There are many benefits to practicing yoga as a form of exercise – strengthening your core, building muscle and toning many different parts of your body are just a few of them. However, for many people who take up yoga, it’s not the physical benefits that are the most appealing, it’s the spiritual and mental benefits. Yoga is renowned for being perhaps the most relaxing form of exercise, and most sessions come with the aim of not just taking care of your body on the outside, but your soul on the inside too.
However, if you are a beginner and the relaxation aspect of yoga is what made you want to take it up in the first place, many routines can feel a little too intense at first. It’s difficult to take any peace from your yoga session if the poses left you in pain or unable to focus on anything other than trying not to lose your balance and fall over!
Luckily, there are a select few poses that are perfect for beginners – easy to do, tension relieving and the perfect way to wind down away from the stresses of the outside world.
Here are nine of the best, most relaxing yoga positions for beginners!
The Easy Pose
The clue is in the name here! This is the pose usually used to begin and end yoga routines and is a great chance to center yourself before the session really gets started. Simply sit cross-legged, keep your back straight. Rest your hands gently on your knees while keeping your back upright.
To really get the most out of this pose, close your eyes and take deep breaths, in and out, before bringing your palms together at the center of your chest. This is the best way to start your relaxing yoga session, as it gives you a chance to have a quiet moment and perhaps even set an intention (what you’d most like to get out of the session) before you begin.
The Seated Twist Pose
This is the natural next step from The Easy Pose. Take one arm and stretch it across your body to grasp your opposite knee, with your corresponding arm place behind you to help you keep your balance. Twist into this move in the same direction of your grasping arm, turning your body as far as you comfortably can without also twisting your hips. Hold this position for a few seconds, breathing in and out as you do. Return to the center, change sides and repeat.
The Cow Face Pose
This pose takes its name from the body’s supposed resemblance to a cow’s face when completing the pose correctly, but really this pose isn’t so different from the classic overhead shoulder stretch you might include in the warm-up to a workout.
Start by sitting cross-legged but cross your legs over further until your knees overlap – if this isn’t comfortable for you, that’s fine! This is just as effective on the arms with your legs crossed regularly. Then raise one arm behind you, bending it so that the tips of your fingers touch the upper-middle of your back.
Use your other hand to pull on the tips of your fingers so that your arm stretches as far as it comfortably can. Turn your head 90° to one side and hold once you feel a stretch in the side of your neck. Hold this pose for ten to fifteen seconds, then switch everything over to the opposite side to repeat.
The Cobbler Pose
Another seated pose, but this one is designed to encourage a nice comfortable stretch in the inner thighs. Start in The Easy Pose, then move your legs apart so that they are no longer crossed, but bent with the soles of your feet touching instead. Try to keep your knees as low as you comfortably can. As you do this remember to keep your back straight upright.
There are few modifications on this pose, too, so do whichever suits you. One modification is to hold the soles of your feet and pulse your knees up and down slightly to deepen the inner thigh stretch, though you can deepen this stretch even more by keeping your knees still, but leaning forward with a straight back. If you don’t wish to deepen the stretch any further, you can massage the arches of your feet with your thumbs, instead – this will deepen the relaxation!
The Seated Forward Bend Pose
Uncross your legs and stretch them out in front of you. If you need to bend your knees slightly, don’t worry about it! There’s nothing to gain from yoga if it makes you feel discomfort or pain, so bend them as much as you need to in order to be able to lean forward and grasp the soles of your feet with your fingers.
As you lean forward to do this, keep your head straight and your neck in line with your spine – this should create a stretch through your thighs and back. Hold this for up to a minute, taking deep, controlled breaths in and out as you do.
The Leg Up Pose
This is another of the easiest poses, and doesn’t require much instruction.
Simply lie on your back with your arms by your side and raise your legs so they are straight – as if you were sitting with your legs outstretched, but your whole body has been rotated 90°. Try to keep your head, neck and torso pressed against the floor as you do this.
The Shoulder stand Pose
This pose follows on nicely from The Leg Up Pose, and is surprisingly satisfying and relaxing. Maintaining The Leg Up Pose, use your arms to push your torso off the ground, so that it is raised almost in line with your legs. Ideally, your legs should be straight up in the air so that your toes are directly above your face, but if you can’t comfortably raise them this high, this is fine.
This pose is great for improving blood flow and isn’t as strenuous as it looks in photographs. One thing to make sure of is to keep your legs together, as this will help you maintain your balance as you do it. One thing to note is that this pose is perhaps best avoided if you have recently suffered from any kind of shoulder injury.
The Bridge Pose
Following on from The Shoulderstand Pose, bring your legs and torso down slowly, so that you are lying out straight on the ground with your arms by your side. Bring your legs in a little so that they are bent, with the inside of your leg in a triangle shape, then use your core strength to raise your pelvis. Hold this for around a minute, paying careful attention to taking deep, controlled breaths.
This may be a little tricky for some, but that’s no problem. You can use your arms to support your lower back if that makes it easier for you.
The Extended Puppy Pose
After coming down from The Bridge Pose into lying on your back again, roll over onto your front. Stretch your arms out in front of you and use your palms to push away from the ground, pushing your torso back so that you are in a kneeling position, but with your upper body still very much facing down towards the floor.
Taking yourself as far back as you comfortably can, you should feel a pleasant stretch in your arms and back. Be sure to keep your head, neck and spine aligned as you do this.
The Cat Pose
From puppies to cats! Position yourself on all fours, with your palms and knees pressing firmly against the floor, and your head raised, facing straight ahead. Using the force of your palms, arch your back upwards, taking in a deep breath as you do. As you exhale, drop your back so that it curves inwards. Repeat as many times as you like!
When practiced properly, this pose is great for relieving tension right across the back.
The Downward Facing Dog Pose
Possibly the most challenging of the poses on this list, but also one of the most popular. From your position on all fours, curl your toes under and use your toes and palms to push through the ground and raise yourself up so that your body forms a triangle shape, with straight arms and legs and your butt raised towards the ceiling.
This pose is a little more challenging as you feel quite a burn in your arms after a while, as they are supporting most of your body weight. However, breathe through it – this pose is particularly beneficial, as it improves core strength, allows you to build stamina and tones your arms. It’s also one of the best poses to master, as it is featured in the vast majority of yoga routines.
Try to keep your head, neck and spine in line as you do this, too. It’s a little tricky, but worth it once you can do it.