Do you have that one zen friend who is always trying to get you to join them for a yoga class, declaring how much it will help you de-stress and relax? While you may be intrigued by the many benefits of yoga, if you’ve never set foot in a yoga studio you might be feeling the opposite of relaxed, not knowing what to expect! You’ll feel better once you’ve got a few yoga poses for beginners in your back pocket.
Or perhaps you are that wants-to-be-zen friend venturing into the world of YouTube yoga classes and feeling a bit overwhelmed as a beginner, with all the new terminology and confusing Sanskrit names. Yoga asana? (You might be thinking more like “ahhh-son-of-a…!”)
As a beginner, it’s important to not let yourself be discouraged by lack of knowledge; that’s why you go to a class, after all! But to give you a bit of a head start, here are 5 basic yoga poses for beginners you’re likely to encounter in a standard yoga class. We’ll break down these common asanas, or poses for you, so that you can step on to your yoga mat with enthusiasm and confidence!
Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana
Commonly referred to as simply “Down Dog,” this one may be the most recognizable yoga pose out there, and it’s a great way to start learning yoga poses for beginners. Downward Facing Dog will open up the backs of your legs, lengthens your spine, and strengthens your shoulders and arms.
To get into Downward Facing Dog, begin on your hands and knees, squared off in a Table-Top position. Spread your fingers wide and press down through the palms of your hands. Tuck your toes and start to straighten your legs and press your heels toward the floor. Your hips should be pointing toward the sky, so that your body is in the shape of an upside-down V. Keep your head aligned with your spine by keeping your ears in between your biceps.
Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana
When people say “me, do yoga? But I can’t even touch my toes!” – Forward Bend is the pose they’re talking about! This yoga posture lengthens the backs of your legs (especially the hamstrings) as well as all the muscles along your spine, and offers a nice release for your lower back.
To practice Uttanasana, begin standing with your feet at hip-width distance at the top of your mat. Hinge from your hips and bow forward. Let the top of your head hang and relax the back of your neck. If your hands cannot reach the floor, you can bend your arms and take hold of opposite elbows, in the “Rag Doll” variation. Likewise, if your hamstrings are super tight, you can keep a gentle bend in your knees.
Boat Pose – Navasana
If you thought yoga was only about stretching, Boat Pose will show you just how great of a workout yoga can be! This yoga posture definitely fires up your core, while also strengthening and stretching your back and spine.
Begin seated on your yoga mat with your knees bent and feet planted in front of you. Bring your hands to the backs of your thighs and sit up tall. Rock forward slightly until you feel you are balancing on your sitting bones, rather than your sacrum. Engage your core by scooping your navel in and up. Then, lift one foot off the ground until your leg is bent at a 90-degree angle. When you are ready, lift the other foot. Flex your feet and press the inner arches of your feet together. To progress, try reaching your arms forward.
Warrior 1 – Virabhadrasna 1
Just as the name suggests, Warrior 1 is a powerful posture! This asana strengthens your ankles, quads, glutes, and hamstrings of your bent front leg while lengthening the hip of your extended leg. Practicing this pose will also open up your chest and shoulders, and stretches your psoas muscle.
An easy way to enter Virabhadrasna is to begin in Downward Facing Dog. Step your right foot between your hands and plant your foot firmly. Then, spin your left heel down and press down through the outer pinky-toe edge of your foot. Bend into your right knee, being mindful it stays aligned with your ankles and toes. Lift your arms over your head, drawing your shoulders down and away from your ears, and set your gaze directly ahead of you.
To exit the pose, plant your hands on either side of your right foot, lift your left heel and pivot your leg so your kneecap points to the ground, and step back to your Down Dog. Repeat the posture on the other side, stepping your left foot forward.
Extended Side Angle – Utthita Parsvakonasana
Last on the list of yoga poses for beginners is Extended Side Angle. While the Sanskrit name for this pose is a mouthful to say, its English name perfectly describes its shape. It begins with the same lower body foundation as Warrior 1, so this asana also works your thighs, glutes, and the stabilizing muscles of your ankle. In addition to building strength, Extended Side Angle also lengthens your side body and opens your chest and shoulders.
Now that you know Warrior 1, getting to Extended Side Angle just requires a couple more steps! With your right foot forward in Virabhadrasana 1, bring your right forearm to your right thigh and open your chest toward the left. Reach your left arm forward toward the top of your mat with your bicep next to your ear, creating one long line from the outer edge of your left foot all the way to the tips of your left fingers.
Come out of this posture by placing your hands down on either side of your right foot and pivoting on your left toes before stepping your left foot back to Downward Dog. Repeat Extended Side Angle on your other side, moving through Warrior 1 with your left leg forward.
You’re Ready to Try Yoga Poses for Beginners!
Simply knowing the names of a few common yoga postures, as well as some basic alignment will give you a head start in your first yoga class. When the yoga instructor calls a pose you recognize, you’ll feel a boost of confidence that will carry you through to the next pose. Whether you’re starting a yoga practice at home or building up the courage to take a class at a yoga studio, we hope this guide to yoga poses for beginners gives you the inspiration to roll out your mat and move your asana!