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The Instructor’s Guide to Must-Try Yoga Poses for Novices

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  • Post last modified:September 25, 2023

For many newfound yoga practitioners, it can be tempting to try out inversions, arm balances, and other difficult poses you see on social media right from the beginning. But those postures require some serious power and balance training, which is why Ashley Rideaux, a YogaWorks-certified teacher trainer in Los Angeles, recommends beginners stick with a few basic sitting and standing postures.

“The main focus of a beginner’s practice are your standing poses,” she says. “They build strength through many of the larger muscles of the body. They’re accessible to a lot of bodies and that makes them an excellent place, not just to find strength and flexibility, but also to build confidence in the work.” These two types of yoga poses for beginners also help you develop a sense of where your body is positioned in space without actually seeing it, says Rideaux. (Remember: There generally aren’t mirrors in yoga studios.)

And though popular culture makes it seem that props are reserved solely for older individuals, Rideaux encourages everyone — from beginners to yoga veterans — to use them while practicing if they’re available. “Props are so helpful in creating proper alignment and helping you avoid injury,” she explains. “And often, as you find the correct alignment, it actually presents you with a greater challenge.”

“Challenge” is the key word here, and you shouldn’t expect to become an expert after incorporating these yoga poses for beginners into your routine once or twice. “The practice is like learning a new language — I wouldn’t go into a French lesson and day one expect to leave fluent,” says Rideaux. “The same thing is true about learning the body and putting these shapes onto our body. It’s going to look slightly different on all of us, and it’s a lifetime of learning to develop fluency.” Once you’ve become an intermediate practitioner, you might benefit from yoga conditioning to gain a little more strength to assist your yoga practice.

To kick off your journey to becoming an experienced practitioner and start building up the necessary strength, flexibility, and confidence, try flowing through these yoga poses for beginners, which are demonstrated by Lindsay Monal, R.Y.T., a yoga teacher at YogaRenew Teacher Training.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This yoga position for novices will aid in developing total body power, especially in the ankles, feet, thighs, calves, abdominal muscles, and spine, according to Monal.

A. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, weight evenly dispersed through the soles, arms at the sides, shoulders relaxed, and palms facing forward.

Hold for 5 complete breaths.

Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This yoga position for beginners not only strengthens the arms, core, and glutes, but it also stretches the calves and hamstrings, states Monal. Reminder: “It’s acceptable to keep your knees bent and lift your heels off the ground,” she says. “Focus on elongating your spine in this position and strive to lift your hips. The ability to straighten your legs will come with time!”

A. Commence in a table-top position with hands directly beneath the shoulders, knees under the hips. Walk the hands a few inches forward and spread the fingers wide, pressing the palms into the mat.

B. Curl the toes under and gradually lift the hips toward the ceiling, assuming an inverted “V” shape and pressing the shoulders away from the ears. The feet should be hip-width apart, with the knees slightly bent.

Hold for 5 complete breaths.

(This non-skid yoga mat will maintain your stability regardless of how perspiring your palms get.)

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Incorporate this introductory yoga position into your practice, and you’ll loosen up your hips, calves, and shoulders while also fortifying the shoulders, quadriceps, and hamstrings, according to Monal.

A. Stand with the feet spread wide, approximately 3 to 4 feet apart. Rotate the left foot outward by 90 degrees and slightly turn the right foot inward. Place the hands on the hips and relax the shoulders, then extend the arms out to the sides, with the palms facing downward.

B. Bend the left knee to a 90-degree angle, ensuring that the knee is directly above the ankle; gaze out over the left hand.

Retain for 5 complete breaths. Exchange sides and repeat.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

This upright yoga position will provide a beneficial stretch to your hips, ankles, and feet while simultaneously fortifying your ankles, calves, quadriceps, and abdominal muscles, affirms Monal. Since the posture necessitates balancing on one leg, it can also aid in enhancing your equilibrium, she states.

A. Stand with arms by your sides and hands on hips.

B. Transfer your weight onto your left leg and position the sole of your right foot inside your left thigh, maintaining forward-facing hips.

C. Once stabilized, bring your hands in front of your chest in a position of prayer, with palms pressed together.

D. While inhaling, extend your arms above your shoulders, with palms separated and facing each other.

Retain for 5 complete breaths. Exchange sides; repeat.

Adapt this yoga pose for novices: Place your right foot on the inside of your left ankle, with your toes on the ground for stability. As you become stronger and develop better balance, move your foot to the inside of your left calf.

Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

By grounding yourself through your feet, you will cultivate strength in your ankles, legs, and core. Additionally, you will stretch your obliques, shoulders, and hamstrings as you pivot at the hips and extend upward towards the ceiling, according to Monal.

A. Stand with your feet approximately 3 feet apart, with your left foot turned out 90 degrees and your right foot at around 45 degrees.

B. Extend your arms out to the sides, then hinge at your hips to lower your torso towards your left leg.

C. Allow your left hand to touch the floor or rest on your left leg below or above the knee, while extending the fingertips of your right hand towards the ceiling. Turn your gaze towards the ceiling.

Retain for 5 complete breaths. Exchange sides; repeat.

High Lunge

This yoga pose, suitable for both beginners and advanced practitioners, is ideal for loosening up the hip flexors, chest, and quadriceps.

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A. Stand at the summit of the mat with feet together and arms at sides, hands resting on hips.

B. Move right foot backward until right leg is completely elongated, maintaining right heel lifted off the floor. Bend left knee slightly and ensure it is directly above left ankle.

C. Raise arms overhead and extend towards the ceiling, pull shoulders down and away from ears, and gaze forward.

Maintain for 5 complete breaths. Change sides; repeat.

Arch Pose

After a lengthy day stationed at your desk, attempt this yoga pose for beginners to counteract hours of being sedentary. Arch pose develops strength in the core, hips, quadriceps, calves, and ankles and elongates the chest and shoulders, says Monal.

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent and directly above heels. Place arms at sides, palms down.

B. Exhale, then push feet into the floor to elevate hips slightly.

C. Grip hands under lower back and press arms downward, raising hips further until the body forms a straight line from head to knees, and bring chest towards chin.

Maintain for 5 complete breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Position a yoga block beneath the sacrum for supplementary support.

Seated Spinal Twist

This seated yoga posture will assist you in easing into your day by granting you a pleasant stretch throughout your spine, shoulders, and neck, says Monal.

A. Sit upright in a crossed-legged position with shoulders in alignment with hips, hands resting on knees or thighs, and gaze forward. Draw shoulders down and away from ears.

B. Raise both arms upwards towards the ceiling above the head, then rotate to the left, moving from the abdomen. Place right hand on left knee and left fingertips on the floor a few inches behind the buttocks.

Maintain for 5 complete breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Keep the bottom leg straight and place both hands on the raised knee. If the lower back rounds forward, sit on a folded blanket to elevate the hips.

Baby Cobra

Looking to unlock the chest, shoulders, abdominal muscles, and neck? Incorporate this introductory yoga position into your daily routine.

A. Lie facing downwards on the floor with thumbs directly beneath the shoulders. Extend the legs and place the tops of the feet on the floor.

B. Engage the pelvic floor muscles and rotate the hips downward while tightening the glutes. Push the shoulders down and away from the ears.

C. Ease the pressure on the palms, take a breath in, and lift the chest a few inches off the mat. Raise only as high as possible without placing weight on the hands.

Relax, breathe out, and repeat for 5 complete breaths.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Ideal for elongating the spine, stretching the shoulders, ankles, hips, and neck, this yoga position for beginners also aids in relieving tension, stress, and anxiety, according to Monal.

A. Begin in a tabletop position with hands directly beneath the shoulders and knees beneath the hips.

B. Keep the palms on the floor and arms extended. Move the buttocks back towards the heels and rest the forehead on the mat.

C. Lower the chest as close to the knees as is comfortable.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga position for beginners: Place a block under the head or a rolled-up blanket behind the knees.

Sukhasana (Easy Seat)

This gentle yoga posture helps to strengthen the back while opening up the hips, knees, ankles, and thighs, as stated by Monal.

A. Sit tall in a crossed-legged position with the shoulders aligned with the hips. Rest the hands on the knees or thighs and gaze straight ahead. Pull the shoulders down and away from the ears.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga position for beginners: Place a prop, such as a blanket or bolster, under the buttocks to ensure that the knees are at the same level or slightly lower than the hips.

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

In addition to elongating the chest and shoulders, this introductory yoga position helps to lengthen the spine while strengthening the muscles of the back, according to Monal.

A. Assume a seated position, extend legs forward and bring big toes together, align shoulders with hips, and lengthen the torso. Place palms next to hips, straighten arms, and lower shoulders away from the ears.

B. Activate the thighs and bend the feet, drawing the toes towards the face, while lifting both arms towards the ceiling above the head.

Remain in this position for 5 complete breaths.

Adjust this yoga pose for beginners: Position a prop, such as a blanket or block, beneath the buttocks to slightly elevate the hips.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

This yoga pose for beginners may not alleviate muscle tightness, but it effectively soothes the nervous system, relaxes the body, and reorients the mind, as noted by Monal.

A. Lie on the back with legs extended, arms spread out to the sides, palms facing upward, and the head centered.

Breathe deeply and maintain this pose for 5 minutes.

Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)

Incorporate this posture into your routine, and you will provide much-needed stretching for the upper back, shoulders, chest, arms, and neck, especially after prolonged periods of hunching over a laptop, as suggested by Monal.

A. Begin in a table-top position, with palms directly beneath the shoulders, knees below the hips, and the tops of the feet touching the floor.

B. Lift the right arm towards the ceiling, allowing the gaze to follow. Pause, then lower the right arm beneath the left arm until it is fully extended.

C. Slowly lower the chest towards the floor, maintaining a comfortable distance from it while keeping the hips elevated.

Hold this position for 5 complete breaths. Switch sides and repeat the sequence.

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