If you have been thinking about beginning a yoga practice but feel uncomfortable going to a group class or don’t know where to start with a home practice, this yoga for beginners blog is for you!
It is always good to find a teacher to help convey the nuances of this very profound and meaningful practice. Having a home practice is also important in starting and deepening your practice. Familiarizing yourself with these key poses can get you on your way and deepen your practice.
With hundreds of different postures in an asana practice, even an experienced yogi can become overwhelmed with all the possibilities. Below we will cover ten basic yoga poses to get you started.
Practice these poses daily until you familiarize yourself with them and you will have an excellent start in your home practice and feel more comfortable attending a group class.
Yoga For Beginners
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
This pose is the base for all standing poses providing a sense of how to ground into your feet and feel the earth below you. It may seem that you are “simply standing”, but there is so much more going on.
Start by standing with your feet together and arms by your side. Become aware of the soles of you feel and find equanimity – that place where you are not leaning in any direction and feel centered in your stance. Spread all ten toes as you gently press them down. Engage the muscles in your thighs lifting your kneecaps. Gently draw your abdominals in and up as you lift your chest and soften the tops of the shoulders downward.
Feel your shoulder blades gently coming towards each other as your chest opens. Keep your palms facing inward. Breathing deeply into the belly imagine a string drawing the crown of the head upward. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward Dog is a great pose, and often one of the first learned in yoga class. An excellent way to start the day to awaken and feel into the body. Usually intertwined within a full practice, it can be used at the beginning, end, as a transition pose, or for a rest. The benefits include stretching, strengthening, stimulating, opening and releasing.
To practice Downward Facing Dog come to hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Your fingers (especially the middle one) point straight ahead. Tuck your toes and lift your hips elongating your spine and pressing back through your heels to your edge. Toes are slightly pointing inward as the thighs internally rotate. Think of moving your torso back and up, toward your legs, as if you are trying to stand up.
For tight hamstrings slightly bend your knees and widen your stance taking your feet mat-width apart. Firm the arms, pressing into the pads of the fingers, index finger and thumb creating a slight internal rotation in the forearms. Hollow out the abdominals and keep engaging your legs to keep the torso moving towards the thighs. Keep your breath moving slowly. Hold for 5-8 breaths before releasing to hands and knees.
Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)
A balanced practice included poses not only for flexibility, but that also challenge students to gain strength. Both are necessary for a well-rounded practice and life. Plank pose strengthens the muscles of the upper body and torso. Plank pose can also provide a boost of energy and confidence.
Come to hands and knees and on an exhale stretch one leg back and then on the next exhale stretch the other leg back to meet the first. Keep your wrists under your shoulders and your body in a straight line. Activate the arms creating a slight internal rotation of the elbow creases. Plug the shoulders into the sockets and opening the space in the back of the heart (between the shoulder blades).
If this is too intense for you, in the beginning, drop your knees. Keep your breath fluid and hold the pose for three to five full breaths. Think of your body like a stick with four limbs. Lower to the floor to rest before repeating.
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
Warrior Poses are ideal for building strength and stamina. While stretching the hips and thighs, Warrior One also builds strength in the entire lower body and core. This pose is also a gentle back bend and is great for opening the front body (quads, hip flexors, and psoas).
Stand at the front of your mat and take a giant step back with your left foot and ground it at an angle. Keep your right knee over your right ankle, your hips facing forward, and your left leg internally rotating as your left foot grounds into the mat. Sweep your arms overhead with palms together lifting your chest and dropping your shoulder blades down the back as you statically draw your arms back gazing forward or up.
Root down through your feet as you extend upward through the upper body. Take 5-7 breaths before stepping forward and moving to the other side.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Warrior II is an external hip opener but also opens the inner thighs and groin while building strength in the body and core.
Stand at the front of your mat placing your right foot in the center with toes pointing forward and take a giant step back with your left foot grounding it at a 45-degree angle. Align the feet so that you have a front heel to back arch alignment. Draw your front knee just over (not past) your ankle as you square your front leg.
Find your center and then draw your arms up to shoulder height extending them in front and behind you. Take your gaze over your right fingertips. Soften your shoulders and your gaze and take 5-7 breaths before moving to the other side.
Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
For beginners the joys of Triangle Pose are experienced through the opening of the hip joints and chest, and as the legs stretch and strengthen! Over time this pose helps to remind you of the heart of yoga philosophy – the balance between opposites. Explore the strength and power of the legs in contrast with the lifting of the back and arms.
Start with a wide stance. The distance of the feet and legs for this poses will vary based on the length of your legs and your suppleness and balance. Find a position that is comfortable.
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. Find a heal-to-arch alignment with your feet.
Engage your quadriceps and abdominals as you shift your hips back and extend your right arm forward, Then allow your right hand to float down organically to your ankle, shin, or knee (or a block if available) and sweep your left arm up to toward the sky.
When placing your right hand try to keep your front leg straight and your heart open as you extend your left hand upward. Turn your gaze upward and hold for 5-8 breaths. Imagine you are aligning the whole backside of your body with a flat wall. In the beginning, you might even practice at a wall to help with alignment. Lift up to standing and repeat on the opposite side.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Tree pose is a great standing balance for beginners for gaining focus and clarity while also breathing and balancing on one foot! As adults, we sometimes lose the acuity of balance from lack of practicing this skill. Tree pose is a great way to challenge and improve your balance.
Start standing in mountain pose. Shift your weight to your right foot and place your heel on your ankle, your foot on you inner shin, or on your upper inner thigh. Use the variation that challenges you.
Place your hands in prayer right over the heart or raise them above you with palms together. Take your gaze softly forward and find a point (yoga calls it a Drishti) on which to gaze. Root down through your grounded foot as you extend through your crown and take 5-7 breaths keeping your abdomen engaged and your shoulders relaxed.
Release your lifted leg to the floor and move to the other side. Try this pose with your back against a smooth wall if you are finding it hard to balance.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Seated forward bend is a perfect pose for everyone to begin to open up the body and learn to keep breathing through what may be an uncomfortable pose.
Start seated with legs extended in front and together while gently flexing your feet. On an inhale lift up through your chest with hands beside your hips. As you exhale, begin to hinge forward extending from your waist through the heart (instead of rounding forward) and walking your hands forward. Find your edge and release your head, shoulders, neck, and arms and take 5-7 breaths.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
A counter pose to seated forward bend. This pose is a great gentle backbend for beginners; stretching the front body and strengthening the back body.
Lie on your back with your feet hip distance apart, parallel to each other and close to the sit-bones. Ground down through your feet and lift your hips off the mat. To go a little further you can interlace your fingers underneath you and tuck your shoulders blades underneath your back. Gently press your hands into the mat as you open up through your chest. Hold for 5-7 breaths.
Child’s Pose (Adho Mukha Virasana)
Child’s Pose is the traditional “go to” resting pose in yoga. When you need a break during practice, move into Child’s Pose. Unwind at night before bed or anytime you need to release and let go of the stress of the day by coming to Child’s Pose.
Come to all fours in tabletop position. On an exhale lengthen your sit bones back toward your heels and then extend your arms out in front of you, melting through your heart. Allow your forehead to lower to the mat (or a block or blanket) and allow your whole body to release.
Some modifications would be to draw your arms by your sides with your palms up and fingertips pointing back and take your knees wide and your big toes together before reaching your sit bones back. Hold as long as desired and enjoy.
As you begin or reignite your journey on the mat you may also find An Open Letter To A New Yoga Student helpful. Thank you for reading Yoga for Beginners and congratulations on starting your yoga practice. May your journey be transformative!
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