World Yoga Day is this week beauties! Never heard of it? Well, it’s an initiative UNIFY created that celebrates peace, love and (you guessed it) unity. On 21 June, one hour before sunset, yogis from around the world share in a global yoga experience to unify the mind, heart, body and spirit – beautiful concept, right?! Last year, 474 cities worldwide participated with even more expected to this year. To celebrate this awesome and inspirational day, we asked bh’s resident yogi, Carly, to demonstrate the top 10 poses for beginners and spoke to Osteopath Dr Melissa Andrew about the physical benefits of these poses.
Downward-facing dog“[This is] almost the most frequently performed yoga pose. [It] stretches and strengthens the entire body. [When doing the pose,] avoid rounding or over-arching your lower back. Ensure [your] hands are firmly planted into the mat (all fingers and palms) to protect [the] wrists from injury. Bend [the] knees [if you have] tight hamstrings and slowly and gently over time encourage the heels to meet the mat,” explains Melissa.
Chaturanga“This move challenges your core strength and stability. It is also an effective strengthening exercise for the arms, legs and shoulders. Keep the back of your neck long by gazing slightly beyond the edge of your mat. Avoid bending [the] elbows so much that your chest collapses and your shoulders round forward. Also avoid dropping [the] hips lower than [your] shoulders,” says Melissa.
Melissa advises, “Be careful with this one, [but] it’s great for those who spend a lot of time leaning forward, sitting slumped in a chair bending forward over a laptop. It can help to strengthen the muscles of the low back and stretch the abdominal muscles… but if you find it painful or uncomfortable [then] cease and desist.”
“Mastering this posture will help you build [the] inner strength and courage of a warrior. [The] benefits [of this pose include] strengthened thighs and arms, stretched shoulders and groin and increased stamina,” explains Melissa.
Melissa says, “This position forms the starting point for many standing postures. [The] benefits [of this pose include] improved posture, [as well as] strengthened thighs, knees, and ankles. [Mountain pose also] tones [the] abdomen and buttocks.”
Melissa explains, “[When doing tree pose, the] standing foot stays strongly rooted to the floor, and the top of your head reaches up towards the ceiling. It’s important not to drop into [the] standing hip [in this pose]; if you feel you are beginning to do so it is advised you adjust your top leg to a lower position to allow appropriate gluteal activation of the standing leg. [The] benefits [of this pose include] improved balance, [as well as] strengthened legs, ankles, feet and glutes. [Tree pose also] stretches [the] groin and inner thigh.”
“[It is] important not to allow [the] knees [to] track past the toes [in chair pose], (this will protect knees from unnecessary strain), engage the middle back and ensure [the] shoulders are drawn away from your ears. [The] benefits [of this pose include] strengthened thighs, ankles, spine, and arms. [Chair pose] stretches [the] shoulders and chest,” explains Melissa.
“From chair pose, bring hands to the prayer position at the centre of your chest. Try to stack [the] knees over ankles rather than toes (keep weight in heels), and bring [the] left elbow to [the] outside of [the] right knee. Ensure [the] knees keep tracking forwards and [that the] hips are square on the front of the mat. Engage the inner seams of the thighs and anchor the pelvis down. It’s important to keep [the] chest open and [move the] weight back in [the] heels. If tightness through [the] upper body is causing strain or [the pose] is too difficult, [then] replace the elbow with the hand. Inhale to lengthen the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head and exhale to sink deeper in the squat and twist further. [Take] five breaths on each side then switch. This position strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves and spine. It stretches the shoulders and chest, while stimulating the abdominal organs,” explains Melissa.
“[When doing a forward fold,] keep a nice flat [back] and lengthen the cervical spine. Avoid shifting your weight backward so that your hips are behind [the] heels. [The] benefits [of this pose include] stretched hamstrings, hips, and spine. [Forward folds] strengthen the thighs and knees, [as well as] reduce stress and aid digestion,” says Melissa.
Melissa explains, “Very relaxing and restorative, Child’s pose is a perfect resting posture which the student can assure at [any] point during [his/her] practice. [The] benefits [of this pose include] reduced stress and anxiety. [It also] aids digestion, relieves back pain, [and] stretches [the] ankles, back and hips.”
As with any form of exercise, you need the right gear and yoga is no exception. From killer #activewear to the right antiperspirant and even some essential oils to help you feel zen, here’s our essential World Yoga Day kit:
Are you interested in taking up yoga? If so, did you find this guide useful?