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Top 5 Poses for Beginner Yogis

So you’re thinking of starting yoga, but you have no idea where to start. Maybe you’ve already gone to a class and you felt completely out of place because you had no idea what you were doing. In this post, I’ll share with you the top five yoga poses for beginners.

These tips will:

  • Help you feel confident in these poses the next time you attend a yoga class
  • Give you a foundation of yoga poses to help you gain strength, flexibility and balance
  • Be able to be put together for a short sequence you can do at home

Before we get into the top five poses for beginners, I want to give you some pointers and ease your anxiety about yoga.

  1. It’s OKAY that you have no idea what you’re doing. You won’t for a while and that’s OKAY. No one has any idea what they are doing in the beginning.
  2. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga. At all. I’ve maybe seen one or two naturally flexible people during my 10-plus years of teaching and I’ve taught over 1,000 students.
  3. There’s no such thing as being “good” at yoga. If you DO yoga, you’re GOOD at yoga.
  4. Just because people can do advanced yoga poses does not mean they are an advanced yogi. You can be an “advanced yogi” and not be able to do anything but sit!
  5. You don’t have to wear anything fancy to a yoga class. Yoga doesn’t care what brand your pants are or if your hair looks good.
  6. Yoga isn’t a sport. You will not be told to “push” yourself into a pose, you won’t compare yourself to others and you will only focus on where you are at today, not yesterday or 10 years ago. Every day we come to the mat with a slightly different body. Honor where you are and listen to what you need in every moment.

Now for the top five poses! These poses are great to learn as they’ll give you a solid foundation for your budding practice.

Standing Mountain Pose 

Standing Mountain Pose or Tadasana is a great pose to help you learn the basics of alignment of many other poses. Most poses are based on of this foundational pose. It’s also very good for posture and focus.

  • Come to standing
  • Bring your big toes together to touch
  • You can separate heels up to 2 inches apart or keep them together if comfortable
  • Distribute weight evenly between all four corners of each foot
  • Gently squeeze your quads so they're not hyperextended
  • Bring your pelvis into neutral so that the front hip bones are level with the back hip bones
  • Gently draw your lower belly in and up
  • Lift the entire rib cage up and away from your pelvis to create length in the spine and space in the belly
  • Let your shoulders relax
  • Keep your chin level with the ground and lengthen through the back of the crown of the head
  • Find a gazing point, breathe and continue “growing taller"

Downward Facing Dog

Also known as Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana, this pose is one of the most common poses and one that will build a lot of strength in your upper body. It will also start to loosen up your hamstrings and pelvis.

  • Start on your hands and knees
  • Spread your fingers as far as you can comfortably
  • Make sure your pointer finger is pointing straight forward
  • Bring your knees back 2-3 inches
  • Curl your toes under and lift your knees
  • Push into your knuckles and send your hips up and back
  • Keep the knees bent so that you can keep your pelvis tilted forward instead which will keep the back straight
  • Let the head hang so the ears are in line with the upper arms
  • Roll the upper arms out, like you’re trying to “close” your armpits which will keep the neck and upper shoulders/traps soft
  • Roll the forearms in which will keep your knuckles, especially the pointer finger knuckle heavy
  • Find a gazing point, breathe and hold for 5-10 breaths

(It’s totally okay for you to take breaks in this pose as needed. If you feel pain in your wrists, they will most likely strengthen. Be nice to yourself and ease into holding it longer.)

Chair Pose

Chair or Utkatasana, is a great pose to build strength in the lower body, create heat to warm the body for your practice and increase focus.

  • Come to standing
  • Bring your big toes together to touch
  • Heels can be together, if possible, or up to an inch or so apart
  • Bend your knees and start shifting your hips back
  • Make sure the knees don’t jut forward past your ankles, you should be able to see your toes and ankles
  • Lift your rib cage away from your pelvis to create length in the spine
  • Keep your back straight
  • Reach arms overhead
  • Wrap shoulders, like you’re trying to close your armpits
  • Bring your palms together to touch to create equal length on both sides of the body
  • Tuck your chin slightly to keep your neck long
  • Find a gazing point and hold for 5-10 breaths

Warrior Two

Warrior two, also known as Virabhadrasana II, can help you to gain great strength in the lower body. It is another pose to increase focus and can help you tap into your inner strength.

  • Reach your arms out to your sides into a “T”, keep arms straight but bend at the wrists so your fingertips point down
  • Separate your feet until the outside edges of your feet line up with the tips of your fingers
  • Turn your right foot towards the front of your mat
  • Bend your right knee
  • Turn the back foot in about 20 degrees
  • Make sure your front knee is not going past the ankle and that the knee is pointing straight ahead, in the same direction as the foot
  • Push into the outside edge of the back foot to lift the inner arch
  • Pull the left hip back as far as you can go without letting the right knee turn in, it needs to stay aligned on top of the ankle
  • Lift the rib cage away from the pelvis to create length in the spine
  • Relax the shoulders away from the ears
  • Reach fingers towards the opposite walls
  • Keep chin parallel to the floor while reaching through the back of the crown of the head
  • Repeat on the other side

Tree Pose

Tree pose, or Vrksasana, is one of the more basic standing balancing postures. This does not mean that it’s easy! Try to balance on one foot rather than keeping the toes down on the floor of the lifted leg. This will build stronger bones. Stand by a wall or use a chair for balance as needed.

  • Start in Tadasana
  • While keeping hips pointing forward, bring your left foot to the calf while letting your knee bend out to the side
  • Turn the knee out as far as you can while keeping hips pointing forward
  • Ground down into all four corners of the right foot
  • Gently squeeze your right quad
  • Lift the entire rib cage away from the pelvis to create length in the spine
  • Reach your arms overhead and touch palms together to create equal length in both sides of the body
  • Keep chin parallel to the floor while reaching through the back of the crown of the head
  • Find your gazing point and take 5-10 breaths here
  • Repeat on other side

So there you have it! My top five poses that I love to include in a beginner yoga class. Feel free to put them together into a sequence. Begin your practice with 2-5 minutes of deep, slow breaths and end the practice the same way. Remember it’s not about doing things perfect. Just do what feels good and trust your own inner guidance system. As long as you’re not feeling pain, you’re probably doing just fine!

About the Author

Crystal Gray has been teaching yoga since 2005 and is an E-RYT at the 500 hour level. She is the creator of the Yoga Goddess Academy and helps women find their voice through yoga teacher trainings in-person and online. Crystal lives with her husband and daughter on their 20 acre organic vegetable farm in central Illinois. She feels blessed to be a YogaClub Tribe Leader and to share tips and tricks for yogis to get started with a home practice.