Would you like to try yoga but don't know where to start? Yoga has the power to improve flexibility, core strength, and mental clarity. Yet many of us are hesitant to try yoga because it can seem intimidating. There's a misconception that you need to gnaw on wheat grass, sing "Kumbaya," and find time to memorize Sanskrit to be a yogi. But the truth is, you don't.

Yoga is a very personal discipline designed to help you release stress. You don't need to make a pilgrimage to a mountaintop to practice it; only a quiet, peaceful space free of distractions. And there are many methods from which to choose. This session described below is a starting point for beginners to learn how to stretch, stabilize and strengthen their bodies. For best results, perform this sequence three to five times a week.

Bend, stretch and flow your way to a better you.

Downward facing dog

  • Start in a tabletop position, aligning your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Spread your fingers wide for support and tuck your toes under your feet.
  • Take a deep breath and on the exhale, lift your knees and push back at your hips. Press through your palms and shoulders to gradually straighten your spine and legs. Avoid locking your knees. Keep your spine neutral and allow your head to hang between your arms. Your body should form the shape of an upside down "A."
  • Stretch your calves by gently pressing your heels down toward the floor. Hold for 10 to 15 deep, even breaths, then relax your body to the starting position.

Downward dog split

  • Begin in downward facing dog.
  • Inhale, elevating and extending your right leg off the floor until it is in line with your upper body. Keep your hips square with the floor and toes pointed down. Hold for five deep breaths, then release. Repeat on the opposite side. That's one rep.
  • Repeat for five total repetitions.

Warrior I pose

  • Begin in a runner's lunge by positioning your right foot between your hands with your left leg extended behind you. Your right knee should be stacked above your ankle. Point your toes forward and keep your hips and chest aligned with the floor. Stretch your hip by holding this pose for several breaths.
  • Shift your left foot slightly to point your toes out and firmly plant your heel. If you are using a mat, your toes should be facing the left corner of it.
  • Inhale deeply as you elevate your upper body to a standing position and bring your arms overhead. Hold for 15 to 20 breaths, repeating as many times as you'd like. 

Tree pose

  • Stand tall with your core muscles engaged and hands on hips.
  • Shift your weight into your left foot. Elevate your right leg and bend at the knee until it forms a 90-degree angle. Keep your hips forward-facing and spine elongated throughout this entire exercise.
  • Rotate your right leg out to the side, resting your right foot on your inner left leg, either above or below the knee joint. Hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds, then release and repeat on the opposite leg.

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.