Our panel of yoga experts are back to share their top tips for nailing postures in your first practice
Ever worked through a Youtube yoga class with one eye on the screen because you’ve never heard of a pose or felt daunted by fast-paced flows because you don’t know the sequence? We don’t blame you – it’s not often you’re given a rundown of the different yoga poses for beginners.
You don’t have to master all 84 asanas to be at the top of your yoga game. But, if you want to make the most out of your practice (on one of our picks of the best yoga mats, naturally), it can help to have a basic knowledge of how your body is moving in class. Nahid de Belgeonnem, somatic yoga teacher and founder of The Human Method says, “Having an understanding of how poses are meant to feel and where your body is meant to be in space will help you to have a much more fulfilling practice that makes you feel good.”
That’s what yoga is all about – helping your mind, body and soul to feel great. It combines mindful movement and breathwork training, which not only helps to build strength, flexibility, and balance but works to increase clarity and mindfulness (you can learn more about that in our yoga for beginners guide).
One thing to remember is that yoga is still a physical activity, so getting the moves right will prevent injury and help you to practice safely.
“My top tip for beginners is to do a live class,” says Katarina Rayburn, who has been teaching yoga classes and hosting retreats for five years. She continues: “Whether you are live streaming from home or can get to a studio, if you are not 100% sure of alignments a teacher can tell you where you’re going wrong straight away.”
To make sure you enter your yoga studio or virtual class armed with the fundamentals, we’ve put together a list of the best yoga poses for beginners…
Yoga poses for beginners: 7 to master pre-your first class
1. Child Pose – Balasana
A trusty pose that you always come back to in all types of yoga, child’s pose is a good one to have up your sleeve when you need a rest in class. This ‘physical timeout’ often starts a flow and helps you to get into the yoga zone.
“You form this restorative shape by sitting on your heels and relaxing your arms and head down on the floor in front of you,” explains Laura Pearce, founder of Yoga Collective London and Kin Yoga Mats. “It has an amazing spinal decompression effect and feels lovely through the lower back – a great one if you sit at a desk all day,” she says.
2. Corpse Pose – Savasana
You’ll probably be confused when everyone around you drops onto their mats if you’ve never been to a yoga class before. This is Savasana. Although it might look like you’re going for a nap, it requires you to focus. Like a warm-down after a session of cardio, it allows for all of the stretching and strengthening that you’ve just worked on to settle.
The main aim is to reach complete relaxation and, as yoga teachers often say, “sink into your mat.” Find a comfortable neutral position and stretch through your spine, releasing your shoulder blades so that they sit flat on the ground. You should also breathe deeply to make sure your chest is open – you’ll be meditating in minutes.
3. Mountain pose – Tadasana
Like Savasana, this pose is all about grounding your practice and revelling in the atmosphere of your class. The only difference is, you’re stood up.
Shruti Srivastava, founder of Yoga Mapp, goes into all of the details: “To really reap all the benefits of Tadasana, stand with your feet touching, toes and heels together. Lift and extend all your toes, then one by one place them all back down on the mat. Lift your kneecaps and rotate both thighs inwards, engaging your leg muscles and abdomen. Roll the shoulders back and down and imagine someone is pulling up your head with a piece of string.”
4. Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana
This posture is great for if you are new to back bends. A skill that will help you when it comes to more tricky poses like dancer’s (we’ll get there) and bow. Being able to do cobra properly will also make some of your pilates postures easier (we have unpicked all of your yoga vs pilates questions, here).
First, lie on your stomach with your hands underneath your shoulders and elbows close to your sides. Inhale as you lift your chest from the mat and slowly lift your collarbones, bringing your head up last. Look in the mirror, the pose gets its name for a reason.
As we get on to more of the tricky poses, Angie Tiwari (@tiwariyoga) wants you to remember: “You don’t have to go to the top yoga studio in the city to learn the best poses. You can go to your local gym or do it at home, that’s better than not doing yoga at all.”
5. Dancer’s Pose – Natarajasana
“One of my favourite shapes is dancer’s pose. It feels so good for my body because it opens the front of the chest and hips and it’s a bit of a challenge,” says Felicity Wood (@felicitywoodyoga) about the first standing pose of this guide.
Natarajasana relies on good balance and a strong backbend so it’s one that you might feel comfortable with a little further on in your yoga journey (you could make it one of your goals for 2022). You start by shifting your weight onto one foot. Then bend this leg to give you the balance to raise the other leg up with your hand. As you lift your leg up higher bring your torso forward to open up the hips and chest.
When she is teaching yoga poses for beginners, Woods’ top tip is, “Try to press down evenly through the foot and focus your attention on your gaze, looking at one spot on the wall or floor in front of you. Then, focus on maintaining a steady even breath, this will all help with balance.”
6. Warrior II Pose – Virabhadrasana II
You need to have a strong mountain pose in your repertoire to do this pose correctly. First, stand at the front of your mat and take a big step back as if you’re about to lunge. Keep your front leg bent and back leg straight whilst keeping your torso parallel to your mat. Point your front foot forward and lift both of your arms, keep them strong. Et voila!
Although it might look easy, lots of people find it hard to perfect this pose. That’s why it is so important to remember you’re always learning. Katarina Rayburn says: “If you are worried about a pose and you don’t think that it feels right go and speak to the teacher. When you are doing warrior II ask them: ‘Are my hips supposed to be externally rotating?’, ‘Are my knees supposed to be over my ankle?’” – the answer to both of these questions is a resounding ‘yes’.
7. Downward Facing Dog Pose – Adho Mukha Svanasana
If there is one pose that everyone’s heard of but can’t quite get it’s the downward-facing dog. It’s an important part of yoga poses for beginners because it stretches your spine, legs, and upper body.
Start in the middle of your mat in a neutral all-fours position, making sure everything is aligned. Tuck your toes under and exhale as you engage your stomach and bring your belly button back to your spine. Press through your hands and lift your hips until you are in the classic ‘V’ shape.
“Your yoga mat is your island. What you are doing on your mat is completely different to what someone might be doing on theirs.”
Ready to give them a go?