Thoughtful instruction and mindful execution of beginner postures builds the strong foundation for a yoga practice that benefits mind, body, and spirit. No set of alignment cues works for everyone—there are as many triangle poses as there are people practicing the posture. That said, there are a few helpful hints to keep you safe during your yoga practice, including a steady even breath, and an appropriate level of sensation that never veers into pain. Below you’ll find some asanas (poses or postures) you’re most likely to encounter in a beginner yoga class. As you practice them, you will build strength in the body as well as courage and joy in the heart.
Standing poses help strengthen the lower body while also forming a strong, solid foundation for a safe yoga practice. As you build strength in standing postures, you may also notice increased feelings of personal power and confidence.
This pose is the foundation to all other standing poses. Mountain Pose improves posture, while also strengthening the legs, knees, and ankles. While this deceptively simple pose may seem like you’re “just standing,” you’re actually practicing the art of grounding into the earth and arriving securely in the present moment.
Stretching the hamstrings and hips and strengthening the quads, Triangle Pose also improves mental and physical balance and stability. The shape invites a sense of spacious exploration.
Backbends can help restore the natural flexion of the spine by encouraging a greater range of motion. With practice, these postures build strength, flexibility, mobility, and vibrance.
A gentle hug to the spine that stretches the belly organs, Cow Pose (often paired with Cat Pose) warms the body and when coordinated with slow, deep breaths can develop postural awareness and stability.
A pose that can be energizing or restorative, Bridge Pose stretches the chest and neck, opens the heart, and rejuvenates tired legs. This pose is also deeply calming for the brain, eases stress, and reduces fatigue. Pay attention to the sweetness that occurs after the posture.
This energizing and dynamic posture stretches the chest while strengthening the spine and shoulders, and invigorating the heart. Your spine will thank you.
While strengthening the entire back body—including the torso, legs, and arms—Locust Pose energizes the body and creates a calm, alert mind. This pose opens us to opportunities and discovery.
Energetically, seated poses tend to be grounding and focus more on flexibility than strength. Some seated poses involve twisting, which tones the belly, massages internal organs, and relieves lower back pain.
Easy Pose opens the knees, ankles, and hips. While the spine lengthens, this posture promotes strength in the small muscles of the spine, and a sense of rootedness throughout the entire body.
Massaging the internal organs, this posture also calms the mind and nervous system. Be gentle and let your breath guide you.
A powerful hip opener, Bound Angle Pose is grounding and calming. Folding forward in this pose enhances feelings of safety and security.
Seated Forward Fold stretches the entire back body, especially the hamstrings. The result of this pose is a clearer mind and heart.
Practicing these balancing poses help you stand your ground—literally and figuratively. In our attempt to balance on our hands, or on one foot, we metaphorically enter the unknown, cultivating courage, presence, and strength of heart.
While not a classic yoga shape, Bird Dog has been adopted by modern yoga teachers. An effective rehabilitative posture for relief of back pain, this pose lengthens and stretches the spine while cultivating singularity of focus.
Crow Pose is often the first arm balance many yogis learn. If this pose looks a little scary, practice with a pile of blankets in front of you to soften the fall. Confronting that fear—and ultimately overcoming it—is part of the practice of the pose, which in addition to strengthening the upper body and core, builds confidence and self-awareness.
Deeply empowering for both body and mind, Half Moon Pose opens the hips, stretches the groin and spine, and strengthens the lower body while promoting focus and confidence. You may find it helpful to place a block underneath your hand to as you learn to balance.
Turning your body—and thus your world—upside down is profoundly therapeutic to the body and mind. There’s no reason to fear the radical change in perspective; the inversions below deliver all the physical and physiological effects of the posture while being especially beginner-friendly. At their best, inversions can be simultaneously thrilling, rejuvenating, and calming.
Relieve the legs, spine, and nervous system with this restorative inversion. Practiced after a long flight or just a long day, Legs on a Chair Pose reverses the forward momentum of modern life and signals to the brain and body to relax.
One of the most common yoga poses, Downward Facing Dog (or Down Dog, for short) builds strength in your arms, shoulders, and legs while stretching your hamstrings, shoulders, calves, feet, and spine. Focusing on the depth of your breath will reveal the magic.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, resting poses are often the most challenging postures in a yoga class—not only for beginners but for all yogis. While many yoga postures are active, the resting poses are even more essential to quiet the body and restore the mind.
Child’s Pose stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles and can ease tension in your spine, shoulders, and neck. Letting your forehead be supported on your mat (or on a block or blanket), provides an instant calming and soothing effect on the brain.