To be honest, I don’t know how many yoga poses there are. Probably thousands when you consider all the modifications and variations. But there are some basic yoga poses that everyone, including beginners need to know. I’ve chosen these as they are some of the most common and they also provide a foundation for a regular yoga practice.
1. Mountain pose (Tadasana)
Image credit: Greenbank Yoga
- Stand at the top of the yoga mat, with your feet together
- Ensure the outer edges of your feet are parallel with the edges of the mat
- Spread your toes and press evenly through the big toe, ball of the foot, outer edge of the foot and heal.
- Balance your weight evenly on both feet
- Draw up through the arches of the feet and lift your kneecaps
- Activate your quadriceps (thigh muscles)
- Draw up through your pelvic floor and pull your navel in and up
- Roll your shoulders down and back and lift your chest
- Open your arms to the side, turn the palms forward and spread the fingers
- Lengthen your neck tuck your chin and make sure your ears are in line with your shoulders
- Extend up through the crown of your head
Mountain pose is a really active standing pose. You’re not just standing any old way, all your muscles are active. Establish a firm connection with your feet on the mat and feel a sense of drawing energy up from your feet, through your legs, spine and up to the crown of your head.
This pose strengthens the feet and ankles and improves posture. It can also lead to great awareness of how we carry ourselves outside of a yoga class (eg standing in line).
2. Downward dog (Ardo Mukha Svanasana)
Image credit: Yogaclicks
- Start on all fours with your hands shoulder-width distance apart, fingers spread wide and middle finger facing forward
- Turn the insides of your elbows to face each other by inwardly rotating your forearms rather than changing your hand position
- Roll your upper arms outward and roll your shoulder blades down your back
- Tuck your toes under, lift your hips and knees off the mat to create a V-shape
- Step your feet to hip-width distance apart and ensure the outer edges of your feet are parallel to the edges of the mat
- Push your hips up towards the ceiling and press your thigh bones backward
- Press the floor away with your hands, pushing more weight back into your legs (weight distribution should be 60% legs: 40% arms
- Draw your belly in
- Look between your legs and relax the neck
The biggest mistake beginner’s make with Downward Dog is that they hold the pose more like a push up. You want to make a V-shape with your body, not a plank or U-shape. This pose can be very strong for the shoulders and wrists so do it on the knees until you build up the required strength. If you have really tight hamstrings, bend your knees but try to keep your back straight and push the hips up and back.
Downward Dog lengthens the spine, stretches the legs and strengthen the upper body. It is a very strong pose though so drop to your knees if you need a break.
3. Child’s pose (Balasana)
Image credit: Yoga Magazine
- From all fours, open your knees to mat-width distance apart and bring your big toes to touch behind you
- Rest your hips onto your heels (place a blanket or bolster under you if you can’t comfortably get your hips to your heels)
- Extend your arms forward and lower your head and chest down to the mat (or on a bolster or blanket if your head doesn’t reach)
- Relax the neck and jaw
- Slide the shoulder blades down your back, ensuring space between your shoulders and ears
- Soften the belly
Child’s pose is the resting pose in yoga. If you need to take a break or catch your breath, come to Child’s pose. This is a very soothing and relaxing pose whilst also providing a stretch for the lower back, hips, glutes and inner thighs.
4. Easy cross-leg pose (Sukhasana)
Image credit: Travancore Foundation
- Sit on your mat with your legs crossed
- If your knees are higher than your hips, sit up on a blanket, bolster or block
- Sit on the apex of your sitting bones by pulling the flesh of your bottom out to the side
- Lengthen the spine and roll the shoulders down the back
- Align your shoulders over your hips and your ears over your shoulders
- Lengthen the neck
This pose strengthens the spine, opens the hips and groin and provides a foundation for meditation.
5. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Image credit: Poses with a purpose
- Lie on your back
- Straighten the legs and separate the feet to the edges of the mat
- Bring your arms by your side with the palms facing up
- Align your spine
- Draw the shoulder blades together and down your back
- Lengthen your lower back by lifting the hips up, tucking the pelvis and lowering back down to the mat
- Close your eyes and relax your muscles
- Feel the mat beneath you and sink into it
Savasana is performed at the end of a class. It marks the shift from the physical to the mental aspects of yoga. This is a very relaxing and calming pose, where you can let yourself just be.
There are many yoga classes in Brisbane for beginners, make sure you find one where you feel supported to modify the poses to suit your body. We run regular beginner’s yoga classes, called Vinyasa Basics which feature a slower pace and more instruction to help you find the right alignment. Got questions? Don’t be shy about asking your teacher for help.