So you’re starting to practice yoga. Maybe you’ve thought about it for a while or were thrust into it by a friend. Either way, your first yoga class (or classes) may seem quite daunting. You may think you don’t have enough balance or you aren’t flexible. As it turns out, there is no perfect way to be when starting yoga. In fact, yoga can help improve such things and make you stronger.
But being cheered on can only get you so far. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little knowledge in your back pocket as you get started. On the surface, yoga is a series of poses and movements carefully placed together in order to offer some type of physical, mental, and/or spiritual benefit. It is not necessary to memorize every single pose, or asana, (there are hundreds!) but there are a few poses that you will perform countless times in your life. These building blocks of yoga are used in many different variations and are used as transitions and starting off points for more advanced poses.
So what are these magical, need-to-know poses? Let’s learn more about the top five:
It may just seem like simply standing up straight at first, but this important asana is much more than that. Often performed at the beginning of a practice or as a part of a Sun Salutation, Mountain Pose gives us a chance to begin with slow, conscious, in and out breathing, a pivotal important part of yoga.
Beginners Tip: This pose is often referred to by its Sanskrit name, Tadasana.
Second only to Mountain Pose is the illustrious Downward Facing Dog. I don’t think I’ve attended a yoga class that didn’t include at least one Down Dog. It is the building block of so many other poses, combinations, and flows. Performed on its own, Downward Facing Dog strengthens and stretches the entire body. This asana can be used as a transition between more difficult and strenuous movements and is part of almost every Sun Salutation.
Beginners Tip: This basic pose may take some time to perfect and may be the bane of your existence for quite some time. However, most yogis experience a Down Dog revelation at some point in their lives where the positioning clicks and you begin to really feel and enjoy it.
Cat & Dog Tilt actually involves movement instead of just holding a position. Arching and rounding the back slowly in this way is great for the spine helps to protect from back pain. This asana seamlessly goes into Downward Facing Dog and is a great precursor for Sun Salutations.
Beginners Tip: You may also hear this movement referred to as Cat & Cow, and both Cat and Dog/Cow are in fact their own individual asanas.
4. Warrior I & Warrior II
I’m pretty sure you can’t officially call yourself a yogi until you’ve performed these two!. Warrior I strengthens the legs, shoulders, and arms while Warrior II strengthens the legs and expands the chest. They can be performed together along with Warrior III or by themselves and are often preceded or followed by any of the Lateral Angle or Triangle Poses.
Beginners Tip: Proper positioning is key with these asanas, so be sure to take your time and make sure every part of your body is where it should be!
5. Child’s Pose
Whether you’ve just completed a cardio-intense Sun Salutation flow or just need a little break between movements, Child’s Pose can be a release without completely taking yourself out of your practice. It allows you to quiet your mind for a brief or extended period of time while gently stretching your hips.
Beginners Tip: Some instructors or classes may have you perform a Child’s Pose that looks more like Forward Facing Hero Pose with the knees spread wide and arms outstretched in front of you.