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31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

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31 Yoga Poses

As a new yoga student, you might feel overwhelmed by the number of poses, but yoga doesn’t have to be complicated. If you got out of bed this morning and stretched your arms over your head, you already did a yoga pose. A yoga practice is a lifelong pursuit, giving you plenty of time to explore each asana (pose) and learn sequences of postures.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

We are accustomed to basic yoga positions because our bodies naturally bend and fold into them. It’s also helpful to focus on your breathing to help you relax and hold positions longer.

Yoga poses that are basic in nature feel familiar to us since our bodies naturally bend and fold into them. To relax and get deeper into poses, it’s also beneficial to pay attention to your breathing.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Learn more about beginner yoga poses, their benefits, and how to practice them.

Watch Now: 10 Poses to Know for Your First Yoga Class

Types of Yoga Poses

There are hundreds of yoga poses, but here are fundamental movements to bring you into your practice:

  • Standing yoga poses: Standing poses are often done first in a yoga class to “build heat” as a warmup. In vinyasa flow, standing yoga poses are performed sequentially to form sequences. Hatha classes typically have yogis do standing poses with rest between.
  • Balancing yoga poses:Beginners’ balances are an important way to build core strength for advanced yoga poses. Though balances may seem challenging initially, they will improve with regular practice.
  • Backbends: Beginners generally start with gentle spine flexion (bending forward) and extension (bending backward), eventually moving to deeper bends. Since daily life rarely requires you to move like this, backbends are essential for spinal health and longevity.
  • Seated yoga poses: Seated stretches, focusing on hip and hamstring mobility, are usually done near the end of a yoga class after your body is warm. Placing a folded yoga blanket or block under your butt is an excellent way to make yourself more comfortable.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners
  • Resting or supine yoga poses:It’s essential to get to know your resting yoga poses, especially child’s pose, which you are encouraged to do whenever you need a break. These resting yoga poses continue hip and hamstring work and provide gentle back-bending, twisting, and inversion.

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Pose type: Standing

Just because you’ve heard of Downward Facing Dog doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

Beginners often lean too far forward in this posture, making it more like a plank. Instead, keep your weight mostly in your legs and reach your hips high with your heels stretching toward the floor (they do not need to touch the floor).

Soften your knees to facilitate the move if you have tight hamstrings. Keep feet parallel.

 How to Do Downward Facing Dog

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Pose type: Standing

Mountain pose may not be as famous as Downward Facing Dog, but it is equally important.

For good alignment in Mountain pose, imagine drawing a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels, with shoulders and pelvis stacked. Every person’s body is different, so focus on rooting down with your feet and lengthening your spine.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

A yoga teacher can talk you through this in class, reminding you to slide your shoulders down your back and keep weight on your heels.

 How to Do Mountain Pose

Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

Pose type: Standing

In Warrior I, it is important to keep in mind that the hips should be facing forward. Your hip points should be almost parallel to the front of your mat if you were to think of them as headlights. This can mean adopting a more expansive posture.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Pose type: Standing

Unlike Warrior I, the hips face the side of the mat in Warrior II. The hips and shoulders open to the side when moving from Warrior I to Warrior II.

You’ll also rotate your back foot, angling your toes at about 90 degrees. In both Warrior poses, aim to keep your front knee stacked over the ankle. Your front toes face forward.

How to Do Warrior II

Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parvakonasana)

Pose type: Standing

One modification of Extended Side Angle Pose is to bring your forearm to your thigh instead of placing your hand on the floor. It should rest lightly on your thigh and not bear much weight. This modification enables you to keep your shoulders open. You can also place your hand on a yoga block.

You risk misaligning your body and turning your chest to face the floor instead of the ceiling if you reach for the floor before you’re ready.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

Pose type: Standing

The Triangle can be modified like Extended Side Angle, using a yoga block for your bottom hand if you aren’t comfortable reaching your arm to the floor in this yoga pose. You can also rest your hand higher up on your leg—on your shin or thigh—but avoid putting it directly on your knee.

Don’t hesitate to micro-bend both knees if this yoga pose feels uncomfortable. It won’t look or feel like a pronounced bend, but rather, just enough movement to unlock your knees and ease tension in your hamstrings.

Triangle offers many benefits: Strength (in the legs), flexibility (in the groin, hamstrings, and hips, as well as opening the chest and shoulders), and balance.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

To do Standing Forward Bend, exhale, and fold over your legs. If your hamstrings feel too tight, soften your knees to release your spine. Let your head hang heavy.

For optimum stability, keep your knees soft and your feet hip-width apart (you can, but should not, straighten your legs). Grasp opposing elbows with opposing hands as you gently rock back and forth.

Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)

Pose type: Standing

Reverse Warrior shares a similar stance to Warrior I and incorporates a slight heart-opening side bend or optional backbend.

To stay steady in the posture, root into the sole of your front foot, anchor the outside edge of your back foot, and engage your glutes and hamstrings.

As your palm rises upward, direct your attention toward it. As you sink more into the hips, maintain your front knee tracking over your ankle.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Garland Pose (Malasana)

Pose type: Standing

Squatting is an excellent stretch for the muscles around your pelvis, often called a hip opener yoga pose.

Surprisingly, it’s also beneficial for your feet, which are frequently ignored. If squatting is difficult for you, try using props: Place a blanket or yoga towel beneath your heels or sit on a block. Drive your heels into the ground.

Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)

Pose type: Standing

This flat-back forward bend (you may also hear it called “halfway lift”) is most often done as part of a sun salutation sequence. As such, it’s often rushed, but it’s worth it to take the time to work on it independently. Figuring out when your back is flat is part of developing body awareness.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

It helps to look in the mirror at first. To maintain a flat back, you can raise your hands off the floor and place them on your legs. Additionally, soften your knees gently as needed.

Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

Pose type: Standing

Standing forward bends like Pyramid pose are an ideal time to break out your yoga blocks, making this yoga pose more accessible. Place a block on either side of your front foot to “raise the floor” to a level your hands can comfortably reach. Your hamstrings will still enjoy a nice stretch.

Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

Pose type: Standing

Built upon the foundation of Mountain pose, Urdhva Hastasana roots you into the ground with your legs while reaching for the sky with your arms. The result is a full-body stretch, a great way to usher in the physical part of your yoga session.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Low Lunge

Pose type: Standing

The alignment of your lunge is important. Make a right angle with your front leg so your knee is directly over your ankle and your thigh is parallel to the floor. At the same time, keep your hips level and root into your back leg.

Many people don’t go deep enough into the front leg and sag in the back. Glance in the mirror to make sure you’re getting it right.

Adjust this yoga posture by lowering your back leg to the mat or placing your hands on blocks (using a blanket or towel for padding if necessary).31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Pose type: Standing/Balancing

Tree pose is an excellent introduction to balancing postures. If you feel yourself beginning to topple, step out easily. Avoid counterbalances by jutting your hip to the side of your standing leg.

Focus your gaze on the floor and try varying foot positions to see what works for you: Heel resting low on the ankle, on a block, or above or below the knee.

Downward Facing Dog Split

Pose type: Standing/balancing

The introduction of appropriate balancing postures helps build core strength. In Down Dog Split, it’s not about how high you can lift your leg. Instead, focus on rooting into the hands and keeping your weight distributed evenly in both hands.

Plank Pose

Pose type: Balancing

It might seem strange to call plank a balancing pose since the risk of falling over is minimal, but it gets to the heart of this pose—core strength.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

A strong core is essential for so many yoga poses, including standing and arm balances, and plank is an excellent way to work on your stability and stamina. Keep your hips and spine in a neutral position.

Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)

Pose type: Backbend

It’s the best of both worlds: spinal extension followed by spinal flexion. Moving back and forth warms your back, improves body awareness, and is a basic introduction to doing a vinyasa sequence by coordinating your movements with your breath.

Cat-Cow may be the most important pose you learn when starting yoga, especially if you have back pain. Even if you never do more than a few yoga classes, continue doing this stretch on your own.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Pose type: Backbend

Bridge pose is a gentle way to explore spine extension, also known as a backbend. It’s a good idea to start incorporating this type of movement because it improves the mobility of your spine and counters the effects of too much sitting.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

If Bridge seems too intense, try a ​supported bridge with a block. Remember to root into the feet, which helps use your leg muscles to support the pose.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Pose type: Backbend

In flow yoga, Cobra is done multiple times per class as part of the vinyasa sequence of poses. While a full cobra with straight arms offers a deeper backbend, you’ll build more back strength by doing low Cobras in which you lift your chest without pressing into your hands.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Root into your feet, lengthen through the crown of the head, and broaden through the collarbones as you lift the sternum. It’s also key to anchor your pelvis to the floor before you lift.

Knees, Chest, and Chin (Ashtanga Namaskara)

Pose type: Backbend

Ashtanga Namaskara was once taught to all beginning yoga students as an alternative to and preparation for Chaturanga Dandasana. In recent years, it’s fallen out of favor.

As a result, some students are rushed into Chaturanga before they are ready. It belongs in the sun salutation series for beginners. Plus, it’s an excellent warmup for deeper backbends.

Take your time and enter the yoga pose slowly from a plank. Lower your knees to the yoga mat with your toes tucked. Keep your elbows in toward your body as you lower your chest and chin to the floor. Shoulders should hover over your hands.

Staff Pose (Dandasana)

Pose type: Seated

Staff pose is akin to a seated version of Mountain pose (above) in that it offers alignment guidelines for various other seated yoga poses. Engage your leg muscles and flex your feet.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Lift your chest and relax your shoulders. You can also allow a gentle bend in your knees so your shoulders can stack over your hips.

Modify by using a block or folded blanket or two if you have trouble sitting straight with your butt flat on the floor. In a typical class, this yoga pose leads to a forward bend.

Cobbler’s Pose (Baddha Konasana)

Pose type: Seated

Let gravity work on stretching your inner thighs in Cobbler’s pose. Props can help if you find this yoga pose challenging. Sitting on a block, cushion, or blanket raises your hips so your knees can open more naturally.

If your knees are high, it takes a lot of effort to hold them up, and your legs need to be relaxed to enjoy the benefits of the stretch. The solution is to place a block (or something else supportive) under each knee to give them something to rest on.

Since it’s ​unusual to sit this way in everyday life, this yoga pose stretches neglected areas of the body, particularly the adductor groups of the groin.

Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Pose type: Seated

Sitting cross-legged doesn’t have to be a difficult yoga pose. As with Cobbler’s pose, the judicious use of props can transform an uncomfortable position into one of ease so you can reverse the effects of too much chair-sitting.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Pose type: Seated

Twists are an essential part of yoga. They help improve spinal mobility and can even get things moving along your digestive tract (yes, twists can relieve constipation).3

It’s OK to extend your bottom leg in this yoga pose if it’s uncomfortable to have it bent behind you. You can also modify it by sitting on a blanket. Placing the bent leg inside the extended leg is great for easing shoulder, hip, and spine rotation.

Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)

Pose type: Seated

Forward bends can be tricky for anyone with tight hamstrings (i.e., many people). Janu ​Sirsasana is more accessible because you only stretch one leg at a time.​​​​​​​​​​​​​ You can also use a strap around your foot to help extend your reach.

Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

Pose type: Seated

There are many hamstring stretches in beginning yoga for a good reason. The hamstrings tend to get short and tight in people who sit a lot, which can contribute to lower back pain. Stretching them as you do in the Seated Forward Bend is helpful.

This pose offers a stretch to the entire back of the body. Bend at your hips, not your waist, and keep your neck aligned with your spine.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Seated Wide Angle Straddle (Upavistha Konasana)

Pose type: Seated

Opening your legs wide creates a slightly different stretch from Paschimottanasana. To do this yoga pose:

  1. Separate your legs into a wide position.
  2. Flex both feet and engage both legs on the floor, coming into Upavistha Konasana.
  3. Forward bend to the center, extending your spine on inhale and deepening the yoga pose on exhale.

Though it may look like the mandate is to bring your chest to the floor, it’s not about that. Instead, keep your back flat, rotate your pelvis forward instead of crunching through your spine, and keep your feet flexed. If you do all three of these things, it doesn’t matter how far forward you lean.

Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

Pose type: Supine

Happy baby is a wonderful way to finish a yoga session. It’s also an excellent example of the vital interplay between effort and ease in yoga.

You want to exert a little pressure on your feet to draw them toward your armpits, but not so much that your tailbone lifts off the floor. You don’t want to go to the extreme but find the middle ground in this joyful yoga pose.

Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Pose type: Supine

A passive twist is a classic way to end a yoga session, although there’s no rule against doing this yoga pose at the beginning of your practice. The position of the legs is up to you.

You can bend them both; you can straighten the top leg and hold onto your foot if you have the flexibility, or you can twist your legs around one another (as in Eagle pose) to stretch the outer hips. Keep knees in line with your waist.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

 How to Do a Supine Spinal Twist

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Pose type: Resting

Child’s pose is essential because it’s the position you assume whenever you need a break during a yoga class. If you feel fatigued, don’t wait for the instructor to call for a break.

Move into Child’s pose and rejoin the class when you’re ready. It provides a gentle stretch for your back, hips, thighs, and ankles, and does not challenge strength or balance.

Taking Child’s pose is really up to your discretion, which introduces one of yoga’s best lessons: being attuned to the signals of your body and respecting them above any external directions.

 How to Do Child’s Pose

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Pose type: Resting

Most yoga sessions end lying flat on your back in Corpse pose. It’s a critical transition between the end of your yoga practice and the rest of your day. Bringing the body to stillness challenges the mind to maintain its calm. You may find this challenging at first, but it gets easier with practice.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

Give yourself plenty of time to learn these poses. Dedicate some time daily (or every few days) to relax in a comfortable space and review your practice. It’s a good idea to wear workout tank tops with low support and four-way stretch to move with you through poses. With regular yoga sessions, you’ll find that your body moves comfortably from one pose to the next for improved physical function and wellness.31 Yoga Poses for Beginners

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