What Is a Good Yoga Workout Routine for Beginners Without Equipment?
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP
"What is a good yoga workout routine for beginners without equipment," is a question I was asked just today. This question comes up often so I decided to share a couple of sequences and answer some common questions that people have when they are beginners to you and want to get started but aren't sure how or where to begin. Beginners to yoga should start gently and listen to their bodies.
You want to stretch the spine right away in all 6 directions that it can go. The spine comes into flexion (forward bending), extension (backbending), lateral flexion to the left (side bending to the left), lateral flexion to the right (side bending to the right), rotation over the left shoulder (twisting) and rotation over the right shoulder (twisting).
We want to choose movements that will incorporate all six directions. We also want to start slowly and gradually add on.
This is the perfect yoga workout routine for beginners with no equipment:
Easy Pose With Side Bending and Twisting .
Begin in easy pose, Sukahsana, with the legs crossed. Inhale and exhale a few times here. a On an inhale, stretch the arms up over your head and on your exhale, allow the left hand to drop beside you as you stretch the right arm up and over to the left. On the next inhale, come back to center and reach both arms up over your head. On your next exhale, allow the right hand to drop down and reach the left arm up and over to the right.
Gently twist to look over your left shoulder, and maybe consider bringing the right hand to the left knee as you reach the left fingertips behind you. Inhale to grow tall through the spine. Exhale, try to twist a bit deeper. As you inhale, release and come back to center. On your next exhale, gently twist to gaze over the right shoulder, and maybe consider bringing the left hand onto the right knee as you reach the right fingertips behind you. Inhale to grow long through the crown of the head. On your exhale, see if you can go a little further into the twist.
Modification: You can even sit in a chair if it is uncomfortable for you to be on the mat.
2. Tabletop with cat/cow
From easy pose, come onto the hands and knees into tabletop pose.
Inhale to arch the back, drop the belly and turn the gaze up.
Exhale to round the spine, round the shoulders, tuck the chin into the chest.
Continue with these cat/cows movements, inhaling to arch your back and exhaling to round your back.
Modification: You can even practice cat/cow from a seated position on the mat or in a chair if your knees are sensitive.
3. Downward facing dog
From tabletop, tuck the toes, lift the hips and press back through the palms into downward facing dog. The feet should be about hips width apart. The palms spread wide. Keep a generous bend in the knees if needed so that the pelvis doesn’t go into a tilt and you can find length in the spine. Begin to let the heels drop down towards the mat.
Modification: You can even bring the hands onto a wall or a chair if that is more comfortable for you.
From downward facing dog, start to shift forward into plank pose. Breathe deeply if you aren’t used to practicing plank. You can always drop down on the knees. Make sure the hands are directly under the shoulders (wrists and shoulder joints stacked). Lift the belly. The toes can be tucked with the body parallel to the ground or you can drop down on the knees, but keep lifting the belly whether the knees are grounded or lifted.
Modification: You can also practice plank pose against a wall or with the hands in a chair. You can also always drop the knees, as mentioned above.
5. Cobra pose
From plank pose, lower all the way down to the belly. Bring the hands right underneath the shoulders. On an inhale, open across the front of the shoulders as you lift the chest and roll the shoulders open. Think about spreading the collar bones wide. You want to use the muscles in the back to hold you up. To make sure that you’re using the proper muscles, you can lift the hands briefly.
Modification: If you can’t get down on the mat, you can do a seated backbend in a chair.
6. Childs Pose
From cobra, shift back to child’s pose. In child’s pose, the big toes come together and the knees splay wide apart. Walk the hands out in front of you. Don’t worry if your seat doesn’t touch your heels, it’s not a big deal. We’re going for hip opening and relaxation in this posture.
7. Repeat this sequence (down dog, plank, cobra, child’s pose) 3x
8. Warrior II
After your final child’s pose, lift the hips into downward facing dog to transition. Step the right foot between the hands and spin the back left foot flat. Bend the front right knee as you face the long edge of the mat with the hips open. Extend the arms wide out to the sides with collar bones spread wide. Turn the gaze out over the front right fingers. Hold here for a few breaths.
Cartwheel the hands down to the mat, framing the front right foot. Shift back to downward facing dog.
From downward facing dog, step the left foot in between the hands and spin the back right foot flat. Bend the left knee to as close to 90 degrees as you possibly can. Lift the upper body into Warrior II pose, facing the long edge of the mat with the hips open. Send the arms out to the sides and turn the gaze out over the left fingertips.
Modification: Use a chair
9. Tree Pose
From Warrior II, step both feet to the top of the mat.
Shift the weight into the right foot and bring the left foot onto the inside of the right leg. You have a few options here:
You can keep the left toes grounded and rest the left heel on the side of the right ankle.
You can bring the entire left foot into the inside of the right ankle joint
You can bring the left foot just below the right knee joint
Or you can bring the left knee all the way up the right thigh.
Just make sure that you don’t bring the left foot on the inside of the right knee joint.
The hands can be at the heart.
Repeat this on the other side.
Modification: Use a wall or chair for support.
10. Seated forward fold
Come to sit on the mat with both legs extended out in front of you. Take an inhale and stretch the arms up overhead. As you exhale, fold forward over the legs. Don’t worry about touching the toes or bringing your nose to your knees. Think about the crown of the head extending past the toes. Press the chest forward.
Hold here for a few breaths.
Modifications: Bend the knees
11. Happy Baby Pose
Come onto the back and hug the knees into the chest. Bring the hands to the outer edges of the feet and spread the feet out to the sides, stacking ankles over knees. You have the option to rock back and forth in this hip opening position.
12. Reclined twist
Hug the knees into the chest. Drop the knees to the left as you cactus the arms and turn the gaze out over the right shoulder. Hold here for a few moments.
Drop the knees over to the right and turn the gaze out over the left shoulder.
Lie flat on the back with the palms face up and relax into final resting pose for 5 minutes.
What's a good yoga workout routine for beginners without equipment?
Absolutely! All movement is good for your body. When you don’t really feel like moving, or you’re experiencing mat resistance, forward folds can be a great option to implement into your practice. Whenever we come into spinal flexion, or forward bending, we are relaxing our central nervous system. This means that we’re bringing the body’s energy level down, so forward bends have a calming effect on the body.
If you don’t feel like doing too much, you can try a workout that is centered around forward folds.
Try this quick 10-minute yoga sequence when you’re in the mood for a lazy yoga workout practice:
Child’s Pose - Bring the big toes together and spread the knees wide apart as you sit back on the heels. (10 breaths)
Tabletop - Come onto all fours, bring the shoulders right over the wrists and the hips right over the knees. (5 breaths)
Cat/Cow from Tabletop - Inhale to find your cow as you drop the belly and arch the back, gazing upwards. Exhale as you round the back and the shoulders, tucking the chin to the chest in cat. (x5)
Low Lunge - Step the right foot forward into low lunge. Inhale and send the arms up overhead.
Half Spltis - As you exhale, bend the left leg and sit towards the left heel as you shift your weight back and straighten the front leg.
Rock back and forth between low lunge and half splits 5x.
Come back into table top. Repeat this on the opposite side.
Come back into tabletop. Cross the ankles and roll back onto your seat, extend the legs out in front of you.
Seated forward bend - With the legs extended out in front of you, inhale to lift the chest. As you exhale, bow forward over the legs. Don’t worry about touching the toes or bringing your nose to meet your knees. Imagine that you could extend the crown of the head out past the toes and keep pressing the chest forward. Keep the spine long. (10 breaths)
Recline back on the back
Reclined pigeon pose - Plant the feet on the mat with the knees bent and pointing up towards the sky. Bring the outside of the right ankle to the top of the left knee/left thigh. You can stay here if you’re already feeling an opening in the hips. Otherwise begin to lift the left leg and clasp the right hands around the back of the left thigh. Keep pressing the right knee open and flex the right foot. (5-10 breaths)
Repeat this on the other side.
Reclined twist - Hug the knees into the chest. Drop the knees over to the right and turn the gaze out over the left shoulder (10 breaths)
Repeat this on the other side.
Savasana - Enjoy final resting pose
Yoga is a great movement modality for EVERY body. If you’re brand new and don’t move your body or workout regularly, yoga offers you an accessible starting point.
Usually, when I’m working with beginners, I tell them that we want to begin with gentle movements and gradually build endurance, flexibility, balance and strength. These things come in time with regular practice. Above I’ve offered the perfect yoga routine for beginners who want to start working out with no equipment. You can try this full body yoga sequence for beginners at homethat is very similar to the one discussed in this article, but with a few added intensity measures. This really demonstrates how you can grow in your practice, slowly increasing stamina, flexibility, strength and balance. Take your time and remember to always listen to your body.