It doesn't seem like yoga will be going out of style any time soon, and for good reason! Through stretching exercises and controlled breathing, yoga has numerous health benefits, from relieving stress to reducing heart disease and high blood pressure risk. Not bad, eh?
The best part about yoga, however, is that it's never too late to give it a try. That's why we visited Scott Harig of New York City's Pure Yoga studios to find out what beginners should know about the beloved mind-body exercise.
The former professional mountain biker has been teaching yoga for the past 15 years and says anyone can reap the benefits of yoga — no matter what age or skill level — as long as they go into it with an open mind.
Harig says there are modifications for everyone, and no matter how many days, months or years you've been practicing, you're always going to be challenged.
"When you hold poses for long periods of time, it gets harder and harder. After all my years practicing, I could still walk into a basic level one class and come out really sweaty," he says.
That's the beauty of yoga. Your first class may be filled with both newbies and those who mastered the downward-facing dog long ago, but you don't need to worry about anybody but yourself.
"It shouldn't be competitive. It takes time. There are certain postures that took me five years to get into — there's always something to learn," he says.
MaryLee Shorr, studio manager at Pure Yoga East, agrees: "You should always go at your own pace. Accept one side of your body is going to be different than the other, and also know just because you did something perfectly one day, it probably won't be the same the next."
Another major plus to yoga, Harig and Shorr say, actually happens outside the classroom, where you can take what you learned on the mat and apply it to other parts of your life.
"Yoga allows you to learn a lot about yourself. Even type-A people who are always in constant control of things come in for a very physical reason, but they stay for a very spiritual, emotional and mental reason," Shorr says. "It usually turns into one of the only places in your life you can be vulnerable with yourself."
As these two yogis put it, yoga is a journey. Ready to start yours? Here are six common beginner poses demonstrated by Harig.
1. Warrior II Pose
Keep your toes and legs straight, hips open and never put your knee in front of your ankle — only directly over or a little behind it.
2. Extended Side Angle Pose
Keep your hips open and knee over or behind your ankle, then drop your forearm to the thigh and reach your other arm over. Look toward the palm of your hand.
3. Warrior I
Square your hips off as much as possible, and if you're tight in your hips move your back foot a little to the left to open up. Touch your palms together, and slowly bend so your knee goes over your ankle. Look straight ahead.
4. Revolved Side Angle Pose
In the modified version, drop your back knee to the floor and keep your right leg bent at a 90 degree angle with your knee over your ankle.
5. Child's Pose
Get onto your hands and knees and sit back and bow forward, keeping your arms extended behind you. As a modification for anyone who feels too tight, put a block or pillow underneath you and repeat.
6. Extended Triangle Pose
Start off like Warrior II, and reach your hand down to your shin (or a block) with your other arm extended toward the sky.