Are you interested in taking up a yoga practice but you’re not quite sure where to start?
This is the first in a series of Yoga For Beginners articles. This one focuses on the essentials, and the other two will cover standing poses and seated poses in more detail.
These 10 basic yoga poses will focus largely on building core strength and flexibility in the lower body that will form the foundation for some of the more complex yoga poses that you might encounter later on.
You might be faced with some difficulty at first, but try not to push too hard, these yoga poses will be with you throughout your whole yoga practice as you work to refine them. So just remember to be patient, keep breathing, and enjoy the ride!
Here are our 10 essential yoga poses for beginners:
Balasana (Childs Pose)
Balasana is a pose we will return to time and time again in our yoga practice. It is the go-to pose if we need a moment to recharge or are experiencing fatigue or feelings of overwhelm.
Balasana is a great way to open the hips, the buttocks muscles, and the lower back. Different variations of the pose can help to open up the upper back and shoulders as well.
It is also a powerful restorative pose and can help to down-regulate the nervous system, relieving physical tension and mental stress when performed for an extended period of time. To experience the full effects of this yoga pose, breathe deeply into the whole trunk, expanding through the back with every breath.
Malasana (Low Squat)
Malasana is the yogic low squat. In traditional societies like India, this posture is a common way to rest and helps explain why people of all ages in these cultures tend to be able to sit comfortably on the floor for long periods of time. Of course, in these societies, it is also the posture most people take when going to the bathroom.
For more modern people, this pose is the perfect way to balance out the effects of sitting for long periods of time at a desk or in the car. It opens the hips, lengthens the lumbar spine, strengthens the lower back and brings increased circulation to the pelvic region. This is a great pose to do every day.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Downward Facing Dog is one of the most common poses in all of Hatha Yoga, and it forms the foundation of many of the sequences called vinyasas, which are used to link poses together in flowing movements.
Downward Facing Dog is a pose that lengthens the whole back of the body including the hamstrings, calves, glutes, and shoulders. However, it is also a powerful strengthening pose that helps to build detailed, fine-tuned control of the muscles that align the complicated shoulder and hip joints.
It is a gentle inversion and can help to draw blood into the upper body, helping to improve respiration, lymph drainage and blood circulation without some of the difficulties associated with more complex inversions.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
The Standing Forward Bend is the perfect way to explore the relationship between flexibility and muscular engagement. In this pose, we gently engage through the fronts of the legs in order to release the backs of the legs.
When done intelligently, with a slight bend in the leg, it is a great posture for the knees and can help to lengthen the whole back of the body, especially the hamstrings.
It is a naturally relaxing posture and can be of great benefit to people who suffer from anxiety and stress. The increased blood flow it promotes can help to raise your energy level without aggravating the nervous system.
Phalankasana (Plank Pose)
This pose is a very important pose for strengthening the upper body and the deep core muscles of the abdomen. The shoulder alignment learned in this pose will translate to every other arm balancing posture in your yoga practice, as will the strong engagement of the core.
Plank Pose builds intelligence and sensitivity in the hands and teaches us to distribute stress evenly throughout the body when in a strength based pose.
Though it looks simple, the alignment in this pose is surprisingly subtle, and it can take a great deal of time and attention to master. However, consistent practice of this pose can help to build confidence and precision in your yoga practice, especially in active, movement-based styles.
Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)
Locust pose is the perfect yoga pose for strengthening the entire back of the body, including the glutes and hamstrings. It is a great way to prepare for more advanced backbending as it requires strong muscular engagement and stability in order to backbend safely.
Though it looks simple, it can be a pretty intense posture, and the key to mastering it is to maintain deep breathing while engaging the muscles of the core.
This pose stretches and stimulates the abdomen, which can be beneficial for people who suffer from digestive issues or menstrual discomfort.
Navasana (Boat Pose)
Boat pose is one of the best yoga poses for building strength in the deep core muscles of the body, not only in the abdomen, but also in the erector spinae muscles in the lower back, and the hip flexor muscles that run deep inside the pelvis.
It requires a bit of hamstring flexibility and leg strength to keep the legs straight in this pose. Luckily there are lots of ways to modify this pose to make it accessible for beginners. It may not look like it, but this pose is crucial for developing a strong hollow body position for arm balances and inversions like peacock pose and handstand.
Like all poses that strongly engage the abdomen the key to mastering it is learning how to breathe smoothly and calmly, with a relaxed gaze, will maintaining strong muscular engagement
Setu Bandha Saravanagasana (Bridge Pose)
Bridge Pose is another key back bending posture that helps to build core strength and alignment for more advanced backbends. However, it is a powerful pose in its own right.
This pose stretches and strengthens the neck, stimulating the thyroid and can deliver increased blood flow to the lungs while stretching the intercostal muscles of the ribcage, leading to improved respiration.
This is known as one of the best “heart-opening” poses.
These heart-opening poses are said to develop a sense of openness and compassion towards other people. Often people who suffer from anxiety and depression developed a closed-off, protective, slightly hunched posture. Heart-opening poses can help to reverse this tendency and provide a well-needed boost in the mood when you’re feeling low.
Jatara Parivartanasana (Supine Twist)
This reclined twisting pose is a staple of yin yoga and more restorative styles, though it has become popular as a way to close off a more vigorous vinyasa-style yoga class. It is generally held for long periods of time so that the spine can be allowed to balance and re-align itself.
There are lots of different ways to modify this pose, so it is appropriate for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Twisting poses are great for maintaining spinal health and mobility, and by stretching the deep muscles of the lower back, it can help to minimize and prevent back pain.
This posture is deeply relaxing, and it is highly recommended to hold it for long periods of time. In yin yoga classes it is generally held for at least five minutes. It can be helpful for dealing with minor stomach discomfort, gas, or constipation.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
After any Hatha yoga practice, it is extremely important to rest in Savasana, the final resting pose. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked or skipped by many yogis.
Take as much time as you need to allow your body to relax completely. Let any tension that still exists in the muscles gradually melt away and focus on the sensations that arise in the physical body.
This pose helps the body to rejuvenate itself and integrate the beneficial effects of the rest of the practice. It also holds a great benefit as a stand-alone practice for treating stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
These poses are a great starting point to build the skills necessary to progress to more advanced levels of posture practice.
Check out our other Yoga For Beginners articles for a more detailed explanation of standing yoga poses and seated yoga poses.
You can make progress in Yoga by watching videos and reading articles online, but it’s always best to learn from an experienced teacher.
Register for one of our fantastic Multi-Style Yoga Retreats or Teacher Training and get one-on-one attention and support to help you reach your highest potential!