The practice of yoga is perfect for improving strength, flexibility, and balance, and it can also help reduce stress and improve energy. Many newbies find it intimidating, especially after seeing pictures of people balancing on their hands or sitting with their legs behind their heads.
Ease your anxiety: here are the most basic yoga poses found in any class or on any DVD. While some poses are more challenging than others, most won’t leave you knotted up like a pretzel. Becoming familiar with these essential yoga poses will boost your confidence, but even if you’re a seasoned yogi, you’ll appreciate having all your favorite yoga poses all in one spot.
Sanskrit Name: Tadasana or Samasthiti
English Translation: Mountain Pose or Equal Standing Pose
Stand at the front of your mat, feet together, legs active, and arms by your sides.
If you choose, this is the time to take a moment to bring your awareness inward, to create an intention for your practice or to make a dedication. Stay for five breaths.
Sanskrit Name: Uttanasana
English Translation: Intense Stretch Pose
Also Called: Standing Forward Bend
Begin in Mountain Pose at the front of your mat. Inhale and reach your arms straight above you.
As you exhale, engage your abs and fold forward with a straight back. Tuck your chin in toward your chest, relax your shoulders, and extend the crown of the head toward the floor to create a long spine. Shift your weight forward onto your toes, straightening the legs as much as possible. Place your hands on the ground, fingertips lining up with the toes.
Hold here for five breaths.
Sanskrit Name: Chaturanga Dandasana
English Translation: Four-Limbed Staff Pose
Begin at the front of your mat in Mountain Pose. Inhale to raise your arms up and exhale to fold forward into Standing Forward Bend. Inhale, straighten your arms and back, and look up. As you exhale, step or jump both feet back (so you’re in a push-up position) and bend your elbows straight behind you, brushing them against the sides of your body, lowering into Four-Limbed Staff.
Keep your body parallel to the ground and your shoulders parallel with your elbows. Draw your navel toward your spine to protect your lower back, holding for five breaths.
Sanskrit Name: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
English Translation: Upward Facing Dog Pose
Also Called: Up Dog
Begin at the front of your mat in Mountain Pose. Inhale to lift your arms up and exhale to fold forward into Standing Forward Bend.
Inhale and look up with a flat back and, as you exhale, step or jump your feet back into Four-Limbed Staff Pose.
Inhale a breath as you scoop your chest forward, balancing on the tops of your feet and your hands, coming into Upward Facing Dog. Lower your head back between your shoulder blades. Pull your shoulders blades down your back and hold for five breaths.
Sanskrit Name: Adho Mukha Svanasana
English Translation: Downward Facing Dog Pose
Also Called: Down Dog
Begin on your hands and knees. Your wrists should be underneath your shoulders, and your knees should be underneath your hips.
Inhale as you tuck your toes under your heels. Then exhale to lift your hips, coming into an upside down “V” shape called Downward Facing Dog.
Spread your fingers wide and create a straight line between your middle fingers and elbows. Work on straightening your legs and lowering your heels toward the ground. Relax your head between your arms and direct your gaze through your legs or up toward your belly button. Hold for five breaths.
Traditionally this pose is done during Sun Salutation A, so you can also come into it from Upward Facing Dog.