Yoga is originally a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline. The focus of this ancient practice is meditation and breath control in particular bodily postures and positions. Nowadays, however, yoga is practised all over the world by all sorts of people, predominantly for health and relaxation.
The yoga that is commonly practiced in the Western world is hatha yoga, which forms one aspect of the ancient practice, all about observance and meditation. The term yoga derives from the Sanskrit word for ‘union’, so it’s all about keeping the balance and engaging the mind and body.
Yoga not only helps people to feel calm and focused, but it’s also a great way to stay in shape, and build up strength, flexibility and muscle tone. There are all sorts of yoga poses, or asanas, that will help strengthen the mind and body.
But yoga moves can be tricky to get stuck into, with many people giving up pretty early on. The meditation aspects can be the most difficult sometimes, as it can be hard to stay focused when you’re also trying to hold a pose and use muscles that you don’t normally exercise.
This is why it’s a great idea to start off with some yoga poses for beginners! Basic, simple poses which are designed to ease you in gently are the perfect way to begin your journey.
It’s best to start this way because it allows you to really focus on your breathing and observe how your body and mind are working in unison, without the stress of trying to do it on your head…
Before you start, it’s a good idea to wear comfy clothes that you can easily move and stretch in, and not too tight so that you can breathe and hold poses with ease. Most people find it easiest to practice on an exercise mat, as it keeps you grounded and you’re less likely to slip.
But the beauty of yoga is that you don’t really need anything apart from a bit of peace and quiet! Find a peaceful spot and give some easy poses a try.
So what are the best poses to get you started, then? Below is a list of 12 basic poses which will give you an insight into yoga and gradually encourage you towards more advanced moves, if you wish to achieve them.
Mountain pose is a simple and amazing way to stretch the body out from fingers to toes, and really straighten your posture.
To begin, stand straight and tall with your feet together. Relax your shoulders and you’re your arms to your sides, making sure your weight is evenly distributed across the soles of your feet.
Take a deep breath in and raise your hands over your head in an upward circular motion. The palms of your hands must join to face each other. Your hands should now be pointed straight up to the sky, and really breathe into that stretch, reaching up towards the sky with your fingertips.
Downward facing dog is an essential yoga pose (Source: Pixabay)
Downward Facing Dog
This is your base pose, and you’ll return to this between different yoga moves. It’s a good idea to practice your downward dog regularly – not just because it feels great, but because it’s an easy way to flow between poses.
Start on all fours with your hands slightly forward from your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Spread your palms out with your fingers stretched comfortably and your toes curled under.
With your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent, slowly press your hips towards the ceiling, and press your shoulders away from your ears, making your body into an inverted V shape.
Hold this pose for 3 full breaths, or longer if it feels good! Hold for a few breaths between poses as a transition movement too.
Plank builds strength and stamina, which is crucial for beginners. (Source: Google)
Plank is a really important yoga pose for beginners, which is easy to master. It’s all about learning how to balance on our hands whilst supporting ourselves with the body, and it’s great for strengthening up the abs.
Start on all fours, and tuck your toes under so that you can lift your legs up off the mat. Form a straight line with your body, sliding your heels back and engaging your abs until you feel straight and strong from your head to your feet.
Keep your abs engaged, and draw your shoulders back away from your ears. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths.
Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, with your arms at your sides.
Shift your weight so that you are balancing on your left leg, and place the sole of your right foot inside your left thigh. Keep your hips facing forward and maintain that balance.
As you breathe in, bring your arms up above your head, with your palms facing each other shoulder-width apart. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then slowly lower and repeat on the other side.
Remember, if you can’t get your leg up high enough, or it feels painful on your knee joint, feel free to lower your sole so that it presses against your calf. Make sure you feel a stretch, but if a pose is hurting just loosen it until it’s more comfortable.
Warrior poses are essential for yoga newbies as they build up strength, stamina and confidence when beginning and practicing yoga.
Warrior 1 is an easy move which features a simple back bend, and gently opens and strengthens up the body through calm stretching.
Start by taking a big step back with your left foot, then push your left heel down and angle your left toes outwards slightly, about 45 degrees.
When you’re in a lunging position, lift your chest up and bring your arms up above your head. Press your palms together and pointed up to the sky.
Hold for 5-10 breaths, then step forward and repeat on the opposite leg.
Warrior 2 continues with a slight lunge, but focuses on opening up the hips, inner thighs and groin. This is a great starting point for learning more complex side postures later on, such as triangle and half-moon balance.
Start off standing with your legs about 3 or 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot out behind you at about 90 degrees. Turn our left foot in slightly.
Bring your hands to your hips and relax into the pose, especially relaxing your shoulders. Then extend your arms out to the sides with your palms facing down. Your shoulders and arms should form one strong, straight line.
Almost as if you’re about to go into a lunge, bend your left leg forward to a 90-degree angle. Your knee should be above your ankle. Gently release and repeat on the other side.
Cobra is a relaxing way to stretch and elongate the body. (Source: Google)
This simple and relaxing pose is great for stretching out your entire body and extending the spine.
Start by lying face-down on the floor with your legs stretched back and the tops of your foot against the floor. Spread your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders, hugging your elbows into your sides.
Pressing your feet, thighs and pelvis firmly into the floor, breathe in and begin to straighten your arms and lift your chest off the floor. Push your hips down, engage your glutes, and press your shoulders down away from your ears.
Distribute the weight and stretch evenly down your back, and hold for about 30 seconds, breathing steadily. Exhale as you release back down to the floor, and repeat.
Master this pose to feel the ultimate relaxation! (Source: Pixabay)
This basic pose is wonderful for relaxation, and a great transition from cobra to stretch out the back, shoulders, and arms
To begin, sit upright comfortably on your heels, and slowly roll your torso forward so that your forehead is resting on the floor in front of you.
Gradually lower your chest towards your knees, as closely as you comfortably can, and stretch your arms out in front you, fairly relaxed, with your palms facing down on the floor.
Hold this pose for as many breaths as you like.
This position is great for beginners, helping you stretch out your back, shoulders, arms and hips.
Get started by lying on the floor with your back straight, and your knees bent directly over your heels.
Place your arms by your sides with your palms facing down. Exhale, and in one motion press your feet into the floor and lift your hips up off the ground.
When your back is off the ground, bring your arms in and clasp your hands together under your lower back. Your arms should be pressed down into the mat, and your hips lifted up until your thighs are parallel to the floor, bringing your chest in towards your chin.
Triangle pose is a great way to start enhancing your flexibility, and balance is the key.
To begin, form a standing position with your feet about 3 feet apart and your arms outstretched, like a 5-point star. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, and your left toes slightly inwards, at about 45 degrees.
Be sure to engage your abs and quads, and hinge your torso sideways over your right leg. Place your right hand down onto your ankle, or as low down as you can comfortably reach (this can be your shin or knee), and lift your leg arm up towards the sky.
Turn to look up at your top hand and hold the pose for 5-10 breaths. Slowly lift back up to standing position, and then repeat on the opposite side.
This move is slightly more complex, and requires concentration to get it right and reap the benefits. As a beginner, keep your toes on the floor, and you can progress to lifting them if and when you feel ready.
Start by getting into your downward dog position with your palms pressed flat into the mat and your feet hip-width apart, and walk inwards until your knees are touching your arms.
Now bend your elbows and lift your heels up off the floor so that you are resting on the balls of your feet and toes. Rest your knees against the outside of your upper arms and press them in, then engage your abs. Hold this pose for around 5 breaths and then relax.
Pigeon pose is another yoga move which is fairly simple, but requires practise and concentration due to its slightly added complexity. This pose is especially good for stretching out hip joints and improving flexibility.
Begin by getting into your downward dog and bring your left leg through and rest it beneath your shoulders (or as far forward as you comfortably can), so that your left leg is under your body and the heel is under your right shoulder, or hip if that’s easier.
Slide your right leg back behind you, so that the top of your foot is against the mat. Lower your buttocks to the floor.
Bring your torso forward and extend your arms out in front of you, palms face-down. Lay your torso down over your bent left leg, and relax into the pose. Hold for 4-5 breaths.
Slowly rise back up by bringing your arms in and lifting up off your hands, pushing up off the floor to return to downward dog.
These 12 poses will let you try out some easy – and some more complex – yoga exercises for when you’re just starting out.
Looking for more yoga poses to try? Find out how to do the lotus pose.
Bear in mind that the length of time or number of breaths you hold a yoga pose for is up to you – just don’t overdo it! Pushing yourself is the only way to achieve anything, but pushing too hard can lead to strain or injury. It’s all about balance.