If you learn everything about yoga from Instagram, you might feel overwhelmed as you browse through photo after photo of people in bathing suits balancing on the edge of a cliff. If you’ve never done yoga before, those images can give you the wrong impression. There’s much more to yoga than being upside down. Many poses that are friendly to beginners, and some are so simple you can do them every day!
Remember: simple doesn’t mean ineffective. All yoga poses are beneficial, even the ones that seem easier than standing on your hands. If you’re brand new to yoga, start with these 10 gentle yoga poses for beginners!
10 Great Yoga Poses for Beginners:
1) Cat Pose
Come to all fours, placing your knees below your hips and your wrists below your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide.
As you inhale, arch the back, bringing the crown of the head and the tailbone up. Imagine your heart shining forward between your shoulders.
As you exhale, round the back, lowering the head and the tailbone. Squeeze your belly button toward your spine as you finish your exhale. Repeat several times.
This pose helps relieve tension and improves flexibility in your spine.
2) Downward Facing Dog
From cat pose, curl your toes into the floor and lift your hips into the air. The goal is to create an upside-down V shape with your body, so straighten your legs as best you can and let your heels lower toward the floor. They might not touch; that’s okay.
Meanwhile, you’re pressing your hands down flat and moving your chest toward your knees so your head relaxes down between your biceps. Hold for several breaths.
Downward dog is one of our favorite yoga poses for beginners that is good for your entire body. It stretches your hamstrings and back as it strengthens your shoulders and core. It’s also a gentle inversion for your upper body, so you achieve some of the beneficial qualities of poses like headstand and handstand (like improving circulation to your upper body) in a less strenuous way!
3) Low Lunge
From downward dog, step your right foot forward between your hands. Let your left knee rest on the floor. Make sure your right knee is directly above your right ankle as you bring your hands into the air and let your hips move forward and down to deepen the stretch in your left hip flexor and quadriceps. This is especially important if you tend to sit all day at work since sitting shortens and tightens the hip flexors. Hold for several breaths.
4) Child’s Pose
This is a classic pose for rest and rejuvenation. Bring both knees to the floor and sit back on your heels. Gently lower your head toward the floor, perhaps resting it on your hands or on a yoga block if it doesn’t comfortably reach the floor. Take several deep breaths in this position.
Child’s pose is one of the great yoga poses for beginners for relieving low back tension and lengthening the spine.
5) Pigeon Pose
From a downward dog, bring your right leg forward, bending the knee and placing the bottom half of your leg on the ground. The right foot should be outside your right hip (not tucked up under you). Slide your left leg back to get your right hip as close to the ground as possible.
Use your hands to support yourself as needed to keep your hips square to the front of your mat. (You want to avoid leaning to the right side.) You can also place a block or a pillow under your right hip to help support the pose until you increase the flexibility in that area.
Hold for several breaths and repeat on the other side. As you’ll quickly feel, pigeon provides a wonderful stretch for your hips, and it can help strengthen your back, too, as you sit up tall and draw your shoulders back and down.
6) Mountain Pose
From downward dog, step both feet forward between your hands. Slowly come to a standing position, checking that your feet are directly under your hips and that your toes are pointed forward. Gently shift your weight back and forth until you feel you can settle evenly over both feet.
On an inhale, lift your arms high overhead. Keep your shoulders down, but reach actively through your fingertips. Hold for several breaths.
Bringing the arms up helps open your rib cage and it stimulates the lymph nodes under your arms.
7) Tree Pose
From mountain pose, shift your weight onto your left leg. Bring your right heel up to touch your ankle. You can stay right here with the right toes on the ground for extra balance, or move the right foot up your leg until it’s resting on your calf or your thigh. (Make sure it’s above or below the knee.) Place your hands together over your heart or reach them overhead and hold for several breaths to improve your balance and concentration. Repeat on the other side.
8) Forward Fold
From mountain pose, exhale as you bend forward at the hips, relaxing your head and shoulders. This pose is great for stretching the hamstrings, but you may want to bend your knees a little bit if the stretch feels too intense. After a few breaths, you might be able to straighten your legs a little more. If you can’t quite reach the floor, put your hands on a yoga block (or a stack of books!).
9) Warrior II
From mountain, take a big step back with your left leg, turning your left toes to the side of your mat while keeping the right toes pointed forward. Stretch your arms at shoulder height over your legs and strongly bend your right leg. Hold for several breaths. Warrior II helps build confidence as well as strength in the front leg and flexibility in the hips.
Savasana isn’t just one of the yoga poses for beginners; in fact, every yoga practice ends with savasana! Lie on your mat with your arms and legs slightly apart, palms turned up. Breathe deeply, and allow yourself to relax. Close your eyes and do the best you can to let your thoughts drift by without exploring them. Give yourself several minutes in this pose, then roll to your side and come back to a seated position.
Benefit Your Body and Mind With These Poses
Even with just these 10 simple yoga poses for beginners, you may notice a difference in your flexibility and energy levels after a few weeks of dedicated practice. It only takes 15 or 20 minutes, but this short daily practice will benefit your body and mind.