Independent yoga practice is what you make of it. It can be a soul-searching, meditative getaway or simply a good way to stretch out your muscles and relax.
There's almost no equipment necessary. I practice with a Gaiam yoga mat, purchased at Target for about $20. For months, I simply used a bath towel. The surface where you're practicing shouldn't be slippery so that you won't slide out of poses and injure yourself. If you have a carpeted floor, you may be able to do without the mat altogether.
If you've never practiced yoga before, take it easy. You will not be able to do a lot of these poses, and that's OK. Don't push until it hurts — you'll end up causing more long term damage. Also, always consult a doctor before beginning any form of exercise. Yoga isn't for every body.
These stretches provided are only a few basic poses. There are many different types of yoga, each with their own poses and practices. I've only been practicing yoga for the past year, so I don't proclaim to be an expert. But for those new to the practice, these nice and easy poses will get you started.
1. Get yourself somewhere comfortable and quiet. I share a one-bedroom apartment with my partner, so there isn't a whole lot of space to get away. I'll often wait until he is out of the house or occupied in another room before I begin my practice. If you have a comfortable place, you can go outside the house — that works, too.
2. I tend to begin my practice in a seated meditation. It's as simple as sitting cross-legged in the middle of your mat and resting your hands wherever feels comfortable. Close your eyes and settle here for a few minutes, focusing on your breath. This video will give a more in-depth explanation as to how to get comfy.
3. From here, you can move to a basic cat/cow position. Get on your hands and knees, making sure that your hips are aligned over your knees and your wrists are directly above your hands. Keep your back straight. This is called tabletop. From here, you can move into cat or cow by simply moving your spine up and down. Be sure to align your movements with your breath. This video provides a more thorough explanation.
4. It's easy to slide from cat/cow to many other poses. Downward-facing dog is one of the more popular yoga poses. Simply push up from tabletop into downward dog by pushing your butt up into the air until your body makes a triangle. If you're doing it right, weight should be distributed evenly between your hands and your feet. This pose will stretch your upper back and calves.
5. While in downward dog, you can raise one leg in the air to move into three-legged dog. Transfer your weight onto your hands and left leg, and raise the right leg straight to the ceiling. Hold, then bring the right leg down and repeat with the left side. Be sure to synchronize your movements with your breath.
6. Lower yourself down to the floor and lie there for a second. Stretch your legs back, and rest the tops of your feet on the floor. Place your hands flat by your hips and push your torso up. This pose is called upward-facing dog and is great for your shoulders; it's also said to improve your posture. Remember to breathe as you hold this pose for thirty seconds. Get a more complete explanation here:
7. Come to your feet and stand strong with your arms at your side for a few seconds. Stretch your arms above your head and inhale. Exhale and bend your knees as if you are sitting in a chair. Fittingly, this is called chair pose. Stay in this for 30 seconds. If you have bad knees (like me), avoid chair pose and instead focus on standing tall and breathing deeply. See an example here:
8. Come down into a standing forward bend. Bend from the hips and let your arms hang gently towards the floor. Try to keep your legs straight, but if this isn't possible, that's OK. Grab opposite elbows above your head and slowly sway from side to side. This pose is great for stress relief and gently stretches your legs. Here's a different variation of a forward bend:
9. At the end of practice, it's common for people to lie down in a savasana or corpse pose. Lie on your back with your arms relaxed at your side, feet relaxed. Breathe deeply with your eyes closed. Yoga Journal recommends five minutes of savasana for every 30 minutes of yoga practice.
If at-home yoga isn't a feasible option for you, there are many free or affordable yoga classes in the Omaha-area. For a lot of beginners, it's a good idea to attend a few classes before setting out to do yoga on your own. Instructors can correct a lot of common errors so you can practice yoga properly and safely on your own.
Lululemon, 17250 Davenport Street, offers a free community yoga class every Saturday at 9 a.m.
Midtown Crossing hosts Yoga Rocks the Park Sundays at 4 p.m. in Turner Park. The program runs through July 14 and is free and open to everyone.
Lotus House of Yoga offers free first classes. Visit their website to find a class at one of their three locations.
One Tree Yoga offers a free hot yoga class Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. at their East location. Donations are accepted and given to local charities.
Omaha Yoga and Bodywork Center, 6105 Maple St., offers a community class by donation on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.
Certified instructors from Universal Peace Foundation of North America host a Kundalini yoga class Wednesdays, 6 p.m. at 13010 Arbor St. Classes are $5.
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