The Essential Yoga Poses for Beginners, According to an Instructor (2024)

For many newfound yoga practitioners, it can be tempting to try out inversions, arm balances, and other tricky poses you see on social media right from the get-go. But those postures require some serious strength and balance training, which is why Ashley Rideaux, a YogaWorks-certified teacher trainer in Los Angeles, recommends newbies stick with a handful of basic sitting and standing postures.

"The bread and butter of a beginner's practice are your standing poses," she says. "They build strength through a lot of the larger muscles of the body. They're accessible to a lot of bodies and that makes them a great place, not just to find strength and flexibility, but also to build confidence in the work." These two types of yoga poses for beginners also help you develop a sense of where your body is positioned in space without actually seeing it, says Rideaux. (Remember: There typically aren't mirrors in yoga studios.)

And though popular culture makes it seem that props are reserved solely for older folks, Rideaux encourages everyone — from beginners to yoga veterans — to use them while practicing if they're available. "Props are so helpful in creating clean alignment and helping you avoid injury," she explains. "And a lot of times, as you find the proper alignment, it actually gives you a greater challenge."

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"Challenge" is the key word here, and you shouldn't expect to become a pro after adding these yoga poses for beginners to your routine once or twice. "The practice is like learning a new language — I wouldn't go into a French lesson and day one expect to leave fluent," says Rideaux. "The same thing is true about learning the body and putting these shapes onto our body. It's going to look a little bit different on all of us, and it's a lifetime of learning to develop fluency." Once you've become an intermediate practitioner you might benefit from yoga conditioning to gain a little more strength to assist your yoga practice.

To kick off your journey to becoming a seasoned practitioner and start building up the necessary strength, flexibility, and confidence, try flowing through these yoga poses for beginners, which are demonstrated by Lindsay Monal, R.Y.T., a yoga teacher atYogaRenew Teacher Training.

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Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

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This yoga pose for beginners will help build full-body strength, specifically in the ankles, feet, thighs, calves, abs, and spine, says Monal.

A. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, weight evenly distributed through soles, arms at sides, shoulders relaxed, and palms facing forward.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

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Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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This yoga pose for beginners not only strengthens the arms, core, and glutes, but it also stretches the calves and hamstrings, says Monal. Reminder: "It’s ok to keep your knees bent and heels lifted off of the ground," she says. "Focus on lengthening your spine here and work towards lifting your hips up. The ability to straighten your legs will come in time!"

A. Start in a table-top position with hands directly under shoulders, knees under hips. Walk hands a few inches forward and spread fingers wide, pressing palms into mat.

B. Curl toes under and slowly lift hips toward ceiling, bringing body into an inverted "V" shape, pressing shoulders away from ears. Feet should be hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

(This non-slip yoga mat will keep you upright no matter how sweaty your palms become.)

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Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

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Add this beginner yoga pose to your practice, and you'll loosen up your hips, calves, and shoulders while also strengthening the shoulders, quads, and hamstrings, says Monal.

A. Stand with feet spread wide, 3 to 4 feet apart. Turn left foot out 90 degrees and right foot in slightly. Bring hands to hips and relax shoulders, then extend arms out to the sides, palms down.

B. Bend the left knee 90 degrees, keeping knee over ankle; gaze out over left hand.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides and repeat.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

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This standing yoga posture will give your hips, ankles, and feet a good stretch while simultaneously strengthening your ankles, calves, quads, and abs, says Monal. Since the pose involves standing on one leg, it can also help improve your balance, she says.

A. Stand with arms at sides and hands on hips.

B. Shift weight onto left leg and place sole of right foot inside left thigh, keeping hips facing forward.

C. Once balanced, bring hands in front of chest in prayer position, palms together.

D. On an inhale, extend arms over shoulders, palms separated and facing each another.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Bring right foot to the inside of left ankle, keeping toes on the floor for balance. As you get stronger and develop better balance, move foot to the inside of left calf.

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Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

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As you ground through your feet, you'll build strength in your ankles, legs, and core. Plus, you'll stretch out your obliques, shoulders, and hamstrings as you hinge at the hips and reach up toward the ceiling, says Monal.

A. Stand with feet about 3 feet apart, left foot turned out to 90 degrees, right foot to roughly 45 degrees.

B. Extend arms out to sides, then hinge at hips to lower torso to left leg.

C. Allow left hand to touch the floor or rest on left leg below or above the knee, and extend the fingertips of right hand toward the ceiling. Turn gaze toward the ceiling.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

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High Lunge

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This yoga pose for beginners and beyond is ideal for loosening up the hip flexors, chest, and quads.

A. Stand at the top of the mat with feet together and arms at sides, hands resting on hips.

B. Step right foot back until right leg is fully extended, keeping right heel lifted off the floor. Bend left knee slightly and keep it directly over left ankle.

C. Lift arms above head and extend toward the ceiling, pull shoulders down and away from ears, and gaze forward.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

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Bridge Pose

After a long day parked at your desk, try this yoga pose for beginners to counteract hours of being sedentary. Bridge pose builds strength in the core, hips, quads, calves, and ankles and stretches the chest and shoulders, says Monal.

A. Lie faceup on the floor with knees bent and directly over heels. Place arms at sides, palms down.

B. Exhale, then press feet into the floor to lift hips slightly.

C. Clasp hands under lower back and press arms down, further lifting hips until body forms a straight line from head to knees, and bring chest toward chin.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Place a yoga block underneath the sacrum for additional support.

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Seated Spinal Twist

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This seated yoga posture will help you ease into your day by giving you a feel-good stretch throughout your spine, shoulders, and neck, says Monal.

A. Sit tall in a cross-legged position with shoulders in line with hips, hands resting on knees or thighs, and gaze forward. Draw shoulders down and away from ears.

B. Raise both arms up toward the ceiling above head, then twist to the left, moving from abdomen. Place right hand on left knee and left fingertips on the floor a few inches behind butt.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Keep bottom leg straight and place both hands on raised knee. If lower back rounds forward, sit on a folded blanket to elevate hips.

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Baby Cobra

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Looking to open up the chest, shoulders, abs, and neck? Add this beginner yoga pose to your daily practice.

A. Lie facedown on the floor with thumbs directly under shoulders, legs extended, with the tops of feet on the floor.

B. Tighten pelvic floor and tuck hips downward while squeezing glutes. Press shoulders down and away from ears.

C. Lighten pressure in palms, inhale, and lift chest a few inches off the mat, raising only as high as possible without pressing into hands.

Relax, exhale, and repeat for 5 full breaths.

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Child's Pose (Balasana)

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Ideal for stretching the spine, shoulders, ankles, hips, and neck, this yoga pose for beginners also helps to release tension, stress, and anxiety, says Monal.

A. Start in a table-top position with hands directly under shoulders, knees under hips.

B. Keeping palms on the floor and arms extended, sink butt back to heels and bring forehead to rest on the mat.

C. Lower chest as close to knees as is comfortable.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Place a block under head or a rolled blanket behind knees.

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Easy Seat (Sukhasana)

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This gentle yoga posture helps strengthen the back while opening up the hips, knees, ankles, and thighs, says Monal.

A. Sit tall in a cross-legged position with shoulders in line with hips, hands resting on knees or thighs, and gaze forward. Draw shoulders down and away from ears.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Place a prop, such as a blanket or bolster, under butt so knees are level or slightly lower than hips.

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Staff Pose (Dandasana)

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Along with stretching the chest and shoulders, this beginner yoga pose helps lengthen the spine while strengthening the back muscles, says Monal.

A. Sit with legs extended forward, big toes touching one another, shoulders in line with hips, and torso lengthened. Plant palms next to hips, straighten arms, and draw shoulders down and away from ears.

B. Engage thighs and flex feet, drawing toes toward face, while raising both arms toward the ceiling above head.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Place a prop, such as a blanket or block, under butt, so hips are slightly elevated.

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Corpse Pose (Savasana)

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This yoga pose for beginners may not loosen up your tight muscles, but it does calm the nervous system, relax the body, and refocuses the mind, says Monal.

A. Lie on back with legs extended, arms out to sides, palms facing the ceiling, and head centered.

Breathe and stay in this pose for 5 minutes.

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Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)

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Add this posture to your routine, and you'll give your upper back, shoulders, chest, arms, and neck the stretch they need after hunching over your laptop all day, says Monal.

A. Start in a table-top position, with palms directly under shoulders, knees under hips, and tops of feet on the floor.

B. Raise right arm up toward the ceiling, gaze following with it. Pause, then lower right arm back down and underneath left arm until fully extended.

C. Lower chest as close to the floor as is comfortable, keeping hips high.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

The Essential Yoga Poses for Beginners, According to an Instructor (2024)

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