According to a Hatha Yoga text known as The Gheranda Samhita, there are 84 basic poses. Lord Shiva is said to have created 8,400,000 asanas in total, and a yogi named Sri Dharma Mittra once photographed himself in 1,350 postures. In short, there are A LOT of yoga poses. With so many to choose from, where should a beginner start?
Below is a list of the 10 most common poses you will encounter throughout your yoga practice and how to do them:
While this looks like an easy pose, it actively works to improve balance, posture, and focus. Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides, palms facing forward. Without holding onto any tension, make your body as tall as possible, imagining a string at the top of your head pulling you up. Keep your feet firmly grounded, close your eyes, and bring your focus to the present.
Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders aligned over your wrists and hips over knees. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed across your hands. Tuck your toes under and lift up and back, reaching your pelvis towards the ceiling. Touch your heels to the floor if you can, but if not stay on your toes. Your body should resemble an “a” shape. Relax your head, neck, and shoulders.
From Mountain, slowly begin to bend from the hips and reach your arms down to the floor. Draw your forehead to your knees, bending them as needed. It’s important that you bend from your hips and not your lower back, as this reduces strain on the back.
Step your feet 4-5 feet apart, turning your right foot 90 degrees so that your toes are pointing to the front of your mat. Your left foot should be at a 45-degree angle. Keep your hips facing forward and both legs straight. Raise your arms up to shoulder height, then reach your right arm forward, bend at the hip, and draw your right arm down to your right shin, keeping the left arm straight up pointing to the ceiling. Do the same on the left side.
Starting in Downward Dog, bring one foot forward into a lunge, turning your back foot to a 45-degree angle. Bring your torso up, keeping your pelvis facing the top of your mat. Raise your arms, bend back slightly lifting the chest, and hold.
Start off the same as Warrior I, going from Downward Dog into a lunge with your back foot at a 45-degree angle. This time, turn your hips out and face your pelvis towards one side of your mat. Raise your arms up to shoulder height. Gaze softly over whichever hand is facing forward (same side as the leg that is bent). Hold this before coming back into Downward Dog to switch sides.
Start in Mountain and firmly ground your feet into the floor. Begin to shift your weight to one foot, engaging your core and keeping your foot as stable as possible. Bring the foot your weight is not on to your calf, then slowly higher if possible. The optimum placement for your foot is against the inner thigh close to the pelvis. Do not rest your foot on the side of your knee, only above or below it. Bring your hands into a prayer position in front of your chest and focus on an unmoving spot in front of you.
Planks are prevalent in many exercise routines. The key to a proper plank is keeping your spine straight and not allowing your hips to either dip down or reach too high. Engage your core and avoid putting all of your weight your hands, which should be aligned under your shoulders but slightly wider than them. Planks are often used in yoga to transition to other poses, so proper form is important to reduce the chance of injury.
Rest on your knees while sitting back on your heels, hands resting on your thighs. Spread your knees apart and slowly bend forward, stretching your arms out in front or letting them rest at your sides. Your whole torso should be resting on your thighs, with your forehead on your mat. You can also come into Child’s Pose from Plank by resting your knees on the ground and reaching your hips back to your heels, keeping your arms stretched out in front.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Lie on your back with your arms out at your sides, palms facing up. Spread out your legs slightly, giving each limb its own space. The corpse pose is a recovery pose, so let your body relax and melt into the floor.
These common poses will serve you well no matter what level of yogi you are. They make up the foundation of yoga practice, and knowing these will help you master the toughest postures!