Yoga has been practiced for over 5,000 years! The first mention of the practice was found in the ancient sacred texts, the Rig Veda. Many people have different associations with the term yoga—from spiritual practice to celebrity health craze. However, many people also associate yoga with young, super flexible, fit people and therefore think yoga is impossible for them. In large part, this perspective is due to the high popularity of yoga. This popularity means that classes on yoga are readily available (36 million Americans practice yoga as of 2020) but may not be taught or even practiced by individuals who understand the need to practice yoga safely. Yoga therapist, Carol Krucoff says, “I have found it distressingly common to hear about the negative experiences and injuries people have sustained in yoga classes. The stories my students relate suggest classes that were too difficult for them and/or were taught by an inexperienced or poorly trained instructor.” Popularity and the remarkable health benefits are getting people to practice yoga, but injuries from improper techniques are understandably turning people away as well. Responsible yoga has been good for the mind and body for over 5,000 years. Yoga is about listening to your body, not over-exerting it. Every pose has modifications that can allow you to participate at your level. So if you’re considering yoga but have been scared to put your body through anything strenuous, first practice these three yoga stretches that anyone can do:
1. Half-Moon Pose
Half-moon can look quite difficult if you’re looking up poses or watching someone with years of practice performing it. However, there are great modifications to the half-moon pose that can suit any ability.
First, let’s start with the traditional half-moon pose. Yoga U says, “Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) is said to resemble the image of an Indian moon floating in the sky. The Sanskrit word Chandra also refers to the qualities of brilliance or shine of the moon. Although the torso is not dangling but is held up by strong legs, a lightness and freedom can be experienced in this pose as if you can radiate in all directions. Once you have mastered the art of balancing, you may find this to be your favorite standing pose, as the whole front of the body is free to open and expand.” click this link for both the advanced and modified versions.
2. Cat-Cow Pose
Cat-Cow is a very beginner-friendly yoga pose. It’s usually the one people are first taught. If you think about it, sometimes we do it almost naturally if we’re ever experiencing back issues. An article in 2017 reveals why: “Marjaryasana/Bitilasana or the cat/cow pose is a fusion of two stretches to gently stretch and warm up your spine. This breath-synchronized pose is beneficial for your body and mind. This simple pose powers up your brain and improves focus, coordination and mental stability. The cat/cow pose improves blood circulation between the vertebrae of your spine and it helps in relieving back pain and stress.” This pose is simple and needs no variation, only a gentle awareness of your own body’s range of movement. You can perform this pose on all fours as intended, or even while seated. Click this link for both the advanced and modified versions.
3. Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose)
This pose has about a dozen variations, even though it looks like something all of us have tried as kids at one point or another. This pose is commonly thought of as a resetting and recharging pose, using gravity’s pull to redirect the flow of life-giving blood through our body. An article by Rachel Land in “Yoga Journal” reads, “Like shaking up a snow globe, inversions change our relationship to gravity, shifting blood and lymphatic fluid from the legs and hips toward the heart and head. It also takes the weight off our feet, ankles and knees, giving hard-working joints some welcome rest. Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose (Viparita Karani) is my favorite inversion because it also helps to relieve neck and back tension.” Click this link for both of the advanced and modified versions.
Ultimately the key takeaway is that yoga is for everybody. There is no one way to practice the ancient art of yoga, but there can be ways that are not right for you. Take your time to explore and research the best kind of yoga practices for your own mental and physical well-being. There are hundreds of classes of all levels to choose from. Anyone can practice yoga, and if you want you can start today with these three simple stretches.
Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor before starting any health related practices.