If you’ve never done yoga before, the thought of bending and stretching into undignified positions in a room full of strangers might not be exactly thrilling. Well, don’t worry. You can practise yoga at home just as easily as you can in a class. All you need is a soft surface, suitable clothes (loose and comfortable), and a little knowledge.
Before you begin the exercises themselves, you need some basic training in exercise and stretching. Follow these golden rules and you shouldn’t hurt yourself:
Never stretch beyond a point of discomfort. You’ll know when you reach that point. Any sensation in your muscles beyond a normal stretching sensation – like the feeling that your muscle is taut, or jumpy – should cause an immediate cessation of that activity.
Keep well hydrated during exercise. Muscles need hydration to stay supple.
Start simple and slow, and build up your resistance. Initially, exercise for around 15 minutes. As you progress, start moving up towards the 30 minute mark, then (if you really get into it) 45 minutes to an hour.
The great thing about yoga is that every pose or exercise is designed to allow you to train into it. Start with simple versions of the poses and hold them for a limited time; and move up to fuller stretches, and longer holding periods, as you get more confident.
Some simple yoga poses for home exercise:
1: Cobra pose. This will open out your abdominal muscles and strengthen your core. It’s also excellent for the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It can be performed as gently as you like.
Start lying face down on a soft surface. You can use a doubled-up beach towel if you have no yoga mat.
Place your hands under your shoulders and push gently so your upper body rises off the floor. Keep the pelvis flat against the ground. Straighten the arms and hold the pose for a couple of seconds. Increase the length of time you hold the pose as you progress through your regime.
2: Child pose. Kneel on the floor. Gently roll forwards until your upper body is resting on your thighs, with your forehead on the ground. Stretch your arms out in front of you as far as feels comfortable.
This pose is great for stretching out the lower back and the shoulders. It is also good for your neck.
3: Downward facing dog. This pose is slightly more difficult to achieve – but again you can do it gently, and stop if you step outside of your comfort zone.
Essentially the pose is a triangle. You want to end up with your feet and your hands flat on the floor, and your bottom raised to the apex of the triangle.
Start by kneeling, and putting your hands flat on the ground in front of you. Now slide your knees back along the ground until you begin to achieve a press up position. Raise your bottom up in the air and walk forward with your feet until you feel the stretch. Hold and release.
You can combine the three poses listed above, in the order noted, for a simple and effective yoga workout.