It’s easy to get sucked into the mindset that yoga is only for experts – seeing super stretchy and flexible yoga instructors can definitely be intimidating. But don’t worry, if you can relate then keep reading, because I’ll be sharing my favourite easy feel-good yoga stretches; FYI, I’m a beginner too! I’ll also throw in some personal favourites of our fantastic yoga master Rohini Emanuelsson, who has given me some insight into her most loved stretches, so you too can become an expert in no time.
1. Mountain (Tadasana)
Begin standing with your feet together on the mat. Engage your quadriceps and lift your kneecaps. Draw your abdominals in and lift your chest, keeping your shoulders down – feel your shoulder blades coming together as you maintain this position. At this point you should be aware of your breathing as you hold this position for a few breaths.
– Improves body posture
– Improves body awareness
– Strengthens legs
Begin on all fours in a table-top position – your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Inhale, and as you exhale, lift your knees off the floor and draw your hips towards your heels. If you can’t straighten your legs completely, you can bend your knees slightly or walk your hands forward to ease the tension in the hamstrings. To safely return to all fours, slowly drop your knees to the floor.
– Strengthens the whole body
– Stimulates blood circulation
– Helps calm the mind and ease stress
Begin on all fours, in a tabletop position – your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Your head and neck should be neutral. Start moving into cat pose, by drawing your abdominal in towards your spine and dropping your head – release any tension in the neck here. Coming back into neutral position, exhale and enter cow. Lift your chest, chin and gaze to the ceiling without straining your neck and drop your belly towards the mat. Switch between the two poses at your own pace.
– Stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs
– Stretches and strengthens the spine and neck
– Improves posture and balance
Begin lying on your belly, placing your hands directly under your shoulders with your arms hugged against your body. Engaging your core, inhale and lift your chest off the floor, keeping your arms hugging your sides and your shoulder blades back. If you want to take the pose to the next level, you can lift your knees off the mat to go into upward facing dog. Or for a more relaxed option, you can start with baby cobra, which is simply done with your arms bent rather than straight.
– Increases the mobility of the spine
– Can help relieve back pain
– Opens the heart and lungs
Begin standing on your mat. Inhale, and as you exhale, step back into a lunge, pressing both feet into the mat. Inhale as you draw your abdominals in and lift your arms up, making sure your spine is neutral and not arched. Regulate your breathing and hold this position for a few breaths.
– Improves focus, balance and stability
– Opens yours hips, chest and lungs
– Strengthens your shoulders, arms, legs, ankles and back
– Stretches whole body
– Stimulates abdominal organs
– Improves digestion
Begin standing on the mat with your arms by your sides (mountain pose). Shift your weight into your right leg and lift your left leg, placing your foot on your inner right leg; avoid placing it directly on your knee. Bring your arms into a prayer position in front of the heart. The tree is great because you can tailor the pose to your level of balance and flexibility. If you’re able to, you can place your foot on your thigh, or if that’s too high you can place it on your calf or ankle – the main point is to maintain awareness. If you’re struggling to balance, try the pose with your back resting on a wall.
– Improves balance
– Improves postural and body awareness
– Calms and relaxes the mind to relieve stress
Begin sitting on the matt with your legs extended in front of you. Fold your left leg across the floor so that your foot is resting by your butt. Lift your right leg up and stand it on the outside of your left thigh. The right knee should point to the ceiling. Inhale, and as you exhale, twist your abdominals towards the inside of your right (standing) knee. Place your right hand behind you and your left elbow on the inner right knee. Engage your core and hold for a few breaths. On exhale, slowly unwrap your arms and legs and repeat for the other side.
– Stimulates the liver and kidneys
– Stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck
– Relaxes the nervous system
9. Bridge (Setu bandha sarvangasana)
– Strengthens your core
– Relieve back pain
– Isolates and strengthens your glutes and hamstrings
Begin on all fours in a tabletop position, with your big toes touching. Sit back into your heels and stretch your arms forward. Lower your head to the floor and feel the stretch in your back and shoulders. You can stay in child’s pose for as long as you need, as it’s great for reconnecting with your breath and bringing awareness to the mind.
– Helps calm the brain and relieve stress
– Lengthens and stretches the spine
– Helps release tension in the hips and thighs