold that pose for 30 seconds to one minute. Reach up and straighten your right leg to come back. Then repeat these steps for your left leg.
10. Warrior Pose #2 (Veerbhadrasana 2)
As with Warrior #1, stand with your feet about four feet apart and turn your right foot out at a right angle. You also turn your left foot in at 45 degrees like before, but this time, you don’t face your right knee with your torso. Instead, extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height with your palms facing down.
As you bend your right knee like before, gaze out over your right hand. Hold it for 30 seconds to a minute and repeat the process on the left side.