So you want to try yoga but don’t know where to start? Don’t let the yoga videos and pictures all over social media with the super skinny and super flexible people fool you, yoga is an excellent workout for both those who are in excellent shape and those who are just starting to workout.
Yoga is made up of individual poses to strengthen and stretch your body while increasing your personal awareness of what you can and can’t do. These individual poses are then linked together to form yoga sequences or yoga flows.
Here are the 5 best poses for beginners, complete with photos to help you figure them out.
In case you missed it, check out my Basic Yoga Poses post for the 4 basic poses you should know before taking a yoga class or doing a workout video. I do refer to Mountain and seated pose, which were described in my previous post.
Legs Up Wall or Vipanita Karini
This pose is a very passive, restorative yoga pose with may benefits. It does not require much strength or flexibility so it can be done by just about anyone.
The hardest part of this pose is getting into it. Place your yoga mat so it is touching the wall. Facing the wall, sit as close to it as you can with your butt, then lay down on your back. Place your feet on the wall and shimmy your way closer to the wall until your butt is a few inches from the wall. Straighten your legs up the wall and place your hands next to you. Now relax and breathe for 2-5 minutes.
Benefits to this pose include:
- increasing blood flow to core
- relieves stress and calms nerves
- reduces swelling in legs and varicose veins
- improves digestion
- reduces headaches
- mproves sleep
- relieves lower back pain
Modifications: Place a folded blanket, pillow, or rolled towel or bolster pillow under your lower back/hips to relieve any pressure and make you more comfortable. Inch your back away from the wall if you need to for comfort. You can also do this pose lying in bed with your legs on the headboard or wall.
You can also do this pose away from the wall by simply lying flat on your back and holding your legs straight u. so your body forms an “L” shape. This does require more strength and is more of a core workout. If doing this pose without a wall, use a pillow or place your hands under your hips for extra support.
Forward Fold or Uttanasana
This is a good pose to stretch your back, neck and legs. Start in Mountain Pose, place your hands on your hips and leave a slight bend in your knees. Slowly hinge from your waist and lean forward, keeping your back flat. Stop when you get halfway down or you can no longer keep your back flat.
Next, relax and fold all the way forward, keeping your weight forward, towards your toes, without falling over. Relax your back and hang like a rag doll. Hold for a few breaths. When ready, place your hands back on your hips, straighten your back and stand up.
Benefits to this pose include:
- stretches hips, hamstrings and calves
- strengthens thighs and knees
- keeps spine strong and flexible
- relieves tension in spine, neck and back
- reduces stress, anxiety and depression
- calms the mind and soothes nerves
- angages core muscles
Modifications: When first using this pose, keep knees bent to allow you to fold forward easier. As leg muscles become more flexible, straighten the legs more. You can also do this pose facing towards a wall and walk your hands down the wall as you fold forward.
You can also place a yoga block on the floor or use an exercise step in front of you to reduce the distance before your hands reach a solid surface.
Cat-Cow or Chakravakasana
I learned this yoga sequence when I was pregnant with my first child. It is two poses that you alternate between to stretch out your back and abdomen.
Come onto your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your knees should be directly under your hips. Flatten your back (neutral position, called Table Top). As you breathe in you will push your abdomen down and your butt back and up, stretching your abdomen and pulling your shoulders together slightly. This is cow.
As you breathe out, you will arch your back upwards, rounding your back and stretching across your shoulders. This is cat. Repeat this sequence with your breathe. Breathe in- cow. Breathe out- cat. After several repetitions, come back to neutral back (Table Top).
- relieves back and sciatica pain
- improves posture and flexibility
- stretches and strengthens spine and neck
- relieves stress
- calms mind
- creates emotional balance
Childs Pose or Balasana
Child’s pose is the perfect chance to take a short break while still working your body. Anytime that you are feeling tired or winded and just need to catch your breathe or relax for a moment or two, you can drop into child’s pose and still be stretching.
To get into child’s pose, start sitting on your knees with your butt resting on your feet. Breathe in and bring your arms over your head. As you exhale, lean forward over your knees and place your hands on the yoga mat in front of you. Rest your forehead on the yoga mat and breathe deeply while stretching your fingers and arms forward.
- stretches hips and thighs
- stretches back and shoulders
- relieves back and neck pain
- calms the brain
- relieves stress
- allows you to catch your breathe
Modifications: If there is discomfort in this position, place a yoga block or folded blanket between your feet and thighs to sit on. You can also do wide-legged child’s pose by keeping your feet together and spreading your knees to the sides, towards the edge of your yoga mat.
Knees to Chest or Pawanmuktasan
I love this pose because it feels very much like you are giving yourself a hug. This is a great way to end your yoga session.
To get into this pose, simply lie on your back on your yoga mat. Bring your knees in towards your chest and wrap your arms around your knees to give yourself a bear hug, if you can. You can gently rock slightly from side to side and front to back, to give your back a gentle massage.
- boosts mood
- stengthens abdominal muscles
- Stretches back and shoulders
- massages internal organs
- relieves gas and improves digestion
- stretches muscles in legs
- helps you sleep better
- relieves fatigue
Modifications: If you are unable to wrap your knees in a bear hug, place your hands on your knees and gently pull towards your chest. You can also place your hands band your knees and hug gently in.
Another way to do this is to lay on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Pull one knee in to your check and either leave the other where it is, or straighten the leg you are not hugging in. Alternate legs so both are stretched and feel loved.
Those are 5 of the best yoga poses for beginners. Practice them a couple of times and let me know what you think! Do you have a favorite beginner pose that I haven’t mentioned yet? Let me know and it might just make it into my next list of yoga poses for beginners!