For those who have some yoga experience, their first class is something they won’t soon forget. From the new ways of bending and twisting to all of the feelings that come from stretching muscles you didn’t know you had, there’s nothing quite like your first yoga session.
If you haven’t yet experienced your first yoga class, this is the guide for you. Explore the yoga poses that are ideal for beginners to try to get an idea of whether it’s right for you.
The Foundation of Yoga - Poses and Asanas
The core of yoga that separates the practice from any other workout is it’s detailed and expansive list of poses, also known as asanas. Various ancient texts state that the 84 asanas were handed down from the god Shiva, and each details a single pose. These poses are designed to promote awareness, relaxation, and to stretch the body in ways that improve vitality.
Some Poses Can Be Quite Challenging
If you’re thinking, “so you have to hold a pose, how hard can it be?” then you probably haven’t seen some of the more advanced asanas. Certain yoga poses demand high levels of balance, flexibility, and a mastery of more simple positions. That’s why before you’re able to show off your perfect Eagle Pose or Tripod Headstand, it’s important to start with the basics first.
Never Forget the Importance of Deep Breathing in Yoga
While performing any yoga poses, it’s crucial to remember that deep breathing is a vital component of every yoga routine. In fact, the transition between movements is often dictated by the length of your breaths. For example, your yoga instructor may tell you to inhale your hands overhead, and exhale as you fold forward. This emphasis on breathing is one of the aspects of yoga that gives it its relaxing benefits and enables the student to move with purpose.
Yoga Poses You Can Try Right Now
We get it - you have your mat rolled out, you’re decked out in your most comfortable yoga pants, and you’re ready to try some poses. Use our guide to ensure that you’re starting with the basics, and know that you’ll still receive the benefits, especially from these six, well-rounded beginner poses.
The Bare Basics - Calming and Effective Poses
These initial poses should require no balance or stress, yet will feel great and stretch crucial muscle groups.
1. Child Pose (Balasana)
Child pose is so relaxing and relieving of tension, that it’s one of the most frequent poses you’ll encounter in many schools of yoga. It’s also considered a resting pose, so when the practice becomes more intense, Child pose is a wonderful respite before continuing on with the remainder of the yoga routine.
To execute the Child Pose, simply start on your knees so you’re sitting on your heels - from there, bow forward, releasing your head and body down until they’re resting on your mat. Outstretch your arms forward as your torso stretches between your thighs, and your hips rest upon your heels. An alternative is to place your arms by your side, if outstretched arms are too straining on your back.
Benefits of the Child Pose
- Excellent low impact stretch for the ankles, thighs, and hips
- Often used to relieve back and neck pain
Here a yoga class demonstrates the child pose, Balasana.
A Yoga Class Performs the Child Pose
2. Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana to Bitilasana)
Although actually two poses, Cat/Cow as it’s often referred to, requires only a simple and subtle release of the spine to move slowly from one pose to the other. Both poses are very simple and the sequence is arguably the best for spine health.
To start Cat/Cow
You’ll have to begin in tabletop position, so simply position yourself on hands and knees with your hips over your knees and hands under your shoulders. To transition into Cat Pose, drop your head down so it’s looking between your knees while rising up to an arch in the spine. From cat, simply lower the spine upward while simultaneously moving your head to look up, ending in Cow Pose. Although incredibly simple, this is one of the most therapeutic spine exercises in all of yoga.
Benefits of the Cat/Cow Sequence
- Phenomenal stretch for your neck, back, and spine
Standing Poses That Are Ideal for Beginners
Yoga has some fun, effective, and challenging poses that are performed while standing up. These are examples that any beginner will be able to try. The key intention of standing poses is improving balance.
3. Warrior 2 (Virabhadra 2)
Named after a fierce warrior who was said to be the incarnation of the Hindu God Shiva, Warrior 2 is one of the most fundamental standing poses in yoga. While it’s most often paired with transitions such as reverse warrior, beginners can practice Warrior 2 alone for practice.
Getting Into Warrior 2
Step one leg out across the length of your yoga mat while the other stands straight behind you. The stance resembles a moderate lunge, with the front foot facing forward and the rear foot pointing outward at a 90 degree angle, making sure all limbs are lined up properly. From there, simply hold your front arm straight ahead of you with the fingers outstretched and palm facing down - do the same with your rear arm behind you, and look forward to complete the pose.
Benefits of Warrior 2
- Stimulates the abdominal muscles
- Stretches the chest, shoulders, and groin
A Woman Practices Warrior 2 in the Outdoors
4. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Also known as down dog or downward dog, the downward-facing dog pose is arguably the most quintessential yoga pose there is, and considered another resting pose before the next transition. As the first inversion learned in yoga class, downward-facing dog pose offers a multitude of benefits, and it’s used frequently to transition from standing to sitting and to sequence through different poses.
How to do Downward-Facing Dog
From a standing position, bend down and forward so your hands are planted around the front edge of your yoga mat. Position your legs so they’re as straight as possible behind you, putting energy into gradually lowering your heels into the floor. A good focus while executing down dog is making your spine as elongated as you can to feel a mild stretch in the hamstrings without crunching your head between the shoulder area. Feel free to hold the pose for as long as is comfortable.
Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog
- Exceptional stretch for the shoulders, calves, and hamstrings
- Inversion poses like down dog are said to relieve stress and headaches
A woman practices Downward-Facing Dog in a park.
Beginner Poses that Provide a Deep Stretch
While all of the yoga asanas move various parts of your body, some provide a stretch that’s so deep you can feel the difference. Try these poses for an extraordinary stretch you can immediately feel.
5. Cobra Pose (Bhujanga)
Few yoga poses provide as strong of a stretch for your lower back than the cobra pose, and luckily, it’s extremely easy to perform.
How to Transition into Cobra Pose
From laying face down on your mat, ensure that your legs are completely outstretched and that your elbows are tucked in close to your sides with hands planted, palms facing down, near your chest. When you inhale, slowly press your chest up as your torso slightly curves upward, assuming an upward facing position. Since this is a powerful spine stretch, it’s crucial to only rise up to the point that’s comfortable.
Benefits of the Cobra Pose
- Provides an unparalleled, deep stretch for the spine while strengthening the back muscles as well.
- Stimulates the abs and nearby organs.
A woman performs the Cobra Pose on her deck.
6. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
A relatively simple pose that provides a major stretch, the Bridge Pose is a phenomenal pose for yoga newbies and veterans alike.
How to Do the Bridge Pose
From a position lying on your back with feet flat on the floor, ensure that your heels are pulled in as close to the hips as possible. By pressing down with your hands and inner feet, raise your hips up off of the floor as high as you comfortably can. Also if you’re able to, try and clasp your hands under your body when you’re in the upward position. Hold the pose for about a minute then gently lower your spine to the ground.
Benefits of the Bridge Pose
- Considered good for digestion
- Effective stretch for the spine and neck
Start Your Yoga Journey the Safe and Smart Way
Not surprising, injuries do happen in yoga if not properly warmed up or following positioning protocol. Some of the more challenging poses require balance and advanced knowledge of the fundamentals. That’s why it’s vital to start with the easier beginning poses that you can do as soon as you step into your first yoga class. By starting slow and heeding the advice of a trained instructor, you can start your yoga journey the smart way, and continue it for years to come.