If you’ve never done it before, yoga can feel intimidating. It’s easy to worry about not being flexible enough, in shape enough, or even just looking silly. Yoga doesn’t have to be hard. If you got out of bed this morning and stretched your arms up over your head, you already did a yoga poses. Yoga introduces a mindfulness to stretching so that you pay attention to your alignment and how the positions really feel in your body. But yoga isn’t just those crazy arm-balancing, pretzel poses that are so popular on social media. It can be easy to get started and then work your way to more advanced poses.
Many basic yoga postures feel very familiar. Our bodies bend and fold naturally into poses. Mindfully and with conscious breaths, you can create a sequence like the one below that is organic to how your body moves.
Taking some cues from the more advanced yogis around me helped, but I do wish that I had familiarized myself a bit with some yoga poses for beginners before I took my first class. If you’re new to yoga and have had a similar experience—or are still too hesitant to walk into a studio and roll out your mat—learning a handful of the poses that will pop up throughout class is a great way to feel more confident to give it a shot.
There are many great reasons to add yoga to your exercise routine. Yoga improves muscle tone, flexibility, and balance, and it helps you relax and reduce stress, thanks in part to its signature pranayama breathing. Research have also shown that yogic practices also reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain; help you sleep better; and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.
Although it’s an ancient practice, yoga has become the exercise du jour in recent years. Everyone from A-list celebs to your coworkers are getting their om on these days — and for good reason.
Practicing yoga has serious health benefits beyond flexibility and balanceTrusted Source, though those are some great perks. Studies show yoga does everything from fighting anxiety, depression, and stressTrusted Source, to reducing inflammation in the body. Trusted Source Yoga can even make migraines suck less.
Know that yoga can be done by anybody given the proper modifications. And it can also be practiced in the comfort of your own home. The poses below are some of the most common positions you’ll find in yoga flows, whether you’re in a class or at home. Get familiar with these essential moves (along with their modifications) so when you do hop into a flow, you can be confident that you’re getting a good workout.
Yoga Poses for Beginners
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain Pose improves your posture and body awareness, strengthens your legs, and establishes good alignment. Tadasana may not look like much, but keeping your body active and aligned is hard work. You’re not just standing in any old way. You have to be aware of each part of your body and the role that it plays in stacking your bones and keeping your spine long. You can even break a sweat if you engage your leg muscles as strongly as possible.
In mountain pose there is a lot going on, even though it may look like just standing. The heels root down, the muscles of the legs are engaged, the bones are stacked with the shoulders directly over the hips, the shoulder blades slide down the back, and the crown of the head rises. Don’t forget to breathe.
Downward-Facing Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana or the downward facing dog pose is one of the most popular yoga poses. You must have seen yogis doing this asana on Instagram and if you join a yoga class, it will be one of the first few poses you will learn. You will do Adho Mukha Svanasana at the beginning of your yoga class and you will end your class with it. The yoga poses may look very basic and easy but is deceptively challenging and complex. Adho Mukha Svanasana works your entire body and requires a lot of strength. This basic yoga asana has several health benefits
- Start on your hands and knees, with your hands stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Spread your hands wide and press your index finger and thumb into your mat.
- Lift your tailbone and press your butt up and back, drawing your hips toward the ceiling. Straighten your legs as best as you can and press your heels gently toward the floor.
- Your head should be between your arms, facing your knees, and your backs should be flat.
- Hold for 5–10 breaths.
You can keep your body, limbs and muscles trim and impeccable by practicing the Yogasana Postures daily. In addition, you get peace of mind, clarity of thinking and elated spirit. Here is one fine example for these benefits by Sukhasana (Easy Pose).
In our daily hectic life, we don’t get a chance to sit on the ground and relax. In this Sukhasana you sit happily on the floor, fold your legs and tug your feet under the opposite thigh, placing your hands loosely upon the knees with open palms. You will feel very comfortable and relaxed in this posture for a long time. This is a posture ideal for plunging into meditation by concentrating and focusing your mind.
Sit cross-legged on a yoga mat with your hands on your knees, palms up. Keep your spine as straight as you can. Push the bones you’re sitting on down into the floor — your “sit bones” in yoga-speak. Close your eyes and inhale.
“This is a great yoga poses for beginners to use as an assessment,” says Gwen Lawrence, yoga coach for the New York Knicks and other sports teams, athletes, and celebrities. “Just sitting on the floor gives you a perfect way to see and feel the external rotation on the legs.” This pose also boosts back flexibility and can help relieve stress.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
To emphasize the health benefits of this posture, you can try a more advanced variation. Once you are in position, brings your hands together at your heart like you are praying. Twist to the right side, keeping the left elbow outside the right knee. Stay low and keep the knees pressed together. Come back to center and repeat on the opposite side.
How to do it
Start in Mountain Pose. As you inhale, raise your arms, spread your fingers, and reach up through your fingertips. As you exhale, sit back and down as if sitting into a chair.
Shift your weight toward the heels and lengthen up through the spine. As you inhale, lift and lengthen through your arms. As you exhale, sit deeper into the pose.
This heating standing pose (give it a minute, you’ll feel the burn) strengthens your legs, upper back, and shoulders. As a bonus, you’ll have an opportunity to practice patience as your thighs work hard. Just remember to breathe.
Downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), sometimes referred to as a downward-facing dog or down dog, is a standing yoga pose where the yogi stretches their whole body on all fours, similar to the way a dog stretches. This yoga pose is often performed during Vinyasa and Ashtanga styles of yoga, either as a transitional or a resting pose.
This pose—one of the most common in yoga poses is an excellent morning stretch. You’ll open up the shoulders, hamstrings, and calves as well as the arches of your feet. Down dogs also help to strengthen your shoulders and upper back. And by bending so that your heart is over your head, you’ll increase blood flow to the brain a great way to kickstart alertness in the early morning hours.
How to do it: Start in a tabletop position with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Inhale. Exhale and lift your knees off the floor, positioning your butt toward the ceiling. Contract your thighs. Reach your heels to the floor and straighten out your knees as much as you can without locking them up. Press through your fingertips and keep your head between your arms.
Modifications: If you have difficulty opening your shoulders, raise your hands up on blocks or a chair.
Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Uttanasana is so much more than a simple forward fold. When flexibility allows, it becomes a very intense pose with hands flat on the ground behind the feet. This is why it’s sometimes called Intense Forward Fold. The pose name should remind students that this is a very active pose – it’s so much more than folding forward and simply hanging out there.
Uttanasana — like all yoga poses — gives back to you as much as you put into it. Even if it appears to be simple or basic, by putting in your best effort each time you practice it, you will get so much back.
- On your inhale, lift your arms to the sides and up, over your head.
- On your exhale, release your arms (either in front of your body or out to the side, like a swan dive) as you fold your torso over your legs. On the first time through, have at least a slight bend in your knees. No matter how flexible you are, your hamstrings will be cold when starting out, and you’ll want to be gentle with them.
- As you relax into the pose more, begin to straighten your legs as far as feels good. Anything that pinches or is a shooting pain should immediately stop your movement. Let gravity do the work here — don’t pull yourself down and try to force the fold.
- You can put your hands on your shins, your feet, or the floor. This passively lengthens your spine and your hamstrings, and it’s also a great way to work on balance.
Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)
Practice yoga asana like Vrikshasana or Vriksasana (the Tree Pose) at home to help strengthen your leg muscles and develop stability in your body.
Vrikshasana or the Tree Pose is so called because the final position of this asana resembles the shape of a treePracticing this yoga asana every day can offer several benefits for both physical and mental healthLearn the amazing health benefits of Vrikshasana and how to do it
This yoga poses gives you a sense of grounding. It improves your balance and strengthens your legs and back. It replicates the steady stance of a tree. Place your right foot high up on your left thigh. The sole of the foot should be flat and placed firmly. Keep your left leg straight and find your balance. While inhaling, raise your arms over your head and bring your palms together. Ensure that your spine is straight and take a few deep breaths. Slowly exhale, bring your hands down and release your right leg. Back in the standing position repeat the same with the other leg.
Triangle is a wonderful standing posture to stretch the sides of the waist, open up the lungs, strengthen the legs and tone the entire body.
How to do it: Start standing with your feet one leg’s-length apart. Open and stretch your arms to the sides at shoulder height. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left toes in about 45 degrees.
Engage your quadriceps and abdominals as you hinge to the side over your right leg. Place your right hand down on your ankle, shin or knee (or a block if you have one) and lift your left arm up to the ceiling.
Turn your gaze up to the top hand and hold for 5-8 breaths. Lift up to stand and repeat on the opposite side. Tip: I like to imagine I’m stuck between two narrow walls when I’m in triangle pose.
Raised Arms Pose (Urdhva Hastansana)
These yoga poses help teach us some of the basic alignment and movements for inversions like Downward Facing Dog and Handstand, as well as preparing us for deep back bends like Urdhva Dhanurasana.
Inhale and bring your arms up and over your head. Raised arms pose is your basic morning stretch, but focus on keeping the good alignment you established in mountain pose.
Stay grounded in the heels and keep your shoulders moving away from your ears at the same time that you reach up through your fingertips. Your gaze can come up to the hands, which can be shoulder’s width apart or palms touching.
Crescent Lunge/Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana
In Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana, the legs are separated creating a stance by stepping a foot forward. The front knee is bent outwards while the back leg is kept straight and firm to the ground. The torso and hands are raised with the gaze set towards the thumbs.
It’s a beginner level standing posture. It acts as a strengthening pose that involves balancing, stretching, and forward bending in its practice.
- Take a big step forward with your left foot to start in a staggered stance, with your feet almost mat-length apart.
- Bend your front knee and keep your back leg straight and heel lifted off the floor. Try to bend your front leg so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Square your hips toward the front.
- Extend your arms toward the ceiling on either side of your head and stretch up as you also press into the mat and feel the stretch in your hips.
- Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the other side.
- To move into Low Lunge/Anjaneyasana, simply drop your back knee to the floor, keeping the leg extended long and the shin flat on the mat.
It’s more important to keep your spine long than it is to straighten your back leg,” notes Peterson. Feel free to bend your back leg if it will help you lift your torso and lengthen your back.
Quick note: Different instructors may have slightly different interpretations of lunge variations. While some may call this Crescent Lunge, others may simply call it High Lunge, which can also mean a similar pose where the hands are placed on the mat on either side of the front leg.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
For active child’s pose, lift your buttocks slightly and stretch your arms over your head. Place your palms on the floor and reach your arms until you feel your shoulder blades stretching across your back. Sit back down on your heels without changing the position of your arms. Feel your torso lengthening. For a more passive version, let your arms rest palms up at your sides. Feel the stretch in your spine. Close your eyes, steady your breathing and allow a deeper level of relaxation. Alternate between these two versions of Balasana if you like.
Breath control is a significant element of child’s pose. Since breathing is usually an involuntary action, not a conscious choice, Balasana allows us an opportunity to breathe fully into the back of the torso. Imagine your spine lengthening and widening with each inhalation. As you exhale, fall deeper into relaxation, allowing the stretch to release a little more tension with each breath. Focus on your breathing to help increase concentration and shut out distractions.
From Downward-Facing Dog, simply bend your knees and lower your butt to your heels as you bring your chest toward the floor over your knees. Lower your shoulders and head to the floor. Place your arms along your sides, palms down, or you can support your head by folding your arms under your forehead. Breathe and relax for as long as you need to.
“Child’s Pose is one of the most healing yoga poses, and it’s my favorite of them all,” says Cullis. “It awakens the connection between the breath and body and sends calming energy through all the muscles. It’s an opportunity to get grounded, go inward, and to come out of your busy mind and into your body by awakening your breath from the inside out.” Child’s Pose is a great way to take a break and relax during your yoga practice, or anytime you feel tired or overwhelmed.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
For beginners, Warrior II is a great pose for stretching the back and legs when they are tight due to being new to yoga. This pose prepares the practitioner to do the advanced forward bends.
How to do it
Stand with feet wide, 3–4 feet apart. Shift your right heel out so your toes are pointing slightly inward. Turn your left foot out 90 degrees. Line up your left heel with the arch of your right foot.
Bend your left knee to a 90-degree angle, keeping the knee in line with the second toe to protect the knee joint. Stretch through your straight back leg and ground down into the back foot.
On an inhale, bring arms to a T at shoulder height. Draw your shoulder blades down the back. Spread your fingers and keep palms facedown. Gaze over the front fingers. As you exhale, sink deeper into the stretch.
Pro tip: To draw your shoulder blades down the back, rotate your palms face-up. Notice how that shifts your shoulders. Once settled, rotate your palms facedown.
A pose with “warrior” in its name may not sound very zen, but this standing pose can help calm and steady your mind. Tougher than it looks, it also strengthens your legs and ankles while increasing stamina.
High Lunge and Warrior I
The benefits derived from this pose are very much similar to those from the practice of Anjaneyasana and Virabhadrasana series. Given below are 11 benefits of Astha Chandrasana (Crescent High Lunge Pose):
If you want flexible hips and strong legs, lunge positions are where it’s at. High lunge and Warrior 1 are especially good for opening the front of the hip flexors as well as the shoulders.
How to do it: Start by standing over the long side of your mat. Rotate your hips and torso toward your right foot. Inhale. Exhale and bend your right knee to 90 degrees as you sink your hips toward the ground. Make sure you keep your right knee in line with your right ankle as you feel the stretch in your groin. Keep your left leg strong. Raise your arms overhead. Be careful not to overarch your back. Repeat on the other side. For Warrior I, the position is the same except your back foot is planted on the floor, nearly parallel to the front of your mat. This creates more external rotation in the hips.
Modifications: If you’re having trouble getting your front knee to a 90-degree angle, put your hands on your hips. This helps you to focus on the power of your legs. If your front leg is fatigued, bend your left knee and bring your left leg to the floor. From here you can even bring your hands to the floor to lessen to the intensity.
Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)
Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana is the name of a core strengthening yoga posture that readies the body for more challenging arm balances. In utthita chaturanga dandasana, the body is held in a plank position off the ground, supported by the hands and the balls of the feet. It is often used as a transitional posture, especially before chaturanga dandasana.
The name comes from the Sanskrit root words, utthita which means “extended”, chatur meaning “four”, anga which means “limb”, danda which means “staff” and asana which means “seat” or “posture.” The same pose can also be known by the Sanskrit names phalakasana and kumbhakasana or by its English name plank pose.
- From Forward Fold, put your hands flat on the floor, bending your knees as much as needed to do so. Step back one leg at a time, until you’re in a high Plank Pose.
- Press into your hands, keep your legs parallel and engaged, and pull your bellybutton toward your spine.
- Take a few deep breaths here, working your core and your arms.
It’s easy to drop a little too much and get “banana back” or to hunch your shoulders. A good way to figure this pose out as a beginner is to get a friend to look at the shape you’re making from the side.
Your upper body, from your hands on the floor, up to your hips, should be relatively straight, allowing for some curves due to natural spine curves.
Boat Pose (Naukasana)
Naukasana comes from the two Sanskrit words ‘nauka’ which means ‘boat’ and ‘asana’ meaning ‘posture’ or ‘seat’. It is a posture in which our body takes the shape of a boat. If you have always had a problem losing the extra paunch in your stomach area, then this asana is good for those who wish to reduce belly fat as well as to tone the abs. Naukasana is one of the few yoga poses that can be performed lying both on the stomach (prone position) and back (supine position). It is a little difficult to perform for yoga beginners. But don’t be disheartened, you will get better with more practice and you can even ace at doing the advance yoga poses.
It tightens the abdominal muscles and strengthens shoulders and upper back. It leaves the practitioner with a sense of stability. Lie back on the mat with your feet together and hands by your side. Take a deep breath and while exhaling gently lift your chest and feet off the ground. Stretch your hands in the direction of your feet. Your eyes, fingers and toes should be in one line. Hold till you feel some tension in your navel area as your abdominal muscles begin to contract. As you exhale, come back to the ground and relax.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
This pose stretches these areas and helps open up your hips. This stretch is excellent for runners who tend to have tight hamstrings. It is also considered to be a calming pose. It is said that this pose can help relieve stress and even improve your mood.
It’s important to incorporate a forward bend in yoga practice to stretch the hamstrings, lower and upper back and sides. Seated forward bend is the perfect fold for everyone to start to open up the body and learn to breathe through uncomfortable positions.
If you feel any sharp pain, you need to back off; but if you feel the tension when you fold forward and you can continue to breathe, you will slowly start to loosen up and let go. You can also keep your knees bent in the pose as long as the feet stay flexed and together.
How to do it: Start seated with your legs together, feet firmly flexed and not turning in or out, and your hands by your hips. Lift your chest and start to hinge forward from your waist. Engage your lower abdominals and imagine your belly button moving towards the top of your thighs.
Once you hit your maximum, stop and breathe for 8-10 breaths. Make sure your shoulders, head and neck are all released.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
The name Uttanasana, known as the Standing Forward bend Pose, is derived from the Sanskrit words Ut (meaning intense), Tan (meaning stretch), and Asana (meaning posture). The completed asana is such a position that your head is in a lower stratum than your heart. This enables a gush of blood to the head, revamping the blood cells, leaving you with a sense of novelty. This pose is also highly recommended for people who are fighting asthma or mild depression.
Exhale and fold over your legs into a forward bend. If the hamstrings feel a little tight at first, bend the knees so that you can release your spine. Let the head hang heavy. Keep the legs gently bent with feet hip-width apart for better stability (you can straighten the legs, but it is not necessary). You can clasp opposite elbows with opposite hands while swaying gently side to side.
Upward-Facing Dog/Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Upward-Facing Dog or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana is a active pose that awakens upper-body strength and offers a good stretch for the chest and abdomen. It? is also one of the most common poses in vinyasa flow sequencing. Urdhva mukha = face upward (urdhva = upward mukha = face)svana = dog
- From Low Plank/Chaturanga, drop your hips down to the floor and flip your toes over so the tops of your feet touch the floor.
- Tighten your core and straighten your arms to push your chest up. Pull your shoulders back, squeeze your shoulder blades, and tilt your head toward the ceiling, to open up your chest.
“Feel free to drop your knees down to reduce tension in your low back, or skip Upward-Facing Dog and hold High Plank instead,” says Peterson.
Bound Ankle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Bound angle pose (also called Butterfly Pose) is an excellent yoga pose to improve flexibility in the groin and thighs. It’s an easy beginner pose that’s safe for most yogis and pregnant women to perform without the need for a professional yoga instructor. Just keep your back straight and you’ll master this one before you know it.
How to do it
Sitting on the floor, bend knees and open them out to the side like a book. Join the soles of your feet together while sitting upright.
Place fingertips on the floor directly behind you and lengthen up through the spine. You can also hold onto your ankles and hinge forward at the hips.
Pro tip: If you’re feeling stiff, sit on the edge of a blanket to help your forward fold.
You’ll give your inner thighs and groin a nice stretch, while the forward bend creates a calming, cooling effect.
Bridge pose is classified as a backbend. However, it should be considered as an assessment pose, as well as a great therapeutic pose. Bridge is a pose accessible to practitioners of all levels, and should not be overlooked by advanced yogis and athletes.
Bridges are awesome glute strengtheners and a great way to open up the chest and shoulders. They are a precursor to the wheel pose, which will have you back bending in an upside-down “U.”
How to do it: Start by lying on your back with your feet on the ground and knees pointed toward the ceiling. Bring your heels as close to your butt as possible. Inhale. Exhale and squeeze your glutes and lift your heinie off of the floor. Keep your knees over your ankles. Clasp your hands beneath you and stay on the tops of your shoulders. Pinch your shoulder blades together and hold.
Modifications: If holding your pelvis up is too hard, place a block beneath your sacrum (lower back) and rest there.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Bhujangasana is a back bending pose which is also a part of the traditional Surya Namaskar sequence coming at step 8, and step 20. In Sanskrit, the word Bhujangasana comes a combination of two words- ‘bhujanga’ which translates to ‘cobra’ or and ‘asana’ meaning ‘posture’. Even visually it reflects the posture of a cobra that has its hood raised, and hence it is also known as ‘Cobra Pose’.
Start your practise with Sukshma Vyayam or subtle exercises. These consist of gentle rotation of neck, arms, wrists, hips, ankles to slowly warm up the joints. Walk around briskly, and stretch and mobilize your muscles. This will prepare your body for a practice, and keep you safe from practice-related injuries. Before you attempt any back-bending postures, ensure that your body is sufficiently warmed up.
This one will strengthen the lower back muscles while cushioning the spine, triceps and opens the chest to promote the inhalations. It also makes the spine flexible.Lie on your stomach with your feet together and toes flat. Place your hands downwards below your shoulders on the mat, lift your waist and raise your head while inhaling in. Pull your torso back with the support of your hands. Keep your elbows straight and make sure you put equal pressure on both palms. Tilt your head back and make sure your shoulders are away from your ears. Exhale while coming back to the ground.
Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
This pose with it’s forward bend at the hips and reaching for the knee or beyond with the forehead, brings about a great stretch to the shoulders, spine, hamstrings, neck, abdominal muscles and groins. The stretching of these muscles helps in strengthening them and eventually improving the flexibility too.
Come back up to sit and bend your left leg, bringing the sole of the left foot inside your right thigh. Use the same technique described above to deepen the pose using your breath. After five breaths, sit up and switch legs
Half Pigeon Pose/Ardha Kapotasana
Ardha Kapotasana or the Half Pigeon Pose resembles a pigeon in the final position. In Sanskrit, Ardha means half, Kapota means Pigeon and Asana means a pose. It is an intermediate level pose and helps to open up the hips and groin muscles.
- From Downward-Facing Dog, extend your left leg high, and then bring your leg underneath your body and place it in front of you, with your shin parallel to the top of your mat.
- Extend your right leg straight behind you. Rest the top of your foot on the floor.
- Keep your left foot flexed. Try to keep your right hip as close to the mat as you can. If it lifts off the floor, bring your left foot in a little closer to your body.
- Stay upright for three breaths. Then, fold over and rest your head on the ground for 5–10 breaths.
- Repeat on the other leg.
If you feel any sort of knee pain in this pose, try Reclined Figure Four instead, says Peterson. To do this, lie on your back and cross your left foot over your right thigh, keeping your left foot flexed.