12 Easy Yoga Poses for Beginners

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12 Easy Yoga Poses for Beginners

A journey to the self through the self

If you are new to yoga and have just started taking classes, you are no doubt going to spend quite a bit of time looking around at everyone else in the class, trying to understand how they got into that position and how you will manage it. And each pose has a name too, in English or Sanskrit. As a beginner, before you take your first class, you can actually familiarize yourself with some of the yoga poses so that when you walk into your first class and roll out your mat, you can feel like a bit of a pro! 

Right – are you ready to get started? Each explanation of a sequence or pose will come with a video so you can understand the descriptions! OK, here goes… 

Downward-Facing Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana

  • You start on your hands and knees with your hands stacked under the shoulders and knees are under your hips.
  • Spread your hands wide, pressing the index finger and thumb into your mat.
  • Then lift your tailbone, pressing your butt up and back. You draw the hip towards the ceiling.
  • Straighten legs as best you can, pressing your heels towards the floor, gently.
  • Your head should be between your arms, and you are facing your knees. Your back is flat.
  • Hold for around 5-10 breaths.

Mountain Pose/Tadasana

  • Start by standing with your toes together with heels slightly apart.
  • Spread your toes, placing your weight evenly through both your feet. Use your core, tucking your hips under a bit so that your tailbone is pointing down toward the floor.
  • Relax your shoulders, rolling them back and down.
  • Inhale as you reach your arms overhead, as you press down into your feet. You could also put your hands in a prayer position in front of your chest, or you could rest them by your sides – all are used variations.
  • Take long, slow, deep breaths in and out of your nose, holding for 3-5 breaths.
  • Keep your arms parallel with your ears widening your arms if you want.

Crescent Lunge/Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana

  • Here you take a big step forward. Your left foot will start in a staggered stance, with your feet almost mat-length apart.
  • Bend your front knee, keeping your back leg straight, with heel lifted off the floor, trying to bend your front leg so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Then square your hips to the front.
  • Extend your arms to the ceiling on either side of your head, stretching up as you press into the mat, feeling the stretch in your hips.
  • Hold for 5 breaths, repeating on the other side.
  • Try and move into Low Lunge/Anjaneyasana, by simply dropping your back knee to the floor, keeping the leg extended long. The shin will be flat on the mat. Try keeping your spine long.

Warrior II/Virabhadrasana II

  • Start by taking a big step forward with your left foot to start in the staggered stance. Your feet are almost mat-length apart.
  • Extend your arms, keeping them parallel to the floor.
  • Bend your left knee so that it’s almost to a 90-degree angle, with your thigh parallel to the floor, keeping the right leg straight.
  • Point your left toes forward, turning your right foot out to the right – it will be perpendicular to your left foot. The left heel will be in line with the arch of your right foot, at the same time twisting your torso to the right so that your left hip faces toward the front of the room. Your right hip will be facing toward the back. Your head and left arm should be pointing forward. The right arm should be pointing back. Hold for 1–5 breaths.
  • If your left knee moves past your ankle, reduce the depth of the lunge.

Triangle/Trikonasana

  • Start the same as Warrior II.
  • Then straighten your front leg, reading forward with your left hand toward the ground. Tilt your torso forward, rotating it open to the right side.
  • Rotate your arms to 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock. Rest your left hand on your shin, preferably the floor if you can, extending your top arm fingers to the ceiling.
  • Hold for 5–10 breaths, before switching sides.
  • You can use a block under your bottom hand to add more stability to this pose.

Plank Pose/Kumbhakasana

  • Start here on all fours. See that your knees are under your hips and your hands are flat on the floor directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Then lift your knees off the floor, extending your legs out behind you. You will be on your toes and your hands – the body will form one long line.
  • Keep your palms flat on the floor, with hands at shoulder-width apart and shoulders stacked directly above your wrists, with core engaged. Try and keep your spine and neck in a neutral position by looking down at the top of your mat.
  • Hold for 3-5 breaths.

Low Plank/Chaturanga Dandasana

  • Start in the Plank pose with your palms flat on the floor. Your hands will be shoulder-width apart, and your shoulders will be stacked directly above your wrists. Your legs are extended, and core engaged.
  • Now slowly lower yourself down to Low Plank by bending your elbows, keeping them tucked in close to the side of your body. They should form a 90-degree angle. Hold for 1 breath.
  • Your shoulders shouldn’t come lower than your elbow-height. You can do this move from your knees if it helps you to maintain proper form.

Upward-Facing Dog/Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

  • From your Low Plank/Chaturanga, drop your hips down to the floor, flipping your toes over which means the tops of your feet will be touching the floor.
  • Tightening your core, straighten your arms to push your chest up; pulling your shoulders back, squeezing your shoulder blades. Tilt your head toward the ceiling, so you open up your chest.
  • You can drop to your knees to reduce the tension in your lower back, or you could skip the Upward-Facing Dog and do High Plank instead.

Tree/Vrksasana

  • Start in the Mountain pose with your toes together, heels slightly apart.
  • Now bring your right foot to the inner thigh of your left leg, squeezing your foot and inner thigh together; the knee of the right leg should be turned out. Your right thigh will be facing down toward the ground at a 45-degree angle.
  • If you have your balance, lift your hands to a prayer position in front of your chest or up overhead if it feels better for you.
  • Keep your gaze focused on a fixed point in front of you. This will keep you balanced.
  • Hold for 5–10 breaths, before switching sides.
  • If you do find it tough to balance, try and place your right foot on your left shin instead of the thigh.

Dancers Pose/Natarajasana

  • Stand straight with your feet together.
  • Bend your left knee, bringing your left foot toward your glutes. Then grabbing onto the inner arch of your left foot, slowly lift your foot with your left hand, lifting your foot toward the ceiling. Reach your right arm forward and up toward the ceiling at the same time.
  • Then press down into the floor with your entire right foot, starting to open your chest and pulling your lifted leg up. Keep your chest lifted, holding on one side for about 5-10 breaths. Then switch sides.
  • Try and keep your hips level than bringing your foot up high because this helps to keep your lower back in a comfortable place and avoid overextension.

Half Pigeon Pose/Ardha Kapotasana

  • From the Downward-Facing Dog pose, extend your left leg high, bringing your leg underneath your body, placing it in front of you. Your shin will be parallel to the top of your mat.
  • Extend your right leg straight behind you, resting the top of your foot on the floor. Keeping your left foot flexed, try to keep your right hip as close to the mat as possible. If it does lift off the floor, bring your left foot in closer to your body.
  • Stay upright like this for three breaths, then fold over and rest your head on the ground for 5–10 breaths. Then repeat on the other leg.

Seated Forward Fold/Paschimottanasana

  • Sit on the floor – your legs should be extended in front of you with feet flexed. Sit up tall with a straight back.
  • Bending from your hips and keeping your flat back, fold your upper body over your lower body.
  • Try and grab onto the outside of each foot, ankles, or shins. Release your neck and let your head hang heavy.
  • Hold this for 5–10 breaths.
  • You can bend your knees until your back lengthens as well as tipping your pelvis forward, but keep your spine long and flat.

These wonderful 12 easy poses for beginners are what it takes to move you into the present moment – where your very life exists. It’s really not trying to touch your toes as about all the wonderful things you learn on the way down!