5 Basic Yoga Poses for Beginners

April 11, 2016

When I first started practicing yoga, I never stepped foot on a yoga mat. Heck, I didn't even own a yoga mat, I just wanted to work on my strength and yeah, the poses seemed fun, too.

While yoga has grown to be so much more than that for me (see this post), I know it can be intimidating when you finally decide you want to try it. Trust me, I've been there! You see photos of seasoned yogis twisted every which way, and think you aren't capable of that but our bodies (and minds) are capable of a lot.

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I've put together 5 basic yoga poses that will get you started. I learned these in every class I took right away - they're a great foundation for growing your yoga practice and strength!

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

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How to: Standing in Mountain Pose, shift your weight slightly onto the left foot. Keeping your inner foot firm to the floor, reach down with your right hand and grab your right ankle. Draw your right foot up and place the sole against your inner left thigh. Firmly press the right foot sole against the inner thigh while lengthening your tailbone toward the floor.

Modified: You can rest your foot against your calf instead, or the ankle of your standing leg with your toes on the ground. Never place your foot directly on the side of your knee joint!

Transition to: Warrior III.

Cat (Marjaryasana) / Cow (Bitilasana)

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How to: For cat: start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in position. Release your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest. Inhale, coming back to neutral tabletop position on your hands and knees.

For cow: Start in the same tabletop position and, as you inhale, lift your chest toward the ceiling, allowing your stomach to sink toward the floor. Lift your head to look straight forward. Exhale, coming back to neutral tabletop position.

Transition to: Plank.

Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

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How to: Begin by lying face-down on the floor with your legs extended behind you, spread a few inches apart. Place your hands on the floor alongside your body, next to your lower ribs. Point your fingers to the top of the mat and hug your elbows in close to your ribcage. Inhale as you press through your hands firmly into the floor. Straighten your arms, lifting your torso and legs a few inches off the floor. Keep your elbows pressed alongside your body. Drop your shoulders away from your ears and lift your chest toward the ceiling.

Modified: Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Transition to: Plank, Wild Thing.

Triangle Pose ( Utthita Trikonasana)

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How to: Step your feet wide apart, about 4 to 5 feet. Check to ensure that your heels are aligned with each other. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees so your toes are pointing to the top of the mat. The center of your right knee cap should be aligned with the center of your right ankle. Pivot your left foot slightly inwards. Your back toes should be at a 45-degree angle. Raise your arms to the side to shoulder-height, so they’re parallel to the floor. Your arms should be aligned directly over your legs. With your palms facing down, reach actively from fingertip to fingertip.

On an exhalation, reach through your right hand in the same direction as your right foot is pointed. Shift your left hip back so your tailbone and pelvis tilt toward the wall or space behind your left foot. Fold at your right hip. Keep your right ear, shoulder, and knee on the same plane — do not let your torso drop forward. Turn your left palm forward, with your fingertips reaching toward the sky. Rest your right hand on your outer shin or ankle. If you are more flexible, place your right fingertips or palm on the floor to the outside of your right shin. Align your shoulders so your left shoulder is directly above your right shoulder. Gently turn your head to gaze at your right thumb. Draw down through the outer edge of your back foot. Extend equally through both sides of your waist. Lengthen your tailbone toward your back heel. Keep your left arm in line with your shoulders.

Modified: Place a yoga block on the floor to support the lower hand.

Transition to: Five Pointed Star, Warrior II, Revolved Triangle or High Lunge.

Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)

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How to: Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingers and press down through your forearms and hands. (Do not let your chest collapse.) Gaze down between your hands, lengthening the back of your neck and drawing your abdominal muscles toward your spine. Tuck your toes and step back with your feet, bringing your body and head into one straight line. Keep your thighs lifted and take care not to let your hips sink too low. Keep your head in line with your spine. Draw down through the bases of your index fingers — do not let your hands roll open toward the pinkie fingers. Press your quadriceps up toward the ceiling while lengthening your tailbone toward your heels.

Modified: Lower your knees to the floor (Half Plank Pose) while keeping your head and spine in a straight line. You can also lower your forearms to the floor.

Transition to: Downward Dog, Runner's Lunge, High Lunge.

If you're ready to take your yoga to a class setting, check out all the upcoming yoga events in the DC area here!


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  1. Amazing post. I just finished the routine. I feel great. Thanks!

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