Different Standing Yoga Poses
Now it’s time to learn some standing yoga poses to help build strength, balance, and body awareness.
This is the second in a series of Yoga For Beginners articles. This one focuses on standing yoga poses. The other two focus on essential yoga poses and seated yoga poses.
Standing yoga poses are some of the most important poses in your yoga practice. They help to build strength in the lower body, and they also help to build active flexibility throughout the hips and upper leg.
Standing yoga poses also help to maintain balance and control of the deep core muscles of the leg, back, and abdomen. Learning how to breathe slowly and comfortably in these active poses can also help us to bring calmness and equanimity into our daily life.
These poses are generally held for five to 10 breaths. However, in movement-based styles, it may be appropriate to flow between them quite quickly, and in more static styles, you may find that they are held for up to a couple of minutes each. Each approach has its own unique benefits.
There are dozens of common standing poses in Hatha Yoga, but for beginners, it is best to focus on a smaller number as they will help to build the foundations for the others.
Here are our picks for the 10 key standing yoga poses for beginners:
Tadasana, Mountain Pose
The case could be made, and often is, that Tadasana is the most important pose in all of Yoga.
Tadasana is usually the first pose done in any sequence of standing poses. It sets the foundation for the alignment principles found in virtually every other pose, including seated and reclined ones.
The longer a practitioner spends practicing Tadasana, the more sensitive they will become to the subtleties of their posture. They will notice minor imbalances earlier and be able to correct them more effectively. Tadasana helps to correct unconscious postural patterns that can eventually lead to strain, both physical and mental.
In Tadasana, there is a great deal of emphasis placed on the feet; this can help strengthen them, which will, in turn, improve balance and help to take unnecessary pressure off the knees, hips, and lower back.
One of the subtle benefits of Tadasana is that, since it is so simple, it is easier to practice the subtleties of breathing and meditation in this pose than any other standing pose. Once these patterns are established in Tadasana, it is easier to maintain them throughout other yoga poses.
Vrksasana, Tree Pose
In Tree Pose, we balance on one leg and open up the hip of the other leg. This helps to build on the alignment established in Tadasana but makes it more challenging to maintain by introducing a postural asymmetry and cutting the base of support in half.
This is one of the strongest yoga poses for maintaining balance and is an important pose for practitioners of an older age group who are looking to maintain their mobility and live an active lifestyle as they age.
Urdhva Hastasana, Upward Salute Pose
The Upward Salute is a pose that is often integrated into the “Sun Salutation,” a common sequence of movements found in Vinyasa Yoga. However, it is a very powerful pose to focus on in its own right.
The Upward Salute stretches the entire front of the body, from the fronts of the legs, through the abdomen, the chest, and all the way up into the armpits and shoulders. It also helps to strengthen the muscles of the back, which will help to make back bending postures accessible later on.
This is a classic “heart-opening” posture, which is thought to help develop a sense of openness and compassion towards others and a more energetic, attractive posture.
Padangusthasana, Big Toe Pose
Padangusthasana is a powerful forward bend that is well worth spending a bit of extra time refining in your yoga practice. Most modern people tend to have tight hamstrings, either from long periods of sitting in chairs or from long periods of walking. This is the classic pose to release hamstring tightness.
In this yoga pose, since the head is below the heart, and the lungs below the hips, it is thought of as a gentle inversion. Inversions help to deliver blood to the lungs, aiding in efficient respiration and encouraging healthy tissues, particularly in the upper sections of the lungs. It is also thought to be beneficial for anxiety and depression.
Utkatasana, Chair Pose
Chair Pose is indispensable for developing strength and stability in the quadriceps muscles of the front of the leg, as well as the glute muscles of the buttocks.
Knee and hip problems are often caused by a lack of stability or strength in these muscles, and this posture is highly recommended for people who are prone to joint issues.
This pose strongly engages the largest muscles of the body, so it requires a great deal of energy and generally results in an increased heart rate. This makes it one of the best yoga poses for the cardiovascular system, though it should be approached with some caution by people with hypertension or heart problems.
Utthita Trikonasana, Extended Triangle Pose
Though it is approachable for beginners, Triangle Pose is actually one of the most difficult yoga poses to master. In this pose, perhaps more than any other, minor alignment changes in the feet or hips are felt throughout the entire body.
This pose helps to develop control and strength in the small muscles that stabilize the hips and lower back; it also helps to stretch the side of the torso and the hamstring. However, it is important not to push too hard in this pose, as it can create strain in the knees and hips.
Allow the openness to come with time, and don’t be afraid to use a block or the wall for support.
Anjaneyasana, Low Lunge Pose
The Low Lunge posture is one of the most effective yoga poses for stretching the quadriceps muscles of the front of the leg. For this reason, it is highly recommended for athletic people who spend a lot of time exercising the legs, especially runners or cyclists, to help maintain a healthy range of motion.
People with knee issues may find this pose uncomfortable as the knee bears some weight. This pressure can be mitigated by actively pressing the back foot into the floor or placing a thin pillow or folded mat underneath the knee.
Utthita Parsvakonasana, Extended Side Angle Pose
Extended Side Angle Pose is a strong lunging pose that strengthens the front of the leg but also provides a strong stretch in the hips, back, and side of the abdomen. It is important in this pose not to go too deep too soon as strain can be created in the hips and back if they are not sufficiently strengthened in advance.
When performed correctly, this pose helps to stimulate blood flow to the organs inside the abdomen and can help to lengthen and decompress the spine.
People with tightness in the hips or back may find this pose difficult, in which case they can use a block or place their elbow on the upper thigh of their front leg for support.
Prasarita Padottanasana, Wide-Legged Forward Fold
The Wide-Legged Forward Fold is another great pose for lengthening the hamstring muscles, though this one adds an increased level of complexity by also lengthening the muscles of the groin. It is important to press down strongly through both feet, and in this way, it helps to strengthen and lengthen the adductor muscles of the legs at the same time.
It is very important not to collapse all the weight into the outside of the foot, as this can create strain in the knee. People with knee injuries will likely find this pose uncomfortable and should avoid it.
Virabhadrasana I, Warrior One
Warrior One is a powerful pose that combines a high lunge with the raised arms and open chest of the Upward Salute. It is a great way to safely open the hips while maintaining strong muscular engagement in the legs
Like Chair Pose, Warrior One strongly engages the largest muscles in the body, using up a lot of energy and raising the heart rate. It is fantastic for cardiovascular health but requires intelligent alignment and lots of practice in order to ensure there is sufficient energy left for the rest of your practice.
These standing yoga poses are a great way to strengthen your whole body and raise your energy level.
Though our collection of articles and videos is a great starting point, standing yoga poses are incredibly detailed and require a great deal of practice to master.
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