Yoga is a great practice, and you are going to receive a world of benefits from it. But where do you start? What are the first things you should know? If you’re a beginner, you may want to learn how to do a full Sun Salutation, or you may be wondering what a Sun Salutation is at all.
It’s important for those who are just starting out to understand proper alignment. Practicing standing poses will help with this. They help you to establish a foundation, strengthen the legs and arms, and familiarize you with proper foot, knee, and body alignment.
Here are 10 beginner standing poses to get you started.
Mountain pose helps you to feel grounded and teaches you how to engage all four corners of the feet, which is important for every pose you will practice.
1) Stand with your feet together at the top of your mat. Press down through the big toe mound of each foot.
2) Now ground down through the inner side of your heel. You will feel your legs turn slightly inward.
3) Continue grounding those two corners of your feet. Then begin to ground down through the little toe mound of your foot and the outer corner of your heel, too. Now that all four corners of the feet are engaged, you should feel the inner rotation of your legs even out.
4) Tuck your tailbone inward, so the sitting bones are not sticking out, and lengthen the spine.
5) Check your ribs to make sure they are not jutting outward. Roll your shoulders back and down the spine.
6) Turn your hands to face forward. Relax your facial muscles and level your chin with the floor.
7) Breathe deeply here; feel yourself rooting down while growing tall.
Upward Salute is typically practiced as part of a flow sequence. This posture relieves anxiety, improves digestion, and stretches the abdomen, side body, and shoulders.
1) When you’re nice and grounded in Tadasana, reach your arms out and upward—you’re now in Upward Salute!
2) Press your palms and fingers together over your head, and draw your shoulders down away from your ears.
4) Gaze upward toward your hands. Focus on lengthening the spine by pressing down through the tailbone and reaching up through the hands.
5) Stay here for a few deep breaths and enjoy the side-body stretch. To release, lower your hands down to your heart and return to Tadasana.
Once you learn to ground yourself in Tadasana, you can begin to play with balance. Tree pose is a one-legged posture that quickly reveals where your balance needs work. This is a great beginner yoga pose because there are several variations, which allow the pose to grow with your practice.
1) Stand in Tadasana.
2) Slowly shift your body weight to your left foot, and place your hands on your hips.
3) Begin to lift your right foot. If your balance is unsteady, rest your toes on the floor and place your right heel above your left ankle. If you feel comfortable here, place the bottom of your right foot on the inside of your left shin or move it up to your inner thigh. You can continue to slide your right foot up your leg, getting as close to the pelvis as you can.
4) To increase the challenge, bring your hands together in anjali mudra, in front of your heart. You may also raise your arms above your head, reaching out and up like the branches of a tree.
5) Continue to lengthen your spine while grounding down through the left foot. Then slowly bring your right foot down and repeat on the other side.
Caution: Never place your foot on your knee. Sideways pressure on the knee can damage the joint.
What happened to Warrior 1? Don’t worry, it’s coming. Warrior 1 is actually a slightly more advanced posture because of your hip placement. Warrior 2 will help you begin building leg and arm strength. This is also a great pose to practice proper knee and ankle alignment.
1) Start in Downward-Facing Dog.
2) Lift your right leg up behind you, coming into a three-legged Downward-Facing Dog.
3) Step your right foot forward between your hands. If you’re just starting out and your foot doesn’t reach, that’s normal. Start practicing the motion so you can get used to it.
4) Ground your left foot down so it’s parallel to the back edge of your mat.
5) With the front knee bent at a 90-degree angle, cartwheel your arms and torso up to come into a standing position.
6) Make sure your chest and pelvis are facing the left side of your mat, not forward. Reach your arms out at shoulder level.
7) Turn your gaze forward and look over your right hand. Make sure the trunk of your body is aligned over your hips; do not angle your torso forward.
8) Be cautious of your right knee. Can you see your big toe? If not, your knee is pitching too far to the left, so adjust accordingly. You are working toward keeping your knee at a 90-degree angle with the floor. If you’re not there, it’s okay! Just make sure your knee hasn’t moved forward past your ankle.
9) Stay here for a few rounds of breath; then repeat on the opposite side.
While Warrior 1 doesn’t need to be practiced right away, it is a core pose in many yoga sequences. This posture teaches you to really ground down through your back leg. It also helps to improve your knee and ankle alignment, as well as your hip flexibility.
1) Begin in Downward-Facing Dog.
2) Lift your right leg up behind you, coming into a three-legged Downward-Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward between your hands, bending the knee at a 90-degree angle.
3) Ground your left foot down so your toes are facing the upper left corner of your mat. This foot position is slightly different from Warrior 2, and that’s where the challenge begins.
4) Lift your torso up while maintaining the bend in your right knee.
5) Unlike Warrior 2, your hips and chest should be level with the front of the room. For beginners, this can be very difficult. Don’t push yourself; just begin to work toward that shape.
6) Raise your arms up overhead, and bring your hands together.
7) Turn your gaze upward toward the hands.
8) Check in with your right knee. If it’s bent past the ankle, you may need to take a longer stance.
9) Hold for five breaths, and then repeat on the other side.
This is another basic pose with modifications for different levels of flexibility. Remember, limited flexibility is not a reason to stay away from yoga! Yoga helps you to build flexibility—and Uttanasana is a great place to start. This pose lengthens and stretches the back, hamstrings, and calves.
1) Stand in Tadasana and ground all four corners of your feet into the mat.
2) Reach your arms out to the sides and fold forward, hinging from the hips rather than rounding the back to bend over.
3) Place your hands on the floor, or use yoga blocks to bring the floor to you. Focus on lengthening your spine, and pressing downward.
4) Continue to ground down through all four corners of the feet. If you feel any strain in the backs of your knees, microbend them.
5) To create a flow, reach your arms out to the sides and come back up to stand on an inhalation.
6) Relax your hands at your sides, coming back into Tadasana.
In Ardha Uttanasana, your back is parallel with the floor. This is more important to know later in your practice when you begin to flow through poses. As a beginner, simply work on getting familiar with the pose and lengthening your back.
1) From Uttanasana, lift your torso upward until your back is parallel to the floor.
2) Draw the shoulders away from the ears to open the chest, and lengthen the spine.
3) Rest your hands on the floor, shins, or thighs, depending on your level of flexibility.
4) Lengthen your neck and look slightly forward. Engage the core.
5) Exhale and release into a full Forward Fold.
Here’s where you really start moving your body through space. Trikonasana will teach you many different areas of alignment. It’s also a great pose for learning how to balance stretch and strength.
1) From Warrior 2, straighten your front leg.
2) With your arms raised at shoulder height, begin to reach forward with your front hand—as if you’re trying to touch something just out of reach in front of you.
3) Bring your front hand down to the floor, your shin, or a block, on the inside of your front foot. Your top arm should be reaching toward the ceiling. (The goal is to keep your arms in a straight line and your side body lengthened, so use a block if necessary.)
4) Press down through the big toe mound of your front foot to help maintain balance.
5) When you feel balanced, turn your gaze up toward your top hand. Repeat on the opposite side.
This pose blends the alignment and stretch of Warrior 2 and Triangle pose. Notice how alignment points are similar throughout many different poses. Extended Side Angle pose continues to help you ground down through the back foot, stretch the side body, and maintain that knee/ankle alignment.
1) Begin in Warrior 2 with your right foot forward.
2) Rest your right forearm on your right thigh.
3) Reach over your head with your left arm, lengthening the left side body.
4) Use the pressure of your right arm pressing against your right thigh to rotate the torso, turning your ribs toward the ceiling.
5) Gaze toward your top hand.
6) If you are comfortable here, work on bringing that right hand to a block on the inside of your right foot, or to the floor.
Whether or not you practice yoga, you have likely heard of Downward-Facing Dog. There’s actually a lot to consider in this pose when it comes to proper alignment, so it’s important to get used to Downward-Facing Dog as a beginner. This fundamental posture stretches the back of your legs and teaches you to balance weight evenly throughout the body.
1) Come into Plank pose, which many know as a push-up position. Make sure your shoulders are aligned over your wrists.
2) Lift your hips upward without changing the distance between your hands and feet.
3) Ground down through the thumb and forefinger mounds of your hands, inner elbows facing forward.
4) Reach your heels toward the floor. If there are wrinkles on the front of the ankles, slowly lift your heels higher until they disappear.
5) Reach your hips up and back, placing even weight in your hands and feet.
6) Lengthen your spine, and set your gaze between your knees or toward your navel.
The key to beginning a yoga practice is to start slow. Pay attention to your body. Don’t push yourself too hard because that will lead to injury. Beginner yogis should learn poses from an experienced yoga instructor, so they can be adjusted for proper alignment. The details provided here are only intended as a reference. If your local studio has a beginner series, start there!