You don't have to be flexible to do yoga, although it certainly helps for some poses. But there are plenty of moves you can do even if you have the world's tightest hamstrings.
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We love this list from Health that spotlights great beginner poses that don't require much flexibility to get started. Here are a few to try:
- Tree pose, where you stand on one leg and rest your other foot on that leg. If your balance is good (or if you hold on to the wall), you can put that foot on your shin or thigh. But it's fine to keep the ball of your foot on the floor and just rest your heel on your other ankle. Try to get that foot a little higher each time.
- Chair pose is about strength rather than flexibility. You stand on both feet, legs together, and move your hips down and back like you're about to sit in a chair. In an advanced yoga class you might hold this position for several breaths, going deeper and deeper. But if you're just starting out, you can stand up and sink down with each breath rather than holding.
- Downward dog doesn't have to be as hard as it looks. This is a pose where your hands and feet are on the floor, butt in the air. As a beginner, keep your feet spread apart, and bend your knees as much as necessary. If you're following along with a video or class that expects you to hold this position for a while, feel free to take short breaks to go into child's pose instead.
- Child's pose is supposed to be relaxing, but if it doesn't feel that way to you yet, you can modify it. Your instructor probably has her shins on the floor, arms forward, and head resting on the mat. If you can't quite get there, try resting your head on a cushion or yoga block. You can also widen your legs or move them closer together, depending on your preference -- different leg positions will stretch different parts of the body.
Check out the rest of the list for more ideas, including simple classics such as mountain pose (standing tall on your feet, nothing more) and corpse pose (just what it sounds like -- you lay down on the ground).