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Yoga 101

New to yoga? Try these five poses for beginners.

A yoga session moves you through various poses with an emphasis on meditation and deep breathing, providing benefits for both the mind and body. And while yoga poses may look easy to do, anyone new to yoga will quickly discover how challenging they can be. Because of this, it’s best to start out with a few simple poses and as you build strength and get familiar with the movements. Once you gain some yoga knowhow, you can move on to more difficult poses.

Here are five poses for yoga newbies to try.

Downward Facing Dog

This standing pose is nearly synonymous with yoga. Also called downward dog or down dog, this pose stretches the entire body while building strength. Start out on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly beneath your shoulders and knees below your hips. Exhale and lift your knees off the floor as you raise your pelvis toward the sky. Slowly straighten your legs without locking your knees and keep your heels on the floor to bring your body into an “A” shape. Exhale and release the pose as you return to your hands and knees.

Warrior I

Another standing pose, the warrior I pose stretches the front of the body and strengthens the back, thighs, and ankles. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your arms by your sides. Exhale and step your left foot four to five feet behind you, toes facing out to the side and pelvis facing forward. Bend your right knee so your shin is perpendicular to the floor and keep your left leg straight. Now reach your hands toward the sky. Tilt your head back and look up at your hands. To release, straighten your right leg and lower your arms.

Warrior II

The warrior II pose is an effective way to stretch your chest, legs, and groin, while strengthening your thighs and glutes. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides. Turn to your left and step your right foot forward four to five feet. Keep your right foot pointing forward and turn your left foot out to the side. Lift your arms so they’re over your legs and parallel to the floor, palms facing down. Now, bend your front knee so your shin is perpendicular to the floor and lower your hips. Your back leg should remain straight. Turn your head to face your front hand. To release the pose, inhale, straighten your front leg, and lower your arms.

Child’s Pose

Often used as a resting pose between more challenging poses, the child’s pose works to stretch the back, hips, thighs, and ankles, while relaxing the muscles on the front of the body. Start on your hands and knees. Keep your knees slightly spread apart and your big toes touching. Lower your glutes to rest on your heels. Bend at your waist so your chest rests on the top of your thighs and your forehead comes to rest on the floor. Reach your arms above your head to rest on the floor, palms facing down. Or, you can rest your arms on the floor next to your thighs, palms facing up.

Cat Cow Stretch

The cat pose and cow pose are often paired together as a way to gently warm up your muscles for more poses; increase flexibility of the spine; and stretch your back, neck, chest, and abs. To try this one, get on your hands and knees.

Place your wrists directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Shins and knees should be hip-distance apart. Start with the cow pose by inhaling and lowering your belly toward the floor while lifting your chest and chin toward the ceiling. Now do the cat pose, which looks like a cat stretching its back. Exhale and lift your belly in toward your spine, rounding your back up toward the ceiling. Relax your head so it lowers toward the floor. Alternate between the cow and cat pose.