Seated poses can help to open up the body; increasing mobility and cultivating calm, relaxed energy. Let’s learn some of the most important ones!
This is the third in a series of Yoga For Beginners articles. This one focuses on seated yoga poses. The other two focus on essential yoga poses and standing yoga poses.
Seated yoga poses are a little bit less vigorous then standing poses, but they can be every bit as intricate. Some may even find them to be a bit more intense. This is because these yoga poses emphasize a more passive type of flexibility then our standing poses.
In seated poses, we learn how to release our muscles and allow them to lengthen gradually. These poses can also help to condition our connective tissues, which is just as important as lengthening our muscles when we’re seeking to achieve full mobility.
Here are our picks for the 10 key seated poses for beginners:
Sukhasana, Easy Pose
For a lot of people, Sukhasana, the Easy Pose, can be surprisingly difficult. In western cultures, it is not common for people to sit on the floor and so their hips tend to get quite tight.
From the perspective of your yoga practice, it is well worth spending some time in Sukhasana every day.
It is the basic meditation posture and opening the body so that you can sit comfortably on the floor will make it much more comfortable for you back and hips when you practice breathing exercises, meditation practices, energy work, or any other yoga practice that takes place in a seated position.
Parivrtta Sukhasana, Seated Easy Twist
This is one of the most gentle twisting postures in your Hatha Yoga practice. However, it can also be one of the most invigorating. It helps to unwind the tension in the muscles of the back that can lead to compression and imbalance in the spine.
It should be noted that though this twist is an easy pose to perform, it is easy to crank your body into a deep twist before your back is ready for it. Enter the twist slowly and intelligently while maintaining length in the spine and allow your breath to draw you deeper into the pose rather then pulling.
If your hips are tight, it may be beneficial to sit up on a yoga block.
Paschimottanasana, Seated Forward Bend
The Seated Forward Bend is the classic seated pose for lengthening the hamstrings. However, it is also a very effective pose for exploring the relationship between muscular engagement and flexibility, and the way the hip and shoulder complexes interact with the alignment of the spine.
In Yin Yoga, it is common to release completely in this pose, rounding the back. However, in most forms of Yoga, it is more beneficial to perform this pose with lots of engagement and find as much length as possible through the spine, expanding through the ribcage and folding forward from the pelvis.
This is a great pose for cultivating calmness and focus. It can help combat anxiety and helps to stimulate the organs of the abdominal region like the liver and stomach.
Baddha Konasana, Bound Angle Pose
If you’ve got tight hips, Bound Angle Pose is the perfect solution! This yoga pose can be uncomfortable for some people, but luckily there are lots of helpful modifications that can make this pose accessible for most practitioners.
Bound Angle Pose is an excellent stretch for the glute muscles and helps to strengthen the inner thigh. It’s also a great way to strengthen the lower back and learn how to find length in the spine while in a seated position.
It’s also one of the best poses for stretching the piriformis muscle. A tight piriformis is the most common cause of sciatic pain, so this pose is excellent for those suffering from sciatica.
Janu Sirsasana, Head To Knee Forward Bend
Janu Sirsasana is a pose that combines the seated forward bend with the bound angle pose. By creating an asymmetry in the body, this pose teaches the practitioner how the alignment of the hips and back changes the flexibility of the hamstring.
This pose is said to be highly beneficial for the liver and kidneys and is also an ideal pose for cultivating focus and equanimity of mind.
If a practitioner has tight hips, it is advisable to place a block underneath the thigh of the bent leg for support.
Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, Revolved Head to Knee Forward Bend
The revolved version of Janu Sirsasana combines a wide-legged forward bend with a strong stretch of the side of the trunk. If a practitioner has any difficulty sitting on the floor in a wide-legged position, it will be beneficial to sit up on a block or bend the knees slightly so that they can keep the spine lengthened.
It’s important to stay grounded through the sitting bones in this pose and to not collapse the chest towards the floor. Keep the chest open rather then reaching further towards the foot.
This pose helps to stretch and tone the oblique muscles of the abdomen. It’s also a great pose for stretching the shoulders, and subtle changes in the alignment of the shoulder girdle can greatly change the experience of the pose.
Gomukhasana, Cow Face Pose
The Cow Face Pose is a powerful hip opening posture that also incorporates a deep shoulder stretch.
In this pose, each of the joints of the leg is bent and articulated, which allows for great opening, but can also put some pressure on those joints if you aren’t careful. If there is tightness in the hips or tenderness in the knees, it is highly recommended to sit up on a block.
Likewise, the shoulder joints are also articulated in opposite ways, which affords the opportunity for opening can also cause discomfort. If you find there is irritation or ache in the shoulder, it is recommended to use a belt or strap to hold behind the back.
Matsyasana, Fish Pose
We now move our focus to a few reclined poses that work the body from a slightly different angle than the seated ones. Up until now, we have focused mainly on hip and hamstring opening poses, but Matsyasana, the Fish Pose, is different.
Here we have a classic backbend with the legs held firmly together and the crown of the head on the floor. This pose is accessible for most people, but it can sometimes take a few tries to learn how to enter the pose. Be patient and allow it to come with time.
This is one of the great “heart-opening” yoga poses that energize the body and cultivate an attitude of openness and compassion.
Supta Virasana, Reclined Hero Pose
Supta Virasana is one of the more intense reclined poses. However, it is one of the best ways to stretch the quadriceps muscles on the fronts of the legs and is perfect to balance out all of the forward bending that is so common in most yoga practices.
It’s a staple of Yin Yoga and is most beneficial when you have at least a few minutes to allow the body to release into the pose. B.K.S. Iyengar famously recommended students to practice this pose for 10 – 15 minutes at a time! Simply support the body with blocks or bolsters if the stretch is too intense.
This stretch delivers a huge amount of blood flow to the biggest muscles in the body and can be enormously energizing. It is highly recommended during times of fatigue or laziness.
Supta Matsyendrasana, Supine Spinal Twist
This pose is one of the most popular closing poses for led yoga classes in almost every style. It is popular in Yin Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and as a cool-down pose in Vinyasa Yoga. It helps to stretch the obliques and stimulate the internal organs, and it helps to decompress and lengthen the spine.
It’s greatest value is as a relaxation pose, a way to integrate the effects of your yoga practice into the body and mind. Try not to push too hard, simply allow the breath to guide you deeper into this pose as you hold it for an extended period of time.
Seated poses are a great way to access the deeper aspects of our yoga practice and can elicit profound states of meditation and focus. However, it is always best to learn these subtleties from a knowledgeable teacher.
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