The sky is the limit when it comes to yoga poses for beginners. Some of them are very old, dating back a couple hundred years. During the English occupation of India, there was a renaissance of physical fitness in Europe. People suddenly were weight lifting and practicing gymnastics. This greatly influenced yoga and shaped what is commonly practiced today in the west. We like to call it “posture-based yoga.”
Yoga postures can be classified into several different groups: standing poses, backbends, forward folds, inversions, arm balances, hip openers, and twists. They all have different benefits for our physical, mental and emotional bodies. A well-balanced yoga class will have at least a few of almost every type of pose. So you never have to worry about “getting them all in.” Most teachers sequence classes with all of the different types of postures.
The following poses are foundational and commonly practiced in many yoga classes. It’s helpful to understand their basic alignment and positioning so that you get their maximum benefit.
The 5 Best Yoga Poses For Beginners
High Lunge or Anjaneyasana
High lunge is a standing pose. It improves balance, lower body strength and core strength. It also lengthens and strengthens the spine.
- Start in a standing position with the feet parallel, pointing forward, and hips width apart.
- Step one foot back about 2.5 shoulder widths and balance on the ball of the back foot. The legs are very active.
- Align the front knee over the heel and put a micro-bend in the back knee.
- Reach the arms along side the ears toward the sky.
- Inhale reach through the arms, exhale draw the navel in and up toward the heart. Gaze toward the ground to help with your balance. If you feel unsteady, place the back knee down on the mat or a blanket. Try for 8-10 deep breaths.
Locust Pose or Salabhasana is One of the Best Yoga Poses for Beginners
Locust pose is a back bend. The spine is in extension and the back muscles are active and strong. This pose is perhaps the best posture you could do for improving posture and maintaining a healthy and strong spine.
- Lie down on the belly
- Reach the arms back and interlace the hands
- Lift the chest, arms and legs away from the earth.
- Keep the sides and the back of the next long.
- Inhale lift everything away from the ground, exhale gently hug the thighs toward the midline. Try for 8-10 deep breaths.
Wide Legged Forward Fold or Prasarita Podottanasana
Wide legged forward fold is a forward fold. It stretches the back lines of the body including the hamstrings and the back muscles. With the legs wide it also stretches the inner thigh muscles.
- Step the feet wide, about 2.5 shoulder widths apart.
- The feet are parallel and facing forward.
- Keeping the spine long, place the hands on the earth under the shoulders.
- Try not to round the spine. If you need to, bend the knees or place blocks beneath the hands. The variation in the picture shows a very long spine without any flexion. If you are more flexible, you can put your hands on the ground and bow forward. However if you the spine is very round and the hamstrings are tight, you will feel very uncomfortable. It’s better to keep the chest lifted and the spine long with the knees bent or with blocks.
Plank or Palakhasana Is Also One of the Best Yoga Poses for Beginners
No matter how old or young you are, plank pose is a great way to safely strengthen the core and upper body.
- Start in an all fours position.
- Please the hands shoulder width apart and stack the shoulders directly over the wrists.
- Maintain shoulders over wrists and step the feet back, straightening the legs and placing the feet hips width apart.
- Lift the hips in line with the shoulders, not letting them slope toward the ground or lift higher than the shoulders and take 5-10 deep breaths.
- If it’s difficult to maintain a strong, straight line from shoulders to heels, place the knees down behind the hips.
Warrior 2 is a standing posture and one of the best yoga poses for beginners. It’s a great way to improve balance, build strength from the feet all the way up to the pelvis and lower back. Warrior postures teach you how to press into the ground to draw strength from the earth beneath you. Energetically they are grounding and help to build a sense of confidence and ease.
- Step the feet wide apart, about 2.5 shoulder widths.
- Point the front foot forward and the back foot in about 90 degrees (don’t let the back foot turn out at all. If anything, slightly in).
- Stack the shoulders over the hips and lift the arms out to shoulder height.
- Gaze softly over the front middle finger and keep the eyes focused and relaxed.
- Inhale to lengthen through the fingers to engage the arms, shoulders and upper back.
- Exhale to press into the feet to engage the muscles of the legs and pelvis.
- Extra credit: keep the toes lifts off the ground while you stay in the pose for 5-10 deep breaths through the nose.