Yoga Poses for Beginners
Pose #1 – Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose with Upward Stretch – Stand straight up with your legs together or slightly parallel to each other, stretching your body. Open up your back and straighten your shoulders. Extend your spine from the top of your head to your tailbone. Lift your arms from your sides until they are in line with the rest of your body and continue to stretch. Modifications: The are more than a few variations for the placement of the hands. Fingers can be interlaced with the index finger pointing up, the arms can be down with the palms against the thighs, or the palms can come together in front of the heart. Benefits: Mountain pose improves posture, stability, and confidence. It is the foundation of all standing postures. Avoid if you have a shoulder injury or chronic pain in that region.
Pose #2 – Forward Bend
Forward Bend (uttanasana) – Stand up straight. Keeping your back straight, start bending down toward your toes. When it starts to become difficult, grab your legs with your hands in order to help draw your stomach to your thighs. Lower your head but let it hang freely. Modifications: To better the stretch in the backs of your legs, try leaning forward. If you can, lift your heels less than an inch above the ground and draw your groins into the pelvis. Stretch the muscles from your pelvis down to your heels. Benefits: Uttanasana improves digestion and reduces fatigue, stress and anxiety. It strengthens the knees and leg muscles. Avoid if you have a serious back injury.
Pose #3 – Halfway Lift
Halfway Lift– From Mountain pose, bend at the hips with your back straight. Extend your arms out to your knees, keeping your legs straight. Keep your head in line with your spine and stretch the muscles in your legs, shoulders and back. Modifications: For a stronger stretch, slowly bring your groins closer to the pelvis. Benefits: Helps relieve stress and mild depression while calming the brain. Ardha Uttanasana improves digestion, reduces fatigue and anxiety, and helps fight insomnia. It also strengthens the knees and leg muscles. Don’t lift your head or look forward if you have any sort of neck injury.
Pose #4 – Chaturanga Pose
Chaturanga – Starting in plank pose, keep your elbows directly over your wrists and slowly lower your body to hover a few inches above the floor. Keeping your shoulders in line with your elbows, lift your chest slightly to create a 90 degree angle with your elbows. Utilize the abdominal and leg muscles to their fullest and keep your arms hugged close to your body. Modifications: Try half Chaturanga, with your knees touching the floor, if you haven’t fully built up enough strength in your arms to support your body. For those who are stronger, place a folded towel or blanket under your body while you’re in plank pose. Hover over it as much as you can. Benefits: This pose strengthens and tones the wrists, arms, abdomen and lower back muscles. It is a powerful strength builder. Do not attempt this pose if you have a shoulder, elbow or wrist injury or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pose #5 – Upward Facing Dog
Upward Facing Dog – Begin in plank pose. Bend your arms slightly and lower your pelvis and thighs just above the floor. Straighten your arms. Arch your back as much as possible and look up, not allowing your knees to bend or touch the mat. Let the tops of your feet touch the mat. Modifications: Depending on your level of strength, it might be hard to keep your legs strongly suspended above the floor. If you are having difficulties, roll a thick blanket and place it under your thighs for a light rest. Benefits: Upward facing dog gives you better posture, stronger arms, wrists and spinal muscles, and stretches the chest and shoulders. Avoid this pose if you have a back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome or are pregnant.
Pose #6 – Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Downward Facing Dog – Sit on your heels. Lower your head and stretch your arms forward. Lift the butt into table pose so that only your hands, knees and toes are touching the mat. Press against the mat with your hands and straighten your legs. Let your head hang freely and stretch your legs and waist. Modifications: If you’d like to get a greater work out in your arms, loop a strap around your elbows. Secure it tight enough so that it almost feels like the loop is bringing your arms closer to your body. Resist the tension the loop brings and slightly push your arms outward. Benefits: Relieves stress and calms the brain. Downward dog energizes the body and helps prevent osteoporosis. Additionally, it will help fight insomnia and fatigue. It can be very therapeutic for those with high blood pressure, asthma and flat feet. Avoid this pose if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or are in your last trimester of pregnancy.
Pose #7 – Chair Pose
Chair Pose – Start by standing up straight with your legs together. Raise your arms high above your head and almost connect palms. Bend your knees as much as you can while keeping your heels on the floor. Arch your back slightly. Modifications: To make this pose harder you can squeeze a block or thick book between your thighs.
Pose #8 – Warrior I
Warrior I – Start in mountain pose and slightly step apart so that your feet are roughly 4 feet apart. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other. Turn your left foot toward the right by 45 to 60 degrees. Turn your right foot to the right by about 90 degrees. Alight both of your heels and rotate your torso to the right. Bend your right knee over the right ankle so that your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Reach your arms together and point toward the sky. Modifications: It might be difficult to keep the back heel grounded. If it helps, you can place a small object under your heel. As you continue to stretch, ween yourself off of using an object to help you. Benefits: This pose really stretches the muscles in your back, chest and shoulders. Your arms and legs should feel a little stretch as well.
Pose #9 – Warrior II
Warrior II – Just like in Warrior I, start in mountain pose and slightly step apart so that your feet are roughly 4 feet apart. Raise your arms so that they are in line with your legs and parallel to the floor. Turn your left foot to the left by about 90 degrees and turn your right foot slightly to the right. Making sure your heels are aligned, reach out with your left leg so that the knee is centered above the ankle. Stretch your arms out as far as you can and open your shoulders. Look to your left, keeping your head in line with the left arm. Modifications: For a deeper stretch in your arms and shoulders, turn the inner elbow creases and palms to the sky while you stretch your shoulder blades open. Benefits: Warrior II stimulates the abdominal organs and increases stamina. It relieves backaches and can be therapeutic for those with flat feet, infertility, and osteoporosis.
Pose #10 – Half Moon Pose
Half Moon Pose – Start in a lunge with the left foot forward, take a deep breathe and lean forward toward the left leg, placing your hands on the floor. Keeping it straight, lift your right leg behind you and try to make it parallel with the floor. Straighten your left leg. Lift your right arm toward the sky, perpendicular to the floor. Really open up your hips and shoulders so they’re facing the side wall. Look up at the sky. Modifications: If need be, you can use a yoga brick under your left hand. If you can an advanced skill level, have the lower hand hover 1-2 inches above the floor and balance with the foot on the floor. Benefits: Stronger ankles, knees and lower body. This pose improves focus, balance, confidence and concentration.
Pose #11 – Side Angle Pose
Side Angle Pose – Start in mountain pose. Step right with your right foot and rotate it 90 degrees to the outside. Rotate your left foot 15 degrees to the right. Bend your right knee 90 degrees. Palms up, lift your arms to their sides. Bend at the torso to the right and make sure your right side faces your right thigh. Stretch your left arm up as high as it can go and your right arm as low as possible. Look toward the side wall. Benefits: Side angle pose stimulates the abdominal muscles and reduces constipation. Additionally, if you have a lower back ache, this pose will help. Modifications: This pose can be strengthened if you pose with the lower arm in front of the bent knee.
Pose #12 – Triangle Pose
Triangle Pose – Stand up straight and use your left foot to step to the left. Rotate the left foot 90 degrees, perpendicular to your right foot. Move your right foot 15 degrees to the left. Bend your torso to the left and place your left hand on your left knee. Raise your right arm across your body to the sky and look up. Benefits: Helps relieve stress and is therapeutic for those with anxiety, neck pain, infertility, and flat feet. It also improves digestion and helps relieve symptoms of menopause. Modifications: Rather than stretching the top arm toward the sky, stretch it over your head, parallel to the floor.
Pose #13 – Rotated Side Angle Pose
Rotated Side Angle Pose – Stand up straight and lunge forward with your left leg. Rotate your left foot 90 degrees and your right foot about 15 degrees to the left. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees. Reach your right arm up to the sky and the left down to the floor behind your knee. Benefits: The twisting lunge creates stability throughout the entire body. By twisting your torso, it improves digestion and removes toxins as well. Modifications: For greater balance, practice this pose facing a wall. The big toe of your front foot and your fingertips should touch the wall. When you feel balanced, begin the twist portion of the pose.
Pose #14 – Easy Bow
Easy Bow Pose – Start by lying on your stomach and press your chin against the mat. Tuck your hands under your thighs, palms to the floor. Raise both of your legs up by using the muscles in your back. Do not hold your breathe and remain in this position. Modifications: More advanced skill levels should lift their chin to the sky while the legs are the lifted. To deepen the pose even further, pull your arms together behind your back. Benefits: Locust pose strengthens the spine and back. It improves posture, relieves stress and stimulates abdominal organs.
Pose #15 – Thread the Needle (Twisting Childs Pose)
Thread The Needle – Start in tabletop position with your hands and knees on the mat in line with your shoulders and hips. Move your right hand forward and outward a couple inches. Rotate your chest and look toward your right hand. Slowly lower your left arm to the floor and let the side of your skull rest there as well. Hold and breathe slowly to release any tension. Modifications: For a deeper pose, cross your right arm over your lower back. Push your right palm into your upper left leg and hook your fingers around your inner thighs. Benefits: This pose sends fresh blood to the upper half of your body and detoxifies your skin. It slightly compresses and works the muscles in the chest, which normally are neglected.
Pose #16 – Childs Pose
Childs Pose – Start by sitting on your heels. Lower your head to the mat and move your arms in front of you and under your forehead. Relax and take deep breathes in and out. Focus. Modifications: If it’s more comfortable for you, move your arms alongside your legs instead of under your head. Benefits: Most importantly, this pose calms the brain and helps relieve fatigue and stress. It eases back and neck pain when the torso and head are supported.
Pose #17 – Camel Pose
Camel Pose – Start by sitting on your knees. Lift your pelvis and thighs forward and toward the sky. Arch your back behind you and press your palms against your feet. Let gravity slowly lower your head toward the floor. Keep knees at the width of your hips. Modifications: You can make the pose more challenging by performing it with your feet, legs and thighs together. Benefits: Improves posture, stimulates abdominal muscles and strengthens your back.
Pose #18 – Half Bow (Tiger Pose)
Half Bow Pose – Starting in table pose, inhale and move the right knee toward your forehead, bending your spine. Exhale and reach the right foot up toward the ceiling. Look forward and up. With exhale slowly move your right foot up more. Release back into table pose. Modifications: Advanced skill levels can deepen the pose by grabbing their raised foot with the hand on that side. Benefits: This pose stretches the spine and strengthens the back muscles. It speeds up your metabolism and forces your core to build strength.
Pose # 19 – Crane Pose (Crow Pose)
Crane Pose – Start in a squat with your feet apart and knees wider than hips. As if you were moving into Downward Dog, put your hands flat in front of you on the floor, fingers spread. Firm your wrists and hands and start to move your body weight off of your feet and into your hands. Elbows bent, raise your hips. Put your knees on the back of your upper arms or squeeze the outer upper arms with your knees. Keep the knees and elbows in line with the rest of your body. Using your abs, move your upper back up. Move your weight forward onto your elbows and bend the wrists close to 90 degrees. Let your chest move forward and let one foot up at a time. Bring heels and feet together. Hold for 30 seconds and move back up into a squat. Modifications: It might be difficult for you to move into crow as a beginner. If so, use a block to help you squat and move into the pose. Benefits: Opens the groin and stretches the upper back. The abdominal organs and muscles become stronger. Partners can help you find balance.
Pose #20 – Shoulder Pressure Pose
Shoulder Pressure Pose – Start with a wide-knee squat with your feet less than shoulders width apart. Move your torso slightly forward between your inner thighs. Keep your torso low and raise your hips until the thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Try to get your upper left arm and shoulder as much as possible under the back of your left thigh and just above the knee. Put your left hand just outside of your left foot on the floor. Do the same with the right, you will notice your back start to curve. Slowly shift the weight holding your body from your feet to your hands. Squeeze the outer arms with your thighs and cross your ankles. Look forward and hold for 30 seconds. Modifications: If need be, you can use a block under your buttocks for added support. Benefits: Tones the abdomen muscles, improves balance and strengthens the arms and wrists.
Pose #21 – Splits
Splits – Starting in Downward Dog, step forward with the right foot between the hangs. Lower the back knee to the floor, keeping it behind the hips. Your right toes should be flexed toward the sky. Open up your hamstrings and fully move into the stretch. Slide your right heel forwards until the back of your leg is fully on the ground. Have your legs hug the ground to deepen the stretch. Modifications: It’s okay if you can’t do a full split. Stretch your hamstring as far as you can and start to fold forward from the waist. Feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Benefits: Relieves sciatica pain and strengthens the hamstrings, pelvic, and abdominal muscles.
Pose #22 – Half Pigeon Forward Bend
Half Pigeon Forward Bend – From Downward Facing Dog, move both feet together and move your right knee forward. Let your entire left leg rest on the mat. Bend your right leg across your body and let your body rest on top of it on the ground. Extend your arms in front of you and hold. Modifications: If this pose creates too much stress for your right knee, use a block under your hips. Only bend your knee as far as you are comfortable. Benefits: This pose helps treat urinary disorders and alleviate sciatica pain. It stimulates the organs in your chest, stomach and abdomen as well as stretches the hips and groin.
Pose #23 – Easy Heron Pose
Easy Heron – Sit up straight in Staff Pose. Bend your left knee back so that your shin is almost parallel with your body. Keep your right leg as straight as you can and begin lifting it toward the sky. Lean back slightly but keep your chest open and spine straight. Try to grasp the inside of your right leg with your left hand and the outside with your right. Modifications: If you can’t keep your right leg straight, feel free to bend it as much you need. A stretch band can help you work your raised leg if you have trouble holding in this position. If you have knee problems, only bend your left leg to your comfort. Benefits: Heron stimulates the heart and abdominal organs as well as stretches the hamstrings.
Pose #24 – Half Lord of the Fishes
Half Lord of the Fishes – When you’re sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, bend your knees and put your feet on the floor. Slide your left foot under your right leg to side of your right hip. The right foot should go over the left leg to outside of your left hip. The right knee should point toward the ceiling. Twist toward the inside of the right thigh and press your hands against the floor to the outside of your body. Sit up straight and lengthen your torso. Modifications: If it is difficult to get your torso against you inner thigh, retry this position when you’re arm’s length from a wall. Before twisting, press against the wall with your arms. Push your torso toward your knee. Benefits: This variation will energize the spine and can be therapeutic for those with asthma. It will help with back pain, fatigue and menstrual discomfort.
Pose #25 – King Pigeon
King Pigeon – Start on all fours and with your knees directly below your hips. Your hands should be slightly ahead of your shoulders and and slide your right knee forward, behind your right wrist. Angle your right shin under your torso and right foot at the front of your left knee. Let your right leg rest on the floor. Slide your left leg back and straighten the left knee. Let your left thigh and right buttock touch the floor. Position your right heel in front of the left hip. Bend your left knee up to the sky, keeping the thigh on the floor. Stretch your arms forward and elongate your spine to its fullest. Modifications: Advanced skill levels can deepen the pose by arching their backs and grabbing their left foot with both hands. Benefits: This pose especially opens the shoulders and chest. It stimulates the abdominal organs and stretches the thighs, groin, abdomen and neck.
Pose #26 – Three Legged Dog
Three Legged Dog – Starting in Downward Dog, lift your left hand and reach it behind your right thigh. As you inhale and exhale, work your hand down your right leg, getting as close to the floor as possible. Turn your gaze to under your right arm (but do not strain your neck). Modifications: If this pose is difficult at first, you can shorten the starting distance between your hands and feet or you can bend your knees. Benefits: This pose creates a full body stretch. It increases blood flow and energizes the body as well as relieve the mind from stress or headaches.
Pose #27 – Fallen Star (Fallen Triangle)
Fallen Star – Start in a Downward Dog position and bend your right knee up closer to the wrists. Move your right foot under your body to the left of your torso. Lift your left hand toward the sky and open up your chest and shoulders. Modifications: You can bend your left knee down to help support you. When you open up your chest and lift your left hand, bend your left knee to the ground so that it’s in line with your right leg. Benefits: This pose allows for deeper breathing and opens up the hips and shoulders. Your core, arms, glutes, neck and chest will all stretch and strengthen.
Pose #28 – Tree Pose
Tree pose – Begin in mountain pose with your hands at your sides. Shift your body weight to the left foot. Bend your right knee and press the bottom of its foot against your left leg. Slowly work your right foot up your left leg, but keep priority on balance. Move your hands to prayer position and hold. Modifications: You can also raise your arms above your body, reaching of the sky. Benefits: Most importantly, Tree Pose improves your balance and coordination. It gives you grace and ease to use in and outside of the yoga studio.
Pose # 29 – Seated Forward Bend
Seated Forward Bend – Start by sitting straight up on your mat, legs straight and together in front of you. Extend your spine and start bending your torso toward your legs. It will be easy if you focus on moving your abdomen toward your thighs first. When you can’t bend anymore, lower your head and grab your legs. Modifications: You can better work a specific leg if you bend the opposite leg at the knee and place its foot against your inner left thigh. Benefits: Relieves stress and stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries and uterus. It stimulates digestion and helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort. It can be very therapeutic for those with stress, high blood pressure and insomnia.
Pose #30 – Easy Seated Pose
Easy Seated Pose – Choose a mat with comfort and support. Sit on the edge of the mat and extend your legs straight in front of you. Bend your knees, cross your shins and tuck the opposite foot behind each knee. Sit up straight and elongate your back. Relax and focus on breathing. Move your hands to prayer position. Modifications: You can also move your hands to rest on your thighs or in any other position more comfortable. Benefits: This easy pose calms the brain, stretches the knees and strengthens the back.