Beginner Yoga Asanas
But it’s imperative to remember that yoga is not a skill, it’s a lifestyle — and it’s for everyone.
You, too, can practice yoga. All it takes is consistently meeting yourself on the mat.
Don’t let the myriad of philosophies, teachings, poses and asanas intimidate you. Just start somewhere, and when the time is right, you will pick up all of these deeper aspects of yoga.
After all, being a beginner is beautiful, and you only get to do it once.
To set yourself up for success, it’s important to build a strong foundation. Here are 5 foundational yoga poses for every beginner to get you started:
1. Mountain Pose
What’s it good for?
Mountain Pose is probably THE beginning pose. It teaches you how to stand properly in a way that ignites your body with strength. Mountain Pose also improves your posture and balance, and centers your mind, body, and spirit.
How To Properly Do The Pose:
- Stand tall and strong, with your feet firmly placed on the ground. To secure your footing, place your feet directly below your hips, and inch them inward so that the big toes meet. You can spread your heels apart if it is more comfortable.
- Lift up your toes, spreading them apart as far as you can, then slowly place them on the ground one by one. Feel the way your pressure is spread across your feet, and try to make it as even as possible.
- Inhale your arms up, and exhale them back down, rolling your shoulders back. Place your arms at your sides, but keep your shoulders rolled back.
- Inhale your chest up and out. If you feel an arch in your back, tuck your tailbone slightly, lift the pelvis, and engage your core. You should feel a tall, strong, straight spine, with your head stacked on your neck, stacked on your shoulders, stacked on your core, stacked on your hips, and supported by strong active feet pushing against the floor.
- Really focus on your breath here. Match the length of your inhale to your exhale. Focus on the way this position feels. As you continue in your yoga practice, this will be an essential pose that you’ll notice as the “backbone” of higher level poses, such as inversions.
Tips And Modifications
- If you struggle to find your balance, stand with your feet farther apart.
- Stand against a wall, and/or in front of a mirror, to gauge how straight and stacked your body is.
- Closing your eyes will make balancing harder. As you continue to practice, try to master this pose with your eyes close. This challenge will help you focus on the internal, and master your sense of balance.
2. Downward Facing Dog
Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana
What’s it good for?
You will notice this pose in nearly every yoga class you take. It’s the “go-to” pose, used to stretch the entire body and get you warmed up. Although this pose is a little challenging in the beginning, eventually it will become your resting pose!
- You may like to start this pose from all fours, or bend down from Mountain Pose to place your hands on the mat.
- Begin by lining up your hands to be directly beneath your shoulders, and your knees directly beneath your hips. Check to make sure your calves are parallel to the side of the mat.
- As we did with out feet in Mountain Pose, spread your fingers as wide as you can and place them on the mat, middle finger pointing straight in front. Check that the pressure is evenly distributed across your hands and fingers.
- When you’re ready, push through your hands as you straighten your knees and elbows.
- You should look like an upside down “V” with your buttox as the highest point.
- Your neck should be relaxed, parallel to your arms, and looking at your toes.
- Push through the ball of your feet, so that your hips are as high as they can. Feel the way this straightens your spine.
- The most important part of Downward Dog is a straight spine.
- Bend your knees, if you need to, and continue to push on the balls of your feet (your heels may rise in the air slightly) until you feel your spine is straight.
- As you advance in this pose, try to lift your hips higher, straighten your legs, and bring your heels to the ground. Remember, don’t compromise the integrity of the pose just to get your heels down.
- Bend one knee while keeping the other straight, and focus on the way it affects your hips. This movement will teach you about the inner workings of the pose AND give you a great stretch.
3. Upward Facing Dog
Sanskrit: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Upward facing dog is a powerful chest opener and strength builder, all while working in a nice light back stretch.
- Lie on the floor, or begin in plank pose. It is important to note the “stacking” of each body part as we talked about previously.
- Spread your fingers wide, and notice the way the pressure feels. It is crucial that you push through the fingertips, spreading the pressure across your hand. You will naturally want to collapse into your wrists, but this is bad both for your wrists and your lower back.
- Place your feet, tops down, on the mat. Check to see that your legs are parallel to the sides of the mat and not spreading out in a V shape.
- In this pose, you will push through the tops of your feet and your hands. LIft your stomach and thighs off of the ground so that your feet and hands are the only parts touching the floor.
- As you lift off the ground in this way, bring your gaze upward.
- Resist the urge to collapse your neck into the shoulders, but rather look up strongly while you roll your shoulders down your back.
- Slightly rotate your biceps out.
- Check to see that your wrists are beneath your shoulders, your shoulders are rolled down your back, your neck is tall and strong, and your gaze is toward the ceiling. Your thighs should be off the mat, and the top of your feet should be pressed firmly into the floor.
- Focus on the breath here, and when you’re ready, slowly place your thighs on the ground and bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the ground.