You all need to know one thing before reading this: Yoga is legit exercise. Yoga may not make use of heavy weights so that you bulk up with massive muscles. And it sure doesn't stack up if you’re used to high intensity cardio sessions to get your heart pounding but it isn’t these things because it doesn't have to be.
Yoga poses work as stress-relief stretches that promote flexibility and maximising your core strength while simultaneously helping you relax and unwind (studies prove that yoga is indeed good for the brain). Here, you’ll use your own bodyweight to tone and define muscles and allow your body to become more elastic in a meditative fashion.
It can also get pretty complex and has to be taken on in levels, especially when you’re starting out. Below we’ve compiled a few different types of postures that will ensure that your body is toned, tight, and balanced.
The Tree Pose requires you to maintain balance and stability. Focus on your core strength as you stand with one foot planted firmly and your other knee bent like a branch, pressed with the sole of your foot flat on the side of the knee of your other leg.
Hold this pose for as long as you can, but you should be aiming for 10 long, deep breaths. Hands clasped in a prayer position in front of your chest. Once you master this you should be able to hold your position for ages, letting the breeze whirl around you as you continue to stand static and unmoving.
Exert dominance with the Warrior position as you lunge forward onto one knee and reach your hand to the heavens with an outstretched arm. And this is only where the fun first begins. From here you’ll need to contort your body into a twist to the side while still reaching for the heavens.
While facing skywards, you should be aiming at holding this pose and inhaling and exhaling deeply 10 times. You should always alternate yoga poses that only focus on one side so now it’s time to return to your starting position and lunge forward with your other leg, twisting and reaching high.
Upward Facing Dog To Downward Dog Variation
Part of the vinyasa flow, this combination is probably something you have seen quite a few times during your yoga classes. The upward facing dog has you pushing your chest forwards and stretching your back with your hands planted firmly at your sides. The change-up requires you to place your palms flat on the ground, rear in the air and legs straight so you’re in a V-shape. Your heels should not be on the ground.
Vary this pose by lifting one leg and extending it straight out. Hold this position, always remembering to breathe deeply.
One-legged bridge pose
This is one that’s simple, yet effective, for a flat stomach and killer abs. And, for the first time, you’re going to be starting from lying on the ground, or floor, rather than standing. Lying on your back, you’ll raise yourself up in a pelvic thrust motion and holding it with your arms and head still on the floor.
While holding this position and breathing deeply, lift one leg straight up and extend. This position also requires you to alternate between your right and left leg and focusing on tightening your abs for core strength.
Yoga is all about using your bodyweight and you’ll find that a lot of these exercises overlap with other disciplines – from regular push ups to ‘animal’ exercises. For the sliding table you’ll get into the ‘crab walk’ position and hold.
Stability is key, as is fluidity, due to how you’ll ‘slide’ into a raised seated position, relying on your arms for strength. Hold this and return to your original position.
The plank has consistently established itself as a powerful way to build strength all over your body and presents a challenge to anyone concerned with fitness. The side plank is a variation whereby you get into the same position, only using one side of your body for support, and extending your free arm.
You can hold this position from 30 seconds to a minute, depending on what you’re capable of. It’s best to start slow and build up. Once comfortable, you can make it even more challenging by lifting your leg and arm simultaneously, and holding.
Chair To Airplane
Hold yourself in a seated position – not cheat sitting! – and shoot your body forwards as you prepare for lift-off. This requires using one leg as a pivot and the other outstretched behind you, in tandem with your opposite arm.
It’ll take 3-5 breaths while holding and, when you’re done, return to your original position and alternate.
Warrior II Variation
The Warrior 2 pose requires you to stretch your legs wide in a side-lunge, making sure that your right knee is over your toes and that your left leg is slanting with your foot at a 90 degree angle. Stretch your arms at your sides. This is the basic pose and to make it more effective all you’ll need is a resistance band.
Create resistance with the band by gripping it on either side with your hands and stretching it, then holding. Twist your body while in this pose as well to create a dynamic movement.
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