Stress relief. Heart health. Increased strength and stamina. There’s no shortage of reasons for athletes to take up yoga.
If you’re new to the practice, try getting started with these 12 basic yoga poses. Remember, start slow. And always consult a physician before taking up a new fitness regimen. Namaste!
- 1. Child’s Pose Or Balasana
- 2. Downward-Facing Dog Or Adho Mukha Svanasana
- 3. Upward-Facing Dog Or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
- 4. Cobra Or Bhujangasana
- 5. Bridge Or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
- 6. Chair Pose Or “Utkatasana”
- 7. Warrior One Or Virabhadrasana I
- 8. Warrior Two Or Virabhadrasana II
- 9. Tree Pose Or Vrksasana
- 10. Triangle Or Utthita Trikonasana
- 11. High Plank Or Kumbhakasana
- 12. Standing Fold Or Uttanasana
- The Only 30 Yoga Poses You Really Need to Know
- 12. Plank Pose
- 13. Four-Limbed Staff Pose
- 14. Upward-Facing Dog
- 15. Half Moon Pose
- 16. Warrior I
- 17. Warrior III
- 18. Intense side stretch
- 19. Dolphin Pose
- 20. Bow Pose
- 21. Camel Pose
- 22. Side plank
- 23. Revolved Triangle Pose
- The 10 Most Important Yoga Poses for Beginners
- 1. Mountain Pose
- 2. Downward Facing Dog
- 3. Plank
- 4. Triangle
- 5. Tree
- 6. Warrior 1
- 7. Warrior 2
- 8. Seated Forward Bend
- 9. Bridge Pose
- 10. Child’s Pose
- Yoga for Beginners: 10 Basic Poses (Asanas) to Get You Started
- Here are a few basic Yoga asanas that can help you get started:
- 1. Double leg raises
- 2. Child’s pose (Balasana)
- 3. Dolphin exercises or headstand (Sirsasana)
- 4. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
- 5. Plough (Halasana)
- How to do the plough
- 6. Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- 7. Fish (Matsyasana)
- 8. Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
- 9. Corpse pose (Savasana)
- 10. Namaste
1. Child’s Pose Or Balasana
Spread your knees wide in a “V” shape, with your big toes touching behind you. Rest your bottom on your heels. Lengthen your spine and stretch forward between your thighs. You can extend your arms or tuck them behind you.
This resting pose is a great way to slow your breath and calm your mind. Plus, it stretches your hips and thighs before class gets underway.
2. Downward-Facing Dog Or Adho Mukha Svanasana
Begin on your hands and knees (or in cow pose). Place your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Your fingers should point to the top of your mat.
Spread your fingers wide and distribute your weight evenly across your hands. Lift your knees off the floor, reaching your pelvis upward, as if your hips and thighs are being pulled backward. Your body should come into the shape of an “A.” Straighten your legs, but avoid locking them. Gaze between your knees and relax your neck.
This pose energizes the body as it stretches hamstrings, calves and spine. And, yes, it gets its name from a canine’s natural stretching motion.
3. Upward-Facing Dog Or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Begin laying face-down on your mat. Bend your elbows. Place your hands firm on the mat. Spread your fingers. Your wrists should be parallel to the mat, and your arms should remain tight at your side.
Now press down through the top of your feet and lift your body off the floor. Only your hands and the tops of your feet should touch the floor. Lightly arch your back.
This pose improves posture and stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen. It also increases strength in the arms and wrists.
4. Cobra Or Bhujangasana
Begin laying face-down on your mat. Straighten your arms and lift your chest off the floor. Narrow your hips and legs. Firm your shoulder blades. Press the thighs and tops of the feet into the floor.
This pose differs from the similar upward-facing dog in that your legs and lower torso should remain on the ground.
This pose stretches the lungs, shoulders and abs, while strengthening the spine.
5. Bridge Or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Start by lying on the floor, facing the ceiling. Press your feet and arms into the floor and push your bottom and torso upward. Both your thighs and feet should be parallel. Knees should remain over your heels. You may want to clasp your hands beneath your torso.
This pose helps combat anxiety, headaches and fatigue. It also stretches the back, neck and spine.
6. Chair Pose Or “Utkatasana”
Bend your knees and squat downward toward your heels, keeping your inner thighs parallel. Lean your torso slightly over your thighs. Firm your shoulder blades. You can hold your hands at your heart’s center or reach upward to the sky.
This pose strengthens the thighs, calves and spine.
7. Warrior One Or Virabhadrasana I
Lunge forward with one leg, positioning your thigh parallel to the ground. Your feet should point forward. Your torso should face forward in the direction of your lunge.
Raise your arms upward to the sky and relax your shoulders. Lift your ribcage upward and gaze ahead.
This pose opens the chest, shoulders and neck, while toning the shoulders, arms, thighs and calves.
8. Warrior Two Or Virabhadrasana II
Lunge forward with one leg, positioning your thigh parallel to the ground. Your front foot and torso should be parallel to the mat’s edges, with your back foot facing outward to the side. Lean into the lunge to increase its intensity.
Stretch your arms parallel to the floor, and make sure your torso remains square over your hips. Gaze over your fingers in the direction of your lunge.
This pose increases stamina and stimulates the abdominal muscles. It also opens the groin, chest and shoulders.
9. Tree Pose Or Vrksasana
Stand on one foot and keep it firm on the floor. Place your opposite foot against your thigh or calve (but not your knee), with toes pointing to the floor. Your pelvis should remain centered and your hips should be square. Hold your hands at your heart’s center or extend your arms upward.
This pose improves a yogi’s sense of balance and strengthens the thighs, ankles and spine.
10. Triangle Or Utthita Trikonasana
Begin by standing with your feet about four feet apart. Stretch your arms so they’re parallel to the floor. Then reach one hand down toward your foot and grab your ankle or your shin (if you’re flexible enough, you can also rest your hand on the floor). Your other hand should be extended toward the sky. Gaze upward at your fingertips.
This pose tones the legs and increases stability through the lower body. It also deeply stretches the hamstrings, hips and back.
11. High Plank Or Kumbhakasana
Start on your hands and knees. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingers and press down through your hands. Step back and tuck your toes, lifting your legs upward from the mat. Firm your body and broaden your shoulders. Make sure your chest is directly over your hands.
This pose promotes arm and core strength, but remember—don’t let your hips sag too low.
12. Standing Fold Or Uttanasana
Stand tall with your hands on your hips. Bend forward from your hips. Lengthen the torso as you reach downward. If possible, bring your palms or fingertips to the floor in front of your feet (or as far as you can reach). Your legs can be straight or slightly bent.
This pose is a stress-reliever, calming the mind in between other poses in your practice. It also strengthens the thighs and knees.
Am I wearing the right clothes?
Why are these blocks made of foam?
What language is she speaking?
Do I really have to say, “Om”?
Those were a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind when I stepped barefoot into a yoga class for the very first time. Between the poses, props and pranayama, I was more than a little perplexed by this practice they called an “asana.”
Over 10 years, too many classes and one instructor certification later, I feel pretty confident in saying that almost all yogis, both young and old, have shared these same sentiments. Trying something new is always a bit intimidating, even when it comes to yoga. But it’s important to remember that regardless of how long you have (or haven’t) been practicing, we all come to class with the same intention: to better our mind, body and soul.
So if you’re just starting out, kudos to you! Welcome to the world of yoga. Here are 12 basic poses for you to do.
More: A Step-by-Step Guide to Practicing the 5 Tibetan Rites Yoga Poses
1. Mountain pose
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows
Standing straight up, feet about hips-width distance apart, let your hands hang alongside your body, palms facing forward to receive more energy, or bring your hands to a prayer position at your heart. Gently closing your eyes, begin taking deep breaths in and out through your nose, releasing any tension in the body and face and calming the mind.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows
From Mountain pose, reach your hands down to the floor, bending your knees if need be. Walk your hands out about three to four feet in front of your toes. Pushing into your palms, lift your hips up toward the sky and press back into your heels, pressing them flat into the ground. Keep your gaze toward your legs and continue pressing your chest toward your thighs to create a nice flat back.
3. Plank pose
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows
From Downward-Facing Dog, press up onto your tiptoes, and rolling over them, come into a high push-up position. Hold here for a few deep breaths, making sure your wrists are directly in line under your shoulders, heels are lifted towards the sky and hips are lowered and in line with the rest of your body. Keep your gaze a few inches in front of your fingertips, creating one straight line with your head, neck and back.
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows
From plank pose, slowly lower your body down to the ground either by lowering your knees, chest and then chin, or lowering straight down through the push-up position (Chaturanga). Press your palms into your mat alongside your chest, roll your shoulders back, and begin to lift your chest up off the ground while keeping your hips firmly planted. Keep a slight bend in the shoulders to avoid injuries.
5. Child’s pose
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows
Sitting back on your heels, keep your big toes connected as you separate your knees about mat-width distance apart. From here, begin to walk your fingertips forward until you can’t reach any further. Once you are there, begin to lower your forehead and chest down to the floor while your hips continue to push back onto your heels, releasing any tension and allowing your body and mind to relax.
6. Warrior 2
Image: Ashley Britton/SheKnows
From Downward-Facing Dog position, step your right foot through and rest it in between your hands at the top of your mat, aligning your front heel with the inside of your back foot (front toes should be facing the front of the room, while the back toes are facing the side).
Keeping a deep bend in the front knee and making sure the knee is directly in line with your ankle, cartwheel your arms up as you raise your chest off your thigh, reaching your arms in opposite directions.
Hips face the side of the room while your gaze remains over your right shoulder, toward the front of the room.
Next: Triangle pose
A version of this article was originally published in November 2013.
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The Only 30 Yoga Poses You Really Need to Know
12. Plank Pose
How to do it
Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Shift forward so your shoulders are stacked over your wrists. Draw your navel in toward your spine and keep your hips from dropping.
Reach heels back as you lengthen the crown of your head forward. Ground down into hands, pushing the floor away beneath you. Lengthen through the arms and broaden your chest.
Pro tip: Come down to your knees if the pose is too intense.
Considered one of the best moves for core strength, Plank Pose strengthens your abdominals and promotes stability.
13. Four-Limbed Staff Pose
From Plank Pose, shift forward onto your tippy toes. Ground through your palms and broaden across the chest. Take an inhale.
On an exhale, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle. Keep your thighs lifted toward the ceiling. Imagine stretching your tailbone toward your heels as you lengthen through the spine. Hold your elbows in line with the torso. Gaze forward.
To come out of the pose, release your knees to the ground. You can also keep your knees lifted and lower down onto your stomach for an extra ab challenge. Another option is to lift up and back to a Downward-Facing Dog and relax.
Chaturanga is a key part of sun salutations, which you’ll find in Hatha, Sivananda, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa yoga classes. It promotes core stability and strengthens your abdominals and triceps.
14. Upward-Facing Dog
Sanskrit: Urdhva mukha svanasana
Lie facedown on the floor. Bend elbows and place hands on the mat in line with lower ribs. Hug your elbows in line with your torso. Tuck your toes and take an inhale.
As you exhale, push the floor away like a push-up. Straighten your arms and broaden across the chest, hovering your hips a few inches above the floor at the same time.
Pro tip: If you have any low back pain or a spine injury, modify this pose. Keep your feet on the mat, point your toes, and press the tops of your feet down into the floor.
As you bend your elbows and push up, keep your hips on the ground and roll your shoulders down the back. Straighten as much as possible through the arms and focus on elongating the spine. If you feel any pain or compression, slowly lower down onto your stomach.
You’ll open up your chest and shoulders, while stretching the abdominals and hip flexors. This pose comes after chaturanga in a classic sun salutation.
15. Half Moon Pose
Sanskrit: Ardha chandrasana
Start in a Triangle Pose. Bend your front knee, keep it in line with your second toe. Step back foot in and walk front hand about 12 inches forward. Keep it on the floor or place it onto a block.
Shift your weight onto your front foot and lift your back foot off the ground. Straighten out the front leg, keeping your front hand on the floor or on a block.
Reach your back leg toward the wall behind you, foot flexed. Lift your back arm up toward the sky. Keep your gaze on the hand touching the ground.
To come out of the pose, bend the front leg and slowly lower the lifted leg down toward the floor.
Pro tip: To challenge your balance while you’re in the pose, gaze up at your top hand.
This balancing pose strengthens your legs and outer hips. It also stretches your hamstrings and inner thighs, and promotes concentration.
16. Warrior I
Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana I
How to do it
Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Step one foot forward between your hands. Turn your back foot out, approximately 45 degrees, and ground down into your back foot.
Line your feet up heel to heel, or slightly wider. Bend the front knee directly over the front ankle while you straighten your back leg. Draw your back heel down toward the floor.
On an inhale, lengthen through the spine and lift your arms up. Place your hands on your hips or lift them up in a V toward the ceiling. Rotate your torso toward the front of the room.
Pro tip: If it’s challenging to balance in this pose, widen your stance. Imagine standing on railroad tracks rather than skis.
This energizing pose strengthens your legs, arms, and back muscles. It also gives your chest, shoulders, neck, thighs, and ankles a nice stretch.
17. Warrior III
Sanskrit: Virabhadrasana III
From Warrior I, hinge forward at the hips. Rest your abdomen on your front thigh. Step the back foot in and shift your weight into your front foot.
On an inhale, lift your back leg off the ground, straighten through the leg, and reach through your back heel. Press your palms together in front of your sternum (prayer hands) and gaze forward.
You can also place your arms along the hips, outstretched in front of you like you’re flying, or on the floor underneath your shoulders.
This heating pose strengthens your legs, outer hips, and upper back. It also helps improve balance and posture.
18. Intense side stretch
Start in Mountain Pose. Step your left foot back and place it flat on the floor at a 45-degree angle. Ground down into both feet and lift up through the thighs.
Place your hands on your hips. Rotate your torso forward. Hinge at the hips and lengthen your spine over the front leg. Lift away from the floor and broaden across the chest.
Pro tip: If it’s accessible to you, join your palms to touch behind your upper back. For tight shoulders, grab opposite elbows behind your back.
The pose helps calm the mind and stretches your spine, shoulders, wrists, hips, and hamstrings.
19. Dolphin Pose
Sanskrit: Ardha pincha mayurasana
From all fours, come down onto your forearms. Spread your fingers wide and keep elbows shoulder-width apart.
On an inhale, tuck your toes and lift your hips up and back like you’re in Downward-Facing Dog. Allow your head to hang above the floor.
Ground down into your forearms and lift your upper body away from the floor. Press your heels down toward the mat for a nice hamstring stretch.
This pose helps build strength in your upper body in preparation for a headstand and forearm stand. It can also help calm your mind and relieve stress.
20. Bow Pose
Lie facedown, roll your shoulder blades down the back, and send your arms back behind you. Bend your knees so that your feet are near your butt.
On an inhale, lift your upper body and legs off the floor, keeping the hips grounded. Reach back to grab outer ankles. Use the leverage to lift your body up and broaden across the chest.
This backbend stretches the whole front of the body, especially the chest and the front of your shoulders. It also gives a nice massage to your abdominal organs.
21. Camel Pose
Kneel on the ground with your shins hip-width apart. Press the tops of your feet into the mat. Rest hands on your hips, thumbs near your lower back.
Take an inhale and press down into your shins. Elongate through the spine. On an exhale, reach your arms back toward your heels. Use the leverage to lift your chest up toward the sky and get a nice shoulder stretch.
Pro tip: Place your hand on two blocks or curl your toes under so you don’t have to reach as far.
This backbend stretches the entire front of your body, from your throat to your ankles, and even helps strengthen back muscles.
22. Side plank
Start in Downward-Facing Dog. Turn onto the outer edge of your right foot, making sure that your right foot and right hand are in alignment.
Stack your left foot on top of your right. Lengthen through the spine through the crown of your head. Once you’re stable, lift your left hand up toward the sky. Press the floor away from you with the bottom hand.
Pro tip:For an added challenge, lift your top foot off the grounded foot. If it helps, imagine you’re a starfish.
This pose strengthens your shoulders, upper back, and abdominals. It also promotes core and scapular stability, which is helpful if you’re working on inversions or arm balances.
23. Revolved Triangle Pose
Sanskrit: Parivrtta trikonasana
From mountain pose, step your left foot back and place it flat on the floor, turned out 45 degrees. Line your feet up heel to heel, or wider for more stability and space.
Ground down into both feet and lift up through your thighs. Hinge forward at the hips and lengthen spine over your front thigh.
Release your left hand to a block placed on the outer edge of your front foot. You can also place the block on the inside of the front foot. Rotate your torso to the right. Stretch your right arm up.
This balancing posture stretches your hamstrings and outer hips. Twisting promotes the overall health of the spine and engages your abdominal obliques to facilitate the twist.
The 10 Most Important Yoga Poses for Beginners
If you are brand new to yoga, there are certain postures that are essential for you to learn so you can feel comfortable in a class or practicing on your own at home.
It’s not easy to narrow everything down since there are over 300 positions in the physical yoga practice(asana), but these poses can start you off on the right path. If you do each one of these for 5-10 breaths, it also creates a great beginner’s yoga program for you to do every day.
Here are my picks for the 10 most important yoga poses for beginners. Note: You don’t have to be able to do all these poses exactly as pictured — ALWAYS listen to your body and modify if needed.
Before you read on, we’ve created a free 28-day online yoga program with online classes specifically for beginners like you. Join the free program here. It’s like a personal yoga class with your private yoga teacher.
1. Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose is the base for all standing poses; it gives you a sense of how to ground in to your feet and feel the earth below you. Mountain pose may seem like “simply standing,” but there is a ton going on.
How to do it: Start standing with your feet together. Press down through all ten toes as you spread them open. Engage your quadriceps to lift your kneecaps and lift up through the inner thighs. Draw your abdominals in and up as you lift your chest and press the tops of the shoulders down.
Feel your shoulder blades coming towards each other and open your chest; but keep your palms facing inwards towards the body. Imagine a string drawing the crown of the head up to the ceiling and breathe deeply in to the torso. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
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2. Downward Facing Dog
Downward Dog is used in most yoga practices and yoga classes and it stretches and strengthens the entire body. I always say, “a down dog a day keeps the doctor away.”
How to do it: Come on to all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Tuck under your toes and lift your hips up off the floor as you draw them up at back towards your heels.
Keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight, otherwise try and straighten out your legs while keeping your hips back. Walk your hands forward to give yourself more length if you need to.
Press firmly through your palms and rotate the inner elbows towards each other. Hollow out the abdominals and keep engaging your legs to keep the torso moving back towards the thighs. Hold for 5-8 breaths before dropping back to hands and knees to rest.
Plank teaches us how to balance on our hands while using the entire body to support us. It is a great way to strengthen the abdominals, and learn to use the breath to help us stay in a challenging pose.
How to do it: From all fours, tuck under your toes and lift your legs up off the mat. Slide your heels back enough until you feel you are one straight line of energy from your head to your feet.
Engage the lower abdominals, draw the shoulders down and away from the ears, pull your ribs together and breathe deeply for 8-10 breaths.
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.
Tree is an awesome standing balance for beginners to work on to gain focus and clarity, and learn to breathe while standing and keeping the body balanced on one foot.
How to do it: Start with your feet together and place your right foot on your inner left upper thigh. Press your hands in prayer and find a spot in front of you that you can hold in a steady gaze.
Hold and breathe for 8-10 breaths then switch sides. Make sure you don’t lean in to the standing leg and keep your abdominals engaged and shoulders relaxed.
6. Warrior 1
Warrior poses are essential for building strength and stamina in a yoga practice. They give us confidence and stretch the hips and thighs while building strength in the entire lower body and core.
Warrior 1 is a gentle backbend; and a great pose for stretching open the front body (quads, hip flexors, psoas) while strengthening the legs, hips, buttocks, core and upper body.
How to do it: For warrior one, you can take a giant step back with your left foot coming towards a lunge, then turn your left heel down and angle your left toes forward 75 degrees.
Lift your chest and press your palms up overhead. Step forward and repeat on the opposite leg.
7. Warrior 2
Warrior 2 is an external hip opener and opens up the inner thighs and groin. It’s a good starting point for many side postures including triangle, extended angle and half moon balance.
How to do it: Stand with your feet one leg’s-length apart. Turn your right toes out 90 degrees and your left toes in 45 degrees. Bend your right knee until it is directly over your right ankle while keeping the torso even between the hips.
Stretch your arms out to your sides and gaze over your right hand. Hold for 8-10 breaths before straightening the right leg and turning your feet to the other side to repeat on left side.
8. Seated Forward Bend
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.
9. Bridge Pose
A counter pose to a forward bend is a back bend. Bridge is a good beginner’s back bend that stretches the front body and strengthens the back body.
How to do it: Lie down on your back and place your feet hip width apart. Press firmly on to your feet and lift your butt up off the mat. Interlace your hands together and press the fists down to the floor as you open up your chest even more.
Imagine dragging your heels on the mat towards your shoulders to engage your hamstrings. Hold for 8-10 breaths then lower your hips down and repeat two more times.
10. Child’s Pose
Every one needs a good resting pose and Child’s pose is an awesome one not just for beginners but for yoga practitioners of all levels.
It’s good to learn child’s pose to use when you’re fatigued in Down Dog, before bed at night to work out the kinks, or anytime you need a mental break and stress/tension relief.
How to do it: Start on all fours then bring your knees and feet together as you sit your butt back to your heels and stretch your arms forward. Lower your forehead to the floor (or block or pillow or blanket) and let your entire body release. Hold for as long as you wish!
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Yoga for Beginners: 10 Basic Poses (Asanas) to Get You Started
Being a beginner isn’t easy but my first yoga class was enough to make me a regular on the mat. Half an hour into the session, I’d fallen four of times, felt sweaty and had almost made up my mind – not to give in. Every pose made me challenge my physical endurance and flexibility and I seemed to enjoy that, albeit gradually. While I moved through a progression of yoga asana from Surya Namaskar to Naukasana, all muscles in my body were engaged. Working my limbs, shoulders stretched, twisting my torso. I juggled between maintaining postures and attempting to breathe the right way. I had already dreamt of the hot bath or oil massage that I’ll head for but there was no need to. I felt light, relaxed and a sense of relief took over. Here’s me telling you about yoga for beginners.
Some will tell you that yoga exercise is too slow and boring instead it is an intense and holistic exercise. This ancient form of fitness with roots in India focuses on developing balance, strength and flexibility. Don’t let anyone misguide you as these are all consequences of practicing yoga and not prerequisites. No one expects you to master the asanas on the very first day. Yoga is all about pushing past your body’s limits over time. To begin, it’s helpful to keep the following things in mind, suggests Zubin Atré, founder of AtréYoga Studio in New Delhi.
- If you have a history of a chronic disease or are recovering from an injury, consult your physician before commencing. Let your yoga teacher know of any injuries or pains.
- Do what you easily can. There is no competition. You are expected to move at your own pace. Listen to your body and do not push yourself.
- Many benefits of the yoga practice will unfold progressively. Be regular in your practice and don’t give up because you can’t touch your toes in the first go.
- Don’t get discouraged by the initial lack of flexibility or strength, it improves over time. Be patient and give your body the time to respond.
- Focus on the breath, right from the beginning.
- Understand that every body is unique. Everyone has different levels of strength, stamina, and flexibility. Your lifestyle and goals may also vary. Find a style of yoga that suits your needs.
Your yoga practice can do much more than lend muscle power and reduce stress. A study conducted at University of Illinois indicates that short 20-minute sessions of yoga can help your brain work better and keep your mind focused. A lot depends on the kind of asanas you perform – some of them are energizing like back bends while forward bends have a calming effect. Standing asanas build stamina and balancing asanas cultivate concentration. Twists will help you detoxify the body and release tension. If you’re new to yoga, start with these basic asanas.
“Each pose can be held for 3 to 5 long breaths. You can practice these twice a week and gradually make it a part of your daily routine,” recommeds Zubin.
Here are a few basic Yoga asanas that can help you get started:
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This pose teaches one to stand with majestic steadiness like a mountain. The word ‘Tada’ means a mountain, that’s where the name comes from. It involves the major groups of muscles and improves focus and concentration. It is the starting position for all the other asanas.
Stand with your heels slightly apart and hang your arms besides the torso. Gently lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them softly down on the floor. Balance your body weight on your feet. Lift your ankles and firm your thigh muscles while rotating them inwards. As you inhale, elongate your torso and when you exhale release your shoulder blades away from your head. Broaden your collarbone and elongate your neck. Your ears, shoulders, hips and ankles should all be in one line. You can check your alignment by standing against the wall initially. You can even raise your hands and stretch them. Breathe easy.
Yoga poses: This pose teaches one to stand with majestic steadiness like a mountain
2. Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
This pose 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.
Yoga poses: This pose gives you a sense of grounding
3. Adho Mukho Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
This pose stretches hamstrings, chest and lengthens the spine, providing additional blood flow to the head. It is will leave you feeling energized. Sit on your heels, stretch your arms forward on the mat and lower your head. Form a table, like pushing your hands, strengthening your legs and slowly raising your hips. Press your heels down, let your head hand freely and tighten your waist.
Yoga asanas: This pose stretches hamstrings, chest and lengthens the spine
4. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
It stretches the legs and torso, mobilizes the hips and promotes deep breathing, leaving one with enlivening effects. Stand with your feet wide apart. Stretch your right foot out (90 degrees) while keeping the leg closer to the torso. Keep your feet pressed against the ground and balance your weight equally on both feet. Inhale and as you exhale bend your right arm and make it touch the ground while your left arm goes up. Keep your waist straight. Ensure that your body is bent sideways and not forward or backwards. Stretch as much as you can while taking long, deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Yoga poses: It stretches the legs and torso, mobilizes the hips and promotes deep breathing
5. Kursiasana (Chair Pose)
An intensely powerful pose, this one strengthens the muscles of the legs and arms. It builds your willpower and has an energizing effect on the body and mind. Stand straight with your feet slightly apart. Stretch your arms but don’t bend your elbow. Inhale and bend your knees, pushing your pelvis down like you are sitting on chair. Keep your hands parallel to the ground and back straight. Take deep breaths. Bend gradually but make sure your knees don’t go beyond your toes.
Yoga Poses: An intensely powerful pose, this one strengthens the muscles of the legs and arms
6. Naukasana (Boat Pose)
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.
Yoga asanas: It tightens the abdominal muscles and strengthens shoulders and upper back
7. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
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.
Yoga asanas: This one will strengthen the lower back muscles while cushioning the spine
This asana helps in improving the flexibility of the hamstrings and hips and lengthens the spine. Sit up with your back straight and toes pointing outwards. Breathe in and raise your hands over your head and stretch. Now, while breathing out bring your hands down and bend then forward to touch your legs. Place your hands wherever they reach, hold your toes if you can but don’t force yourself. Breathe in and elongate your spine. While breathing out, keep your navel close to your knees.
Yoga asanas: This asana helps in improving the flexibility of the hamstrings and hips
9. Child’s Pose
This restful posture helps let go and surrender. It restores vitality physically, mentally and emotionally. Insert the pose between challenging asanas, and practice with closed eyes, listening to the sound of your breath. Bend your knees and sit on your heels. Keep your hips on your heels. Lower your head on the mat and bring your hands forward by your side. Press your thighs against your chest and breathe lightly.
Yoga asanas: This restful posture helps let go and surrender
CommentsSukhasna is a comfortable position for pranayama and meditation. It gives the practitioner a centering effect. All the other asnas are done to eventually make the body feel comfortable to be able to sit in this position for meditation. This asna takes the yoga practice beyond its physical dimension and helps you get in touch with your spiritual side. Sit comfortably on the mat with crossed legs (left leg tugged inside the right thigh and right leg tugged inside the left thigh). Keep spine straight. Place your hands on your knees. You can use the Jnana mudra or Chin mudra. Relax your body and breathe gently.
Yoga asanas: Sukhasna is a comfortable position for pranayama
I quite often hear people say that they just don’t have time to practise yoga at home or they’re not sure what specifically to practise. Considering that most yoga practices are an hour long, this is understandable, so I’ve put together the following 10 minute yoga sequence you can do at home. It’s based on the first asanas of the Sivananda yoga sequence after the sun salutations, so it’s great for flexibility, core strength and feeling rejuvenated. It’s not a practice to tire you out, so you could practise it on your lunch break or whenever you’ve got a spare 10 minutes.
If you’ve never tried these asanas before, you are advised to learn them directly from a teacher first. And remember, never to push yourself with yoga. All asanas should feel stable and comfortable. You can practice this sequence after a series of sun salutations.
1. Double leg raises
How to practice double leg raises
Lie flat on your back with your palms facing down either side of your body. If you have lower back pain, place your hands underneath your lower back with your palms facing down. Flex your toes towards your head and on the inhale, lift both of your legs to the ceiling or sky. On the exhale, lower your legs to a few centimetres off the floor. Repeat this process 10 times. Don’t forget to keep breathing.
Benefits of double leg raises
- Great warm up core strengthening exercise
- Prepares you for the next asanas (particularly the headstand and shoulderstand)
- Strengthens the abdominal muscles
2. Child’s pose (Balasana)
How to do child’s pose
kneel down with your big toes touching, open your knees and place your forehead on the floor with your palms facing up behind you. Breathe and relax.
Benefits of child’s pose
- Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles,
- Calms your brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue
- Relieves back, neck and hip pain when done with head and torso supported
- One of the most restorative yoga asanas
- Creates a sense of emotional relief
Spend as long as you need in child’s pose. For this 10 minute sequence, however, I recommend about 30 seconds.
3. Dolphin exercises or headstand (Sirsasana)
How to do the dolphin exercise
Sit down in a kneeling position, measure shoulder width distance with your arms and interlock your hands in front of you. You can also do this exercise with your palms flat on the floor. Next, inhale and push up into the position I am in (see first photo). On the exhale, lower yourself down into a plank position (see second photo). This process can be repeated 10 times. Afterwards, relax for a few breaths in child’s pose.
Benefits of the dolphin exercise
- Prepares your body for the headstand
- Strengthens your core muscles
- Improves muscle tone
- Improves arm balance
1 minute including some time to relax in child’s pose at the end
How to do the supported headstand
Sit down in a kneeling position, measure shoulder width distance with your arms and interlock your hands in front of you. Place your head in front of your interlocked hands so they can act as a support. Next, inhale, flex your feet and push your hips up. Walk your feet as far as you can towards your head. Next, bend one leg up, followed by the other leg. When your core is strong enough, your legs will glide effortlessly up. Do not kick or force your legs. With practise, it will come. You can now start to straighten your legs up towards the sky or ceiling and hold the position.
If you’re practising the headstand, there’s no need to do the dolphin exercises unless you want an extra workout.
Benefits of the supported headstand
- Calms your brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands
- Strengthens the arms, legs, and spine
- Tones the abdominal organs
- Improves digestion
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis
- I also practise headstands to get rid of my headaches
30 seconds – 1 minute
4. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
How to do the shoulderstand
Lie flat on your back with your feet flexed towards your face and your palms facing down beside you. Lift your legs and your hips and support your lower back with the palms of your hand. Next walk your hands up your back towards your head, bringing your legs further towards the sky or ceiling.
If you feel steady in the shoulderstand, you might want to practise the candle asana (see second photo). To do this, start by lifting one arm to the side of your leg, followed by the other arm. For the ultimate balance, close your eyes.
Benefits of the shoulderstand
- Creates happiness and health in the body
- Increases the circulation around the lymphatic system.
- Lengthens the spinal nerves, which relieves tension in the head, neck and shoulders.
- Soothes the nervous system
- Great for high blood pressure, stress, anxiety and releasing tension
- Good for insomnia
- Increases metabolism
Benefits of shoulder stand taken from Elephant Journal
30 seconds to 1 minute
5. Plough (Halasana)
How to do the plough
Whilst in the shoulderstand, lower both legs down behind you. If your feet touch the floor, release your hands from your back and interlock them away from your body. For a deeper stretch, you might like to bend both legs either side of your face.
Benefits of the plough
- Calms your brain
- Stimulates the abdominal organs and the thyroid gland
- Stretches your shoulders and spine
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Reduces stress and fatigue
- Therapeutic for backache, headache, infertility, insomnia, sinusitis
30 seconds to 1 minute
6. Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
How to do the bridge
You can come into the bridge position from the shoulder stand or lie on your back and lift your hips. Take hold of both of your ankles and continue to breathe.
Benefits of the bridge
- Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
- Calms your brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression
- Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid
- Improves digestion
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
- Relieves menstrual discomfort
- Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia
Benefits taken from Yoga Journal
7. Fish (Matsyasana)
How to do the fish pose
Lie flat on your back and place your hands underneath your body with your palms facing down. On your next inhale, lift your head and chest and on the exhale release the top of your head to the ground behind you. The weight should be on your forearms in this posture (if you’re doing the first position).
For a more advanced variation, place both legs in the lotus position and hold the big toes with your hands.
Benefits of the fish pose
- Fish pose is supposedly the ‘destroyer of all diseases’
- Stretches and stimulates the muscles of the stomach and front of the neck
- Strengthens the muscles of the upper back and back of the neck
- Improves posture
8. Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
How to do the seated forward bend
Stretch your legs out in front of you, flex your feet towards your body, stretch your arms hight above your head, and on the exhale lower your body down with a straight back. Keep your legs straight and don’t worry about how far you can reach. You can choose your hand position here — holding your bog toes, holding your legs, placing your palms flat on the floor beside your legs or binding.
Benefits of the seated forward bend
- Calms your brain
- Helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings
- Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
- Improves digestion
- Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
- Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
- Good for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis
9. Corpse pose (Savasana)
How to practise corpse pose
Lie flat on your back with your feet and arms apart and your palms facing upwards; tilt your head slightly forwards so you’re resting on the back of your head, not the top.
Before you settle, you might like to tense and relax different parts of your body such as pushing your lower back into the floor, tensing your legs and relaxing them, hunching your shoulders up towards your face and lowering them back down…
Benefits of corpse pose
- Calms your brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Relaxes your body after the physical asana practice
- Reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia
- Helps to lower blood pressure
For the 10 minute yoga sequence, a few minutes is sufficient. It’s important not to miss Savasana out — always put aside the time for this asana!
Thank yourself for your yoga practice and enjoy the rest of your day. I hope you find this 10 minute yoga sequence useful.
I’m currently doing a yoga teacher training course with YMCA Fit and Yoga Professionals. However, this sequence was inspired by Sivananda Yoga.
Thank you to the following websites for the yoga health benefits for each of the asanas listed in this 10 minute yoga sequence: Yoga Journal, Elephant Journal and Yoga Wiz.
Photography by Dominic Eve
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