Yoga is a 5,000-year-old practice that originated in India. Since then, all kinds of forms and practices of yoga have been created. Today, yoga is a modern trend, but there are so many reasons that it has remained alive and thriving since its beginning. Yoga works to connect the body, mind, and soul through movement, breathing, and presence. It represents the oneness of all things, people, and places.
The health benefits of yoga include increased strength and flexibility, not only physically, but mentally as well.
Beginning a short morning yoga practice has the ability to start your day off in a calming and body-opening way.
The best thing about yoga is that it meets you at your own strength and flexibility levels. Almost every pose can be modified to your body. If you feel pain or discomfort at any time while following these poses, loosen up or come out of the pose altogether. Yoga is about listening to YOUR body without comparison.
Below are 16 easy-to-follow poses based on Vinyasa-style yoga for your short morning, midday, or night flow!
1. Child's pose
Child's pose is a great way to come into your practice. Start by widening your knees about mat-width distance or closer depending on what's comfortable for you. Bring your big toes to touch and lower your chest and forehead towards the ground. Reach your arms out long in front of you, stretching your fingers as far as possible while sitting your butt back towards your heels.
Take deep inhales and exhales here: in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you want to begin building heat in your body, you can switch to your Ujjayi breath: inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your nose.
Give yourself time to breathe here, only coming up to a tabletop when you feel you are ready to move on. For a side stretch here, you may walk your hands over to the right and then the left.
Tabletop is a great time to think of an intention for your practice, day, or even year. Make sure to keep them in the present tense. This can be anything! Some examples are, "I give myself unconditional love and the acceptance of change," "I am remaining present for my whole practice," "I create my own peace and happiness," "I spread light on to others," "I am strong and capable," "I am energized," etc.
Intentions in yoga help to connect our thoughts to our movements and manifest our desires.
Benefits: passively warms shoulders and arms, neutralizes posture, slows heart rate, and creates full-body rest.
From your child's pose, inhale as you come up into a tabletop with your palms directly below shoulders and your knees directly below hips. Spread your fingers out wide to increase your surface area. Keep your gaze between your palms or towards the top of your mat. Flatten out your back so that a cup could balance in the middle of your spine. The woman in the above picture has a slight arch in her back.
From here, you can take a few cat-cows to stretch out the spine. On your inhale, drop your belly, look up, and squeeze your shoulder blades together, this is cow-pose. On your exhale, press your spine up towards the sky, tuck your chin, and round out your shoulders while pressing the ground away from you, this is cat-pose.
Flow these two poses organically as it feels good for you.
You might also practice beginning from a static tabletop and bringing one arm out straight in front of you while straightening the opposite leg behind you for a balance challenge. Do this on both sides.
Benefits: lengthens the spine and stretches spinal muscles, strengthens wrists, arms, and shoulders, and releases neck and shoulder tension.
3. Downward facing dog
From your tabletop, walk your palms a hand-print forward, tuck your toes, and exhale as you push your tailbone up into a downward dog. keep your neck straight and push your chest towards your thighs. Practice pedaling out your feet by bringing your heels towards the floor one by one. For perfect alignment, shift forward into a high plank, readjust hands and feet if necessary, and then push back to a downward dog.
Take a few breaths here to warm your body up to this pose.
Benefits: decompresses the spinal column, strengthen shoulders and arms, and opens shoulder girdle and trapezius. As an inversion, this pose brings fresh oxygen to the central nervous system.
4. Forward fold/rag doll
From your downward dog, inhale as you look up in-between your palms, and then exhale as you travel there by either stepping, hopping, or jumping. Keep your feet about hip-width or shoulder-width distance here. Drop your head, shoulders, and hands down towards the floor, letting gravity pull them.
You can bring a little to a large bend in your knees. If your fingertips brush the ground, you might grab for opposite elbows and sway back and forth. move your weight into the ballpoints of your feet to allow your body to fall forward a bit, trusting your hands to catch you if you fall out of balance.
Again, take a few breaths here to allow the pressure to fall out of your neck, shoulders, and spine.
Benefits: brings deep spinal release, opens the back of your body, oxygenates your central nervous system (brain and spinal column), soothes, revitalizes, and neutralizes the central nervous system, and stimulates and rinses abdominal organs.
5. Standing at attention
From your forward fold, inhale and slowly rise up, one vertebra at a time, bringing your neck and head up last. Leave your hands at your sides, palms facing forward. Relax your shoulders down your back and stand tall and strong.
You can close your eyes here to take a moment to feel grounded. Feel each point of your foot rooting into the ground like a tree. You may also bring your palms together at your heart center to connect both right and left hemispheres.
This is a good time to check in with your intention.
Benefits: teaches your body to behave as a whole, your large trunk and legs muscles generate power while small extremity muscles refine that power. Encourages grounding in the present and mental courage to face challenges.
From standing at attention, inhale, and simply raise your arms straight above your head, alongside your ears. Face your palms towards each other with your pinkies slightly in, and thumbs slightly out. Lengthen your spine and stand tall like a mountain.
You may choose to grab for opposite wrists and pull each arm to either side for a side stretch. You may also goal-post or cactus your arms out on each side, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and look up and back for a mini back-bend.
Exhale with each side stretch or back-bend and inhale back to mountain in-between.
Benefits: decompresses the vertebral column, ignites the nervous system, strengthens shoulders, and opens the chest.
From your mountain pose, exhale, bend your knees, plant your palms on the ground, and step your feet back to a high plank. Inhale and tilt forward two inches. Then, exhale and bend your elbows into a 90-degree angle, or half tricep push-up, keeping your upper arms and elbows glued alongside your body.
If this is too much for you or your form is being jeopardized, feel free to come down to your knees for this pose.
Benefits: creates full-body stabilization and increases shoulder and tricep strength.
8. Upward facing dog
From your chaturanga, inhale while flipping your toes and straightening your arms. Move your gaze forward and up while pushing your chest out.
Keep your knees and thighs off of your mat, using only the tops of your feet and palms to keep you up.
Benefits: increases lung capacity by opening the chest, lengthens abdominal muscles, and strengthens shoulders, trapezius, and upper arm musculature.
Transition to downward facing dog
From your upward dog, exhale into a downward dog by tucking your toes and pushing your tailbone up to the sky. The previous two poses are commonly used to lead into a downward dog.
Starting from a high plank, that small flow goes like this:
Inhale, tilt forward two inches.
Exhale, chaturanga (lower into a 90-degree tricep pushup).
Inhale, upward dog (flip your toes and straighten your arms, keeping your knees off the mat).
Exhale, downward dog (tuck your toes and float your tailbone up to the sky).
This little flow is a great reset between larger flows and is universal among almost all vinyasa yoga practices, though the larger flows in-between will change drastically.
From your downward dog, inhale, look between your hands, and exhale as you travel there by stepping, jumping, or hopping. Bring your big toes to touch, but keep a sliver of space between your heels.
Inhale and bend your knees as if you are almost sitting in a chair, bring your arms straight alongside your ears as we did in mountain pose, relax your shoulder blades down your back while shining your chest out, and look forward.
Give yourself time to find the correct form for this pose, as there are many factors to it.
Once you have completed the above steps, be sure that your weight is in your heels by lifting or wiggling your toes. You should be able to see your toes below your knees. If you are feeling any pain or strain in your lower back, tuck or round your tailbone inwards.
Benefits: tones back, quadriceps and hips, increases heart-rate and therefore circulation, and stimulates metabolism.
Transition to downward facing dog, part two
From your chair pose, fold forward and plant your palms on the ground before stepping back to a high plank.
Inhale, tilt forward two inches.
Exhale, chaturanga (90-degree tricep pushup).
Inhale, upward dog (flip your toes and straighten your arms).
Exhale, downward dog (tuck your toes and float your tailbone to the sky).
In downward dog, remember to push your chest towards your thighs, reach your heels towards the ground, and spread your fingers wide.
If you do not enjoy this short flow into downward dog after trying it out a few times, feel free to skip it and push right into a downward dog.
10. High crescent lunge
From your downward dog, inhale and lift your right leg high into the air. Then, exhale, sweep it under you, and step that right foot in between both palms. This is a low lunge.
To get to a high crescent lunge, inhale and begin to lift your hands from the ground, using your abdominals and balance. Straighten out your torso and bring your arms straight alongside your ears as we did in mountain and chair pose.
Keep a deep bend in your front, right knee while ensuring your knee does not surpass your toes. You should be balancing on the ballpoint of your left foot.
Benefits: builds core and leg strength while opening the hip flexors, encourages grounding in the present, and promotes mental courage to face challenges
11. Warrior II
From your high crescent lunge, exhale, and swivel your left heel down so that your left toes and torso are now facing the left side of your mat. Now, bring your arms to a T, palms facing down, and focus your gaze out over your right middle finger.
Again, commit to the bend in your right leg but keep your knee above your ankle, and not over your toes.
Benefits: strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles, stretches the groin, chest, lungs, and shoulders, stimulates abdominal organs, and increases stamina and focus.
12. Reverse warrior pose
From your warrior II, inhale and reach your right arm up and over your head for a side stretch along your right torso. Your left arm can slide down your left leg, but be sure not to put too much pressure into it. Look up under your right arm.
Benefits: side body stretch, strengthens legs and glutes, and creates a hip opening.
Transition to downward facing dog, part three
From your reverse warrior II, cartwheel or windmill your arms down to the ground on either side of your right foot and come back onto the ballpoint of your left foot. Now you are back in a low lunge.
From here, sweep your right foot back to a high plank and flow into your downward dag once again.
Inhale, tilt forward two inches.
Exhale, chaturanga (90-degree tricep push-up)
Inhale, upward dog (flip your toes and straighten your arms)
Exhale, downward dog (tuck your toes and float your tailbone to the sky)
Complete steps 10-12 once again, but on the left side, and finish off with your last flow to downward dog.
13. Supine figure four
From your last downward dog, come to your knees and then to a seat. Slowly exhale and lower down to your back while engaging your abdominal muscles.
Plant your left foot on the ground, close to your glutes. Cross your right ankle right above your left knee and clasp your hands behind your left thigh. Pull that thigh towards your chest while feeling the stretch through your right glutes.
After a few breathes here, switch out your legs and stretch again on the other side.
Benefits: stretches the hips and glutes and improves flexibility.
14. Supine twist
While on your back, hug one knee alongside your chest. Then, cross that leg over your body and let it fall to the opposite side while keeping your back and shoulder blades flat on your mat. Here, you can T-out your arms and look in the opposite direction of your fallen leg. Then, switch out your legs.
If you cannot keep your shoulder blades grounded, or if this pose feels too intense for you, try bringing both knees into your chest and dropping them to each side together.
Benefits: supports healthy sine mobility and hydration (discs compress with the twist and elongate with the return to neutral, allowing water/nutrients in) and creates a change in perspective or point of view.
15. Happy baby
While on your back, bring both knees to your chest. Reach both arms in-between your thighs to grab onto the outsides of your feet. If your whole torso is grounded here, you can begin to shift your weight side-to-side for a lower back massage.
Play around with straightening one leg and then the other, or whatever else feels good to you.
Benefits: lengthens and relaxes the muscles on the backline of your body, and relaxes your mind and nervous system.
Finally, the pose you've been waiting for. Savasana represents the end of your practice and consists of lying flat on your back and relaxing every muscle in your body.
Try doing a body scan, in which you focus on relaxing each area of your body from head to toe. Relax your breathing and allow your mind to ease. Enjoy savasana for as long as your day allows.
Benefits: promotes complete relaxation of the physical body and presence for the mind, and allows for deep restoration before you move on from your practice.
Feel free to add in more stretches as you deem necessary, or even remove a pose or two that do not align with your body today. Yoga is about making the practice unique and fitting to you personally.
I recognize that it can be difficult to both follow and read a yoga tutorial, so I recommend using Google and YouTube to try out some more visual yoga tutorials if that would be more beneficial to you!
I hope that this tutorial at least introduced you to the simplicities of yoga and broke down any intimidating walls. Remember, we all start somewhere.
From my heart to yours, stay curious, explore often, and spread love. Namaste.