Yoga Fundamentals for Beginners
Thinking of starting a yoga practice but not sure how? The beauty of yoga is that it is for everyone and all body types. No need to feel intimidated by any of the poses you see on social media. These people all started where you are now. With time, patience, and practice they were able to achieve some amazing poses. The good news is you can too! Below is a breakdown of the fundamental yoga postures that will set you up for success throughout your yoga practice.
This is a beginner yoga pose that sets the tone for how to properly achieve the remaining poses within any yoga sequence. It may seem like a simple and inactive pose but it is quite the contrary. This pose requires full engagement of your body and concentration to move through other poses as well.
The benefits of this pose include toning of the abdominal muscles, maintaining proper alignment of the spine by keeping it erect and elastic, and protecting the hip joints and feet from becoming loose.
Begin by standing at the top of the mat
- Release any tension in your facial muscles, shoulders, and arms
- Take a few deep inhalations and exhalations to clear your mind
- Place a block between your thighs and hold it there during the pose.
- This will help you understand which muscles should be active as well as the sensation you should be feeling
- When you are ready to get into the sequence you may remove the block.
- Make sure hips are squared, shoulders are relaxed, and there is a slight bend in the knees
- Hold for 5 breaths
Forward Bend & Flat Back
The forward bend and flat back poses are helpful to increase flexibility in the low body. They stretch the hamstrings, hips, and spine as well as strengthen the thighs and knees.
The benefits of these poses include reduced stress by soothing the spinal nerves and slowing down the heartbeat, calming the mind, and relieving abdominal pain.
- Place a block between your thighs and hold it there during the pose. This will help you understand which muscles should be active as well as the sensation you should be feeling.
- Place your hands at your hips and practice folding forward halfway hinging from the hips
- Make sure to keep your core engaged and hinge only from the hips in order to protect your low back.
- Keep a slight bend in your knees if you have a tight lower back or hamstrings.
- Separating your feet hip width apart also helps if you have tight hamstrings.
- Hold for 3 breaths
- Exhale as you hinge from the hips to forward fold bringing your fingertips down to touch the floor. If you cannot touch the floor, place your hands on a block or bend your knees
- Straighten your legs and arms as you inhale to lift your chest up away from your legs
- Broaden across the front of your chest along with a slight backward bend in your upper back as you engage the core
- Rotate the pubic bone down and the tail bone up
- Inhale to lengthen your spine then exhale for a deeper forward fold
- Attempt to bring the forehead to the shins, keeping the chin tucked in
- Hold for 3 breaths
This is a strength building pose for the spine, core, shoulders, arms, and wrists.
The benefits of this pose include strengthened arms and core muscles, enhanced mobility of the wrists, hands, and feet. It also rejuvenates the whole body, relieves lethargy, and fatigue.
- From forward fold, exhale and plant your hands flat on the mat on the outside of your feet, bend your knees if you need to. Keep a slight bend in the elbows
- Extend your feet behind you into a plank position and heels over the toes
- Spread your toes and reach your heels back
- Soften between your shoulder blades and broaden your collarbones in order to lift your sternum.
- Trick: Direct your tailbone down toward your heels to help shift the balance into your feet
- Make sure to keep your core muscles engaged by holding your belly button to the spine
- Lift the kneecaps and tighten the glutes The hands and toes support the entire weight of the body
Four Limbed Staff Pose
This is a conditioning pose that prepares you for many arm balancing poses.
The benefits of this pose include strengthened arms and legs. It also develops and opens the chest muscles as well as lengthens the throat muscles.
- From Plank Pose exhale, bend the elbows 90 degrees
- Trick: loop a strap around your upper arm bones and as you bend your elbows it will control the depth of your chest and prevent you from sinking into your hip and shoulder girdles, respectively.
- Keep the elbows parallel to the ribcage The chest opens forward and the shoulders reach toward the hips
- Lift the kneecaps and reach the heels back, imagine the heels touching the wall
- Keep the feet hip width apart and the entire body in one straight line, a few inches away from the floor tighten the buttocks
- The hands and toes support the entire weight of the body
Upward Facing Dog
This is an effective backbend and often used as part of the vinyasa flow sequence and proceeds the chaturanga dandasana. It is great for improving flexibility in the shoulders, chest, abdomen, thighs, and ankles.
The benefits of this pose include alleviating stiffness and pain in the muscles and joints of the lower back. It also strengthens the wrists, arms, and spine as well as helps to improve posture by counteracting the effects of hours spent hunched over computers or steering wheels.
- From Chaturanga Dandasana, inhale and swing your upper body through your palms on the floor
- Position your elbows over your wrists and palms flat on the floor shoulder width apart
- Keep your chin tucked slightly as you lengthen the back of your neck
- Keeps the knees in place elevated off the mat, feet together or hip width apart,
- Stretch the tops of the feet on the floor, toes pointing backwards
- Reach the chest up and forward Keep the shoulder blades downward towards the hips
Downward Facing Dog
This is a general conditioning pose that is used develop flexibility and strength for future balance, standing, and full inversion poses. It is also used as an active recovery and transition pose throughout various sequences.
The benefits of this pose include reduced fatigue, increased energy, relieves pain and stiffness in the heels and legs, strengthens ankles and tones legs, removes tension and stiffness in the shoulder blades, and rejuvenates blood flow.
- Exhale, tuck your toes under and walk your hands forward about a palm's distance in front of your shoulders, Press the hands against the floor, spread the fingers open, and press the knuckles down, with hands and toes planted,
- Lift your hips as you straighten your legs and draw your heels toward the floor, Widen the collarbones and rotate the eyes of the elbows forward, press your chest toward your thighs and bring your head between your arms
- Lengthen up through your tailbone and keep your thighs slightly internally rotated, finding a neutral pelvis,
- Lift the kneecaps, rotate the pubic bone in and up between the thighs,
- Tighten the core toward your spine, gaze between your feet or toward your navel Hold for 5 breaths
- If you have tight shoulders, plant your hands more widely, if the backs of your feet are tight, plant your feet more widely
Warrior I & II
Warrior 1 Pose requires a mix of confidence and flexibility. It takes a bit of practice to properly position yourself within the pose as well as seamlessly transition into Warrior 2. Both are helpful strengthening poses for the whole body requiring full engagement of muscles in order to maintain the proper posture.
The benefits of warrior I & II include fully expanding the chest and assisting in deep breathing, relieving stiffness in the shoulders, back, and neck, toning the ankles, knees, hips, and thighs, increasing stamina.
- From downward facing dog, inhale to lift your right leg up behind you and on the exhale bring your knee to your chest
- With control, shift your shoulders forward and and plant your right foot in between your fingertips
- Inhale to lift into a high lunge with your feet 3- 4 feet apart
- Place your back foot turned at a 45 degree angle and aligned heel to heel with the front foot. Square the hips and align the shoulders over the hips
- Bend the front knee directly over the ankle Keep a slight internal rotation of the back leg to keep your leg neutral.
- Lift both arms up overhead externally rotating the arms so that the palms are facing each other and the energy is up toward the fingertips. Externally rotate your front leg hip to open your thigh.
- Find a neutral pelvis.
- Press into the outer edge of your left foot and firm your left thigh as your slightly internally rotate the leg
- From warrior I, move your back foot back 12 inches and rotate it to a 90 degree angle
- Make sure your back foot is aligned heel to heel with the front foot (option for heel to arch alignment depending on your flexibility and comfort).
- Bend the front knee directly over the ankle.
- Lift your torso so that your shoulders align over the hips.
- Keep a slight internal rotation of the back leg to keep your leg neutral. Extend both arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor with palms facing down.
- Externally rotate your front leg hip to open your thigh.
- Find a neutral pelvis.
- Turn your head toward the front and gaze over your fingertips
- Hold for 3 breaths
This is a preparatory or restorative posture to precede or follow any pose in the practice.
- The benefits of this pose include reducing stress and anxiety, aiding digestion, relieving back pain, and stretching the ankles, back, and hips.
- From downward facing dog, kneel on your hands and knees, hands planted shoulder width apart, Bring your toes together and your knees about hip distance apart, Sit your hips back onto your heels as you extend your torso forward, laying your stomach onto your thighs
- Let your shoulders round forward, allowing your forehead to rest gently on the mat
- Bring your arms by your sides with the palms of your hands facing upward
- Relax your facial muscles and jaw Avoid bringing your knees too far apart
- Hold for 5 breaths
The corpse pose is the final restorative pose after the practice and arguably the most important pose in the sequence. It allows the body to release any residual tension and completely relax.
The benefits of this pose include deep relaxation, calms the mind and body, decreases depression, reduces anxiety, headache, and insomnia, and helps to treat high blood pressure.
- Lie on your back and let your arms release outward from your sides far enough from your body for your armpits to have space,
- Relax your hands and turn your palms upward
- Let your legs separate to about as wide as your mat so that your lower back starts to release
- Allow your legs, feet, and ankles to relax complete
- Draw your buttocks down toward your heels to create length in your lower back. To help with this you can lift your hips slightly and use your hands to draw your buttocks down away from your waist before you completely relax. Let your eyes, jaw, tongue, and throat soften, release any controlled breath and begin to breathe quietly
- Hold for 5 minutes