If you are looking for a new activity and want to give yoga a try, it can feel quite intimidating to take a class for the first time. However, because yoga has become more and more popular over the years, there are now more classes available to teach newcomers the basics and enjoy the benefits of a class. If you are still not sure a class is right for you yet, here is a short, well-rounded sequence that covers the basic moves with options to use props and modifications to help aid in your practice.
The prop I have is a block, but you may not need one or could use a small, hardcover book instead. Blocks assist you in poses that are a little too challenging or if the flexibility isn’t there. However, it does not take away the benefits of the poses. You may find that you can twist a little further, stretch a little deeper, and hold the poses longer with an aid of a block. Always have a space ready and a mat to practice on. Take time to transition between each pose, breathing deeply as you move. Hold each pose for 3-5 breaths.
Start standing tall, feet hip distance apart, and eyes closed or heavy. Take 3-5 deep, long breaths, in and out of the nose. Don’t force the breath: keep it natural. Continue breathing through the nose and try to connect each transition and pose with your breath as best you can.
Sweep the arms up and place hands together (or slightly apart). Bend at the knees as if you are sitting onto a chair. Your weight is in the heels and the knees remain behind the toes. Have your gaze to the ceiling. Option: have the block between the legs above the knees. The block keeps the knees from caving in.
Hands sweep down to the side as you exhale, hinge at the hips to a forward fold. Bend the knees slightly to release the low back. Let your head sink to your knees and upper body to your thighs. You hands may rest on the floor or on the block.
Exhale back into forward fold. Plant the hands down and step back with the right foot into a lunge. Keep your knee right above the ankle and plant the back foot down to a 45-degree angle out to the side. Sink the hips down and bend the knees as low as is comfortable, then rise the arms up or rest them onto the hips. Have the hips and torso face forward as best you can without lifting the back heel.
Turn your hips to face the right wall. Legs remain the same but hips and torso face the side. Outstretch your left arm forward and the right arm back. Keep the gaze forward.
With the block in your right hand, straighten the legs but keep a softness in the knees. Stretch out the block in the air and hinge at the hips forward reaching with the block to the front. Once you reach as far as you can, lower the block on the inside of the right foot and rotate the shoulders to face the right wall. Stretch the opposite arm up, if having difficulty, place the top arm on your hip.
Windmill your arms down and pivot the back foot to return to your lunge. Plant both hands firmly on the ground and step back with the left foot. Lift the tailbone up and towards the back wall. Allow your head to sink between the hands to form an upside down V shape. Bend the knees slightly. Your heels may or may not touch the ground.
From downward dog, rise up the right leg and bring it forward and across the mat. Your ankle may come closer to your hip to relieve pressure in the knee. As an option, place your block under the sit bones of the leg that’s in front. The back leg lengthens behind you and the hips sink onto the block. To further the stretch, bring the chest forward and lie down.
Repeat the above moves on the other side by lunging forward with the left leg. To transition, place the hands on the side of the mat and lift up onto your back toe. Bring the front leg to meet the back and press into downward dog for a short rest.
Finish by lying on your back with legs wide and arms to your side with palms up. Relax and breathe. This is a resting pose.
These moves can all be done without a block, however to go into the poses right away as a beginner maybe very challenging. In order to enter the full expression of the pose, you may require a little assistance if the flexibility isn’t quite there, so the block is a great little tool to use. Use these techniques to your class or if practicing at home, invest in a block or any other common yoga props to bring your practice to the next level.
—Submitted by Florence S., University of Saskatchewan