Every day, your body is what gives you the power to wake up and be you. Though setting healthy aesthetic and weight-based goals is OK, they shouldn’t be your only focus. Whether you’re coming back to Binghamton University in the fall or beginning a new chapter in your life, take advantage of these warmer months to get outside and enjoy all that your body can do.
One way to establish that mind-body connection is through yoga. The following poses are beginner-friendly and great ways to find your zen. Remember that your yoga practice is all about you, and that you can modify any of these poses to make them work.
Kara Jillian Brown is a yoga foundations instructor certified through the National Exercise Trainers Association and an group fitness instructor certified through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
Utkatasana — Chair pose
If you’re looking to strengthen your lower body, this pose is a great place to start. Not only will it strengthen your thighs, ankles and calves, but it can also reduce flat feet by strengthening your arches through balance.
Begin standing with your feet hip-distance apart, your knees and toes pointing forward and your arms extended overhead. Engage your core and sit your weight back into your heels, as though you were sitting in a chair. Make sure your knees stay over your feet, without passing your toes. Work to keep the pelvis tucked under, maintaining a flat spine and a strong core. If you notice your knees tend to relax inward, use your outer thighs to pull your knees toward the pinky sides of your feet. Aim to reach your fingertips toward the sky, keeping your forearm aligned with your ears and your shoulders relaxed down and away from your ears. To increase difficulty, attempt this pose standing on your toes. Hold long enough to breathe in and out three to five times.
Uttanasana — Forward fold
Because this pose places the head below the heart, it reverses blood flow, forcing your veins to pump blood back to the heart, which gives your heart muscles a break. This pose also helps you increase flexibility in your hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back and neck.
Begin with your feet either hip-distance apart or with your feet together, big toes touching. Inhale and reach your arms overhead. Exhale, hinge forward from your waist while squeezing your shoulder blades together behind you, maintaining a flat spine. Bring your hands to rest either on your quads, your shins or the floor in front of you. Keep your back flat for as long as you can and once you bend as far as you can, allow your head and neck to relax, letting the crown of your head float toward the floor. Remember to keep a slight bend in your knees to avoid hyperextending. Hold long enough to breathe in and out three to five times.
Vrksasana — Tree pose
Requiring both strength and concentration, this pose will work you both physically and mentally. It will strengthen the muscle of your standing foot and leg and increase flexibility in your ankles, knees and hips.
Begin standing with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands at your sides. Begin to shift your weight into your left foot, lifting the right foot off the ground. Bring your right foot to rest either with the toes on the floor and your heel on your left inner ankle or your entire right foot rested on your left inner calf or left inner thigh, making sure to avoid placing any weight directly on your left knee. Your hands can either come to your hips, palms together in front of your chest or reaching overhead. To maintain balance, engage your core and find a spot that isn’t moving to focus your gaze. Hold long enough to breathe in and out three to five times and repeat on the other side.
Utthita trikonasana — Triangle pose
This pose is great to stretch your chest, spine, groin, hips and calves while both stretching and strengthening your thighs, ankles and knees.
Begin standing with your legs wide, knees and toes pointing in front of you. Turn your left toe so it points to your side, keeping your left heel in line with the arch of your back foot. Inhale and bring your arms up so they’re parallel with the floor. Keeping your hips in a straight line and your pelvis facing in front of you, bring your left hand down to rest on your lower left leg. Allow your right arm to reach overhead, keeping your shoulders stacked on top of each other. If it’s comfortable for your neck, look up at your right hand. Remember to keep a slight bend in your knees to avoid hyperextending. Hold long enough to breathe in and out three to five times and repeat on the other side.