10 Simple Yoga Poses for Beginners

If you are a beginner, there are several yoga poses 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 short-list these poses since there are over 300 positions in the physical yoga practice (asana), but the following 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 10 simple yoga poses for beginners. Note: You don’t have to be able to do all these poses exactly as described — ALWAYS listen to your body and modify if needed.

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana) 

mountain (1).jpgMountain Pose is the base for all standing poses.  It might look like you’re just standing there, but Mountain Pose is an active pose that helps improve posture, balance, and  focus.  Its name comes from the Sanskrit words “tada” (meaning “mountain”) and “asana” (meaning “pose”).  Tadasana is the foundational pose for all standing yoga postures and full inversions

How to do it:

  • Start standing with your feet together and arms at your sides.  (If you have trouble balancing, stand with your feet wider apart).  Press your weight evenly across the balls and arches of your feet.  Straighten your legs, engage your quadriceps to lift your kneecaps.
  • Bring your pelvis to neutral and tuck in your tailbone slightly but don’t round your lower back.  Rotate your thighs slightly inward.  Draw your abdominals in as you open your chest and press the tops of the shoulders down.
  • As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head; 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.  Your neck, shoulders, hips, and ankles should all be in one line.  Softly gaze forward toward the horizon line and keep your breathing even.

2. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) 

Standing Forward Bend lengthens the spinal column and stretches the backs of the legs and the back muscles. This posture stimulates digestive, uro-genital, nervous and endocrine systems.

How to do it:

  • From Mountain pose exhale and bend forward from the hip joints (not the waist.)  Bend the knees enough to bring your head towards your knees.  Bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles.  If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows.
  • Relax the head and neck.  Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling.    Work on straightening the legs to deepen the stretch in the backs of the legs.
  • Breathe and hold for several breaths, actively pressing the belly into the thighs on the inhalation.

3. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

dd (1)One of the most recognised yoga poses, DFD is a mild inversion that builds strength while stretching the whole body.  “Down Dog” is an essential component of Sun Salutations and is often done many times during a yoga class.  It can be used as a transitional pose, a resting pose, and a strength-builder.

How to do it:

  • From Table Top position (on hands and knees), tuck the toes under, press into the hands and begin to lift the hips up towards the ceiling.
  • Spread the fingers wide apart with the middle finger facing forward, and the hands shoulder width apart.
  • Using straight (but not locked) arms, press the hips up reaching the chest towards the thighs.  Lift up through the tailbone to keep the spine straight and long.
  • Have the feet hip-width apart with the toes facing forward. Press the heels into the floor feeling a stretch in the back of the legs.  Your heels might not be able to touch the floor and this is fine but remember, if you are up on the balls of your feet, it shifts the trajectory of the pose forward instead of back.  It will never be a resting position unless you take your weight back into your heels.
  • You can have a small bend at the knees to keep the back flat.
  • Let the head and neck hang freely from the shoulders and look up at the belly button.

4. Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I) 

warrior 1 bkg.jpgWarrior 1 is a standing pose that opens the hips and strengthens your legs. It also promotes good posture and spinal alignment along with core strength.  It is great for overall body strength and flexibility.
 

How to do it:

  • From a standing position or in mountain pose, step your left foot to the back of your mat and lower the inside of your foot so that your back foot is firmly on the mat at about a 45 degree angle.
  • Bend your right knee 90 degrees with toes pointing to the top of the mat.  Straighten your back leg.  Check to see if both heels are aligned.
  • Reach up strongly through your arms.  Lengthen the sides of your waist, and lift through your chest.  Keep your palms and fingers active and reaching.  You can keep your arms parallel, or press your palms together.
  • Keep your shoulders dropped away from your ears.
  • Press down through the outer edge of your back foot, keeping your back leg straight and keep your pelvis turned toward the front of your mat.
  • Relax shoulders and breathe gently in and out.  Hold 30 seconds and switch sides.

5. Tree Pose (Vrkasana)

tree.jpgTree Pose is usually the first standing balance pose that’s taught to yoga beginners.  Tree pose strengthens your legs and core while opening your hips and stretching your inner thighs and groin muscles.

How to do it:

  • Start in Mountain Pose and take a moment to feel both your feet root into the floor with your weight distributed equally on all four corners of each foot.
  • Then begin to shift your weight into your right foot, lifting your left foot off the floor. Keep your right leg straight but don’t lock the knee.  
  • Bend your left knee and bring the sole of your right foot high onto your inner right thigh.  (Be careful to avoid placing the foot directly on the side of the knee since that puts your joint in a vulnerable position.)  If you’re struggling with balance, place your foot onto your inner calve or ankle instead.  Use a wall for balance if necessary.
  • Press your foot into your thigh and your thigh back into your foot with equal pressure. This will help you keep both hips squared toward the front.  
  • Bring your hands together in prayer position or extend up over your head like a tree!
  • Focus your gaze on something stationary to help you keep your balance. 
  • Take 5 to 10 breaths, then lower your left foot to the floor and do the other side.

6. Sphinx pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)

sphinx (1)Sphinx pose is a beginner pose for back bending poses and a great substitute for Cobra pose as it’s less demanding on the spine.  Sphinx pose is also used a lot in Yin yoga where poses are held for a few minutes at a time.  It creates and maintains a healthy lower back curve – which can be adversely affected by aging and long periods of sitting.  Practicing Sphinx can also help ease lower back pain and stiffness.

If you already have back pain and problems, consult your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you to practise this pose.

How to do it: 

  • Lie on your stomach either on a mat or a blanket. Bring your legs together and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels.   Rotate your outer thighs down towards your mat.  This will protect your back and prepare you to safely achieve a deeper back bend.
  • Extend out through your toes.  Place your forearms parallel to each other on the ground so your elbows are aligned under your shoulders.  
  • Draw the belly between the pubic bone and navel slightly away from the floor. This should produce a small, subtle dome shape in your lower back. Do not over-exaggerate this action or try to force a large gap.
  • Hold the pose for up to 10 deep breaths.  Exhale while slowly releasing down to the floor. Rest on the floor, head turned to one side, to experience energetic and mental shifts.  Repeat again if you’d like.

7. Cat pose (Marjariasana) 

cat (1)

Cat pose is a pose anyone can do to stretch the back and promote spinal flexibility. Generally, cat pose is used in conjunction with cow pose, cat pose is a wonderful way to keep the spine mobile and fluid.  When Cat Pose and other spinal flexibility poses are practiced regularly, the back has prepared itself for such quick twists or bends and is less likely to experience an injury.

How to do it:

  • Begin on your hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders and knees hip-width distance apart.
  • Start with your spine in a “neutral” or flat position, then slowly tuck your tailbone and lower the crown of your head so your back gently rounds.
  • Spread your fingers and press through the base of the fingers, fingertips, heel of the hands, and tops of the feet.
  • Exhale and draw the belly into the spine, round the back, tucking the chin into the chest.
  • Actively press the floor away and feel the stretch in the back.
  • Inhale and come back into your neutral starting position.

8. Cow pose (Bitilasana)

cow (1).jpg

Cow pose, like cat pose is wonderful for spinal flexibility.  In cow pose you will also feel a nice stretch and opening through your chest and front shoulders.  Cow pose gives you the opportunity to stretch the chest and pull the shoulders back to promote better posture.

Don’t be to aggressive with the spine in this pose by pressing the belly down too hard toward the floor.  Instead,  lift through the chest and tailbone and allow the back to curve naturally.

How to do it:

  • Begin on your hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips.
  • Start with your spine in a “neutral” or flat position, then gently lift your chest and tailbone so your back gently curves downward.  Be sure to focus on the lifting – do not press your back downward.  Let the curve happen naturally.
  • Spread your fingers and press through the base of the fingers, fingertips, heel of the hands, and tops of the feet.
  • Start to inhale expanding the belly toward the floor and look slightly upward with a relaxed neck and breathe gently.

9. Child’s pose (Balasana) 

cp (1).jpg

Child’s Pose, is a gentle resting pose that stretches the hips, thighs and legs while calming the mind and relieving stress and tension, it elongates the lower back and opens up the hips.  During child’s pose ensure to maintain a focus on your breathing.

How to do it:

  • Start in table top position (on all-fours) and release your toes on the floor and separate your knees about hip-width distance apart.
  • As you exhale, slowly lower your butt towards your heels, feeling the tailbone lengthen away from the back of your pelvis
  • As your torso folds over your thighs, lengthen the back of your neck and rest your forehead on the floor
  • Extend your arms over your head and feel how the weight of your shoulders lightly spreads the shoulder blades.
  • Doing Child’s Pose with your knees close together, so that your belly is resting on your thighs, is a great way to massage the internal organs which may help move your digestion along.   However you can also come into Extended Child’s Pose where the knees are apart (while toes remain touching), allowing the rib cage to sink deeper, and the arms are extended forward to help lengthen the spine. This pose stretches the spine, hips, knees and relieves tension in the body.

10. Corpse pose (Savasana) 

sav (1).jpgSavasana allows your body and mind time to process what has happened during a yoga class.  It provides a necessary counterpoint to the effort you put forth during asana practice.  You may also practice Savasana before sleeping as a way to quiet your mind and get more restful sleep.

How to do it:

  • Lie down on your back.  Separate your legs. Let go of holding your legs straight so that your feet can fall open to either side.
  • Bring your arms alongside your body, slightly away from your torso. Turn your palms to face upwards but don’t try to keep them open.  Let the fingers gently curl in.
  • Release any tension in your body, including your face and allow yourself to melt onto the floor!
  • Let your breathing occur naturally.  If your mind wanders, you can bring your attention to your breath and the movement of your diaphragm.
  • Stay for a minimum of five minutes.  Play some music if you like!
  • To come out, first begin to the deepen your breath.  Then start to wiggle your fingers and toes, slowly reawakening your body.  Then stretch your arms overhead for a full body stretch from hands to feet.
  • If the back feels uncomfortable, you could use a blanket for more support to raise the spine away from the floor.  If your neck hurts, use a blanket or a cushion below the neck and the head for extra support.  To give better support for the back, use a bolster or blanket under your knees.

Thanks for reading.  Leave a comment and let me know how you get on.

 


“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.”
-Kevin Trudeau

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