With thousands of asanas, special breathing techniques, and more to master, yoga can seem daunting to any newbie. But yoga doesn’t have to be inaccessible. As you’ll soon discover for yourself, it can actually be an easy workout to do at home, outdoors in the park, or just about anywhere. All you need to know are the basics – and we’re here to help with that!
Create A Yoga Routine With Foundational Poses And Stretches
Some basic asanas and stretches can help you gear up for the more advanced ones you will learn as you become more skilled at yoga. These are often dubbed foundational poses because they form the crux or basis for the next level of your journey with yoga. A good routine for your yoga practice could include the mountain pose, the warrior 2 pose, the cat/cow flow, the tree pose, the easy pose, and rounded off with the corpse pose. These are foundational poses, helping stretch your body and preparing it for more asanas as you progress.1 Other poses that are great for beginners are the child’s pose, the downward facing dog, and the upward facing dog.2 The side angle pose, sitting half spinal twist, cobra, and bridge poses make good additions too.3
Mix and match these routines through the week to give yourself a full body workout and stretch. Each asana has its own benefits for your body, so pick those that help with your specific needs. And don’t forget to read through some basic yoga dos and don’ts before you get started.
Tadasana Or Mountain Pose To Kick Things Off
Doing the tadasana can help improve posture and focus your breathing. Here’s how you do it:4
- Stand with your feet together, arms by the sides, your fingers pointing down to the ground.
- Keep your abdomen engaged but your pelvis neutral.
- Broaden your collarbone and roll your shoulders back.
- Keep your chin parallel to the ground, the top of your head spiraling up to the ceiling as you feel your spine lengthen.
- Breathe in and out with a gentle “ha” sound as you exhale.
Virabhadrasana II Or Warrior II To Open Up The Chest And Increase Stamina
The warrior II pose is known to help strengthen your buttocks and back. It opens up the chest and helps with lung health. It can ease backaches and increase stamina and energy levels.5 Follow these steps to do the warrior II pose:6
- Stand with your feet together close to the front end of the mat.
- Exhale, stepping back with your left foot (around 3 to 4 feet), making the left foot turn outward at a little under 90 degrees. Your left torso and left toes should now face the left edge of your mat. Your right toes should point forward to the front of your mat. Your right heel should align with the arch of your left.
- Now bend from the right knee, so that it aligns with the second toe of the right foot, your thigh moving parallel to the ground.
- Keep your feet firmly rooted as you stretch your arms outward in opposite directions, reaching for the front and back ends of the mat, palms face down.
- Line your shoulders over your hips and gently turn your head to the front of your mat. Let your gaze linger on your right fingertips.
- Hold for 3 to 5 inhale–exhale cycles before returning to the start position and repeating, interchanging sides this time.
Utthita Parsvakonasana Or Side Angle Pose To Improve Balance And Hip Flexibility
A pose that segues well from the warrior II pose, the side angle pose enhances your balance and opens up your chest and shoulders. It also helps hip flexibility, strengthens your leg muscles, and stretches the inner thigh.7 This pose can be done with or without a yoga block. The block may make it easier for beginners who are unable to achieve the full stretch comfortably.8:
- Begin in warrior II pose, arms in a T position out to the sides, your right foot at 90 degrees and facing outward, your left foot turned slightly in.
- Bring your right hand toward the ground and let your fingertips touch the ground. If you’re using a block, your hand can rest on the block.
- Move your right armpit closer to your outer right knee. At this point, your shin and arm must be parallel. Now reach up for the ceiling with your left arm.
- Move your spine and back ribs in toward the front and feel your chest expand into your back. Feel your whole back stretch and your chest open up. You may be able to turn your head to look at your left thumb. If you can do this easily, go for it!
Vriksasana Or Tree Pose To Revitalize, Stretch, And Strengthen
This pose gives your back, legs, and arms a good stretch and energizes you. It is also said to improve concentration. It can help strengthen the legs, open up the hips, and improve balance. People with sciatica can also benefit from this pose which eases symptoms.9 Here’s how you do it:10
- Start with your feet together as you stand near the front of your mat, hands at the hips. Move your weight onto your right foot and slowly pick your left heel off the floor, letting your left knee open to the left side of your mat. Your toes must stay planted in the ground.
- Bring your left sole slowly to rest on the inner right lower leg with toes pointing down.
- Steady yourself as you balance only on your right leg. Your pelvis should be centered over the right foot.
- Try and bring your palms in front of your chest, making them meet or alternatively stretch your arms overhead so your wrists align with the shoulders.
- Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breath cycles before bringing your left foot down to the mat. Repeat on the other side.
Sukhasana Or Easy Pose To Relax The Body And Mind And Stretch The Spine
This is a relaxing seated pose that lengthens and stretches the spine. It can help you achieve inner calm and enable you to manage stress better.11
- Sit cross-legged so one ankle lines up in front of the other. Sit on the front of your sitting bones, hands resting on the knees. Ensure there is a gap between your pelvis and your feet.
- Open up your shoulders, pressing the chest forward and reaching up from your spine, relaxing the shoulders.
- Let your face relax. You should feel your tongue soften and jaw release. Inhale and exhale slowly and calmly.
Balasana Or Child’s Pose To Overcome Fatigue
The child’s pose helps you to calm your mind, washing away tiredness and fatigue and helping you breathe more consciously.12 This is how you do the asana13:
- Kneel down keeping knees hip-width apart. Let your big toes touch as you rest on your heels.
- Leave your hands, palms facing up, on either side of your torso.
- Inhale as you raise your arms upward.
- Exhale as you bring them down, ending with them resting in front of your body, your eyes lingering on the floor.
- Do this inhalation and exhalation movement five times.
Marjaryasana/Bitilasana Or Cat/Cow Pose To Warm Up Your Spine And Massage Internal Organs
The cow pose in this flow massages the back and the internal organs in the abdominal region and energizes the spine.14 The cat pose tones your abdominal area, helps digestion, boosts blood circulation, and relaxes your mind.15 For this pose, you need to be down on the floor on your hands and knees.16
- From a kneeling on all fours position, line your hips up so they are above your knees and your shoulders aligned above your wrists.
- Breathe in as you arch your back and raise your chest and sitting bones up toward the ceiling for the cow pose.
- Exhale, rounding your back, tucking in your chin and the pelvis to achieve the cat pose.
Bhujangasana Or Cobra Pose To Strengthen Back Muscles And Flex Spine
The cobra pose improves the flexibility of the spine and also strengthens your back muscles. Here’s how you can perform this asana17:
- Lie down on your stomach, feet together and hands slightly below the shoulders, with the palm side on the ground.
- Let your forehead touch the floor gently and start to raise your head off the floor, inhaling when you do this. Lead with your nose and then the chin.
- Raise your chest off the floor, supporting yourself with your palms. Ensure you engage your back muscles to strengthen them. Breathe in deeply and hold this pose. Breathe in and out a few times.
- Now return to your starting position, exhaling as you do so.
- Again, raise yourself up while you inhale. This time, you should lift the entire trunk of your body up. Feel a gentle bend midway through your spine. Again, breathe in deeply and hold the pose. Breathe in and out a few times before releasing the pose.
- Exhale as you come back to the starting position.
- For the third phase, rise up again, using your palms to support yourself and leveraging the strength of your back muscles. Your trunk should lift off so that you feel the spine stretch all the way from the neck down to the base.
- Breathe in deeply and hold the pose. Breathe in and out a few times before coming back to the starting position as you exhale.
Adho Mukha Svanasana Or Downward Facing Dog To Aid Digestion And Ease Fatigue
This asana is rejuvenating and calming. As you stretch the calves, hamstrings, arches, shoulders, and hands, you should feel energized. Because it is an inversion, it can prepare a beginner for more advanced, future inversions typical of yoga. The asana is known to ease back pain, fatigue, and headaches, help digestion, and even ease insomnia.18 To do the downward facing dog, go down on your hands and knees and then follow these steps19:
- Ensure your knees are below your hips and hands below but a little ahead of your shoulders.
- Breathe in, spreading your fingers wide, keeping your palms firmly on the floor and tucking your toes under.
- Breathe out, extending your legs and drawing your tailbone and hips up toward the ceiling. Your body should make an inverted V shape. Ensure your neck and head are between your upper arms and your feet hip-distance apart.
- Keep your spine lengthened throughout, releasing your shoulders away from your ears. You should let your knees bend as needed to maintain the pose. Just take care that both your hands and your feet are properly rooted. Hold.
- Inhale and exhale 3 to 5 times before releasing the pose.
Urdhva Mukha Svansana Or Upward Facing Dog To Strengthen Arms And Ease Backache
This back bending asana stretches the spine and strengthens your arms and wrists. It can relieve a lower backache.20 Here’s how it is done21:
- Lie face down on your yoga mat, so your legs are fully extended and the top part of your feet touches the floor. Place your palms in line with and below the shoulders, letting your elbows bend.
- Breathe in, pressing the palms of your hand into the floor and letting your arms extend at the same time and raising your torso and thighs off the ground.
- Your hips should soften a bit downward even as you lift up through to your sternum.
- Your shoulders should be pulled gently back away from the ears. Ensure that your neck has a neutral alignment.
- Let your gaze drift up but don’t tilt your head or neck.
- Hold, inhaling and exhaling for about 3 to 5 breath cycles.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana Or Bridge Pose As A Restorative Pose
Ease back pain, calm your mind, and energize yourself with this restorative pose.22 To do this asana, simply follow these steps[ref23:
- Lie on your back with knees bent so that your feet are firmly flat on the floor about hip distance apart.
- Reach toward your heels with your fingers, lengthening your arms. Your palms must face down.
- Let your gaze drop down to your knees.
- Breathe in as you roll your body up through the spine beginning with your hips. Go as high as you can.
- Hold this pose for 3 to 5 breaths before exhaling and lowering your body slowly (feel one vertebra lower at a time).
Savasana Or Corpse Pose To Ease Stress, Lower BP, And Calm The Mind
The corpse pose is deceptively easy but can take some practice to get right. The goal of this is to give your mind and body complete rest without actually nodding off to sleep. You should enter a deeply meditative state that can relieve stress and even ease high blood pressure. You should emerge from it feeling relaxed and revived.24
- Lie down on your back, flat on a mat or the ground, arms by your sides, eyes closed. Your legs must be a little apart, so that you are comfortable, and toes must face a little outward. Allow your knees and feet to relax fully.
- Your arms should be by the sides and a little away from your torso. Your palms must face up and be open.
- Focus your attention on one part of the body at a time and use this to relax your body from head to toe. Start with your right foot, then the right knee, the other leg, then the torso until you reach your head.
- Inhale slowly, deeply, and gently. As you inhale, feel the breath energize you. As you exhale, feel yourself relax. Your breath should relax you further and further. Do this for 10 to 20 minutes until you are completely relaxed – but not asleep!
- To exit the pose, roll to your right side with your eyes still closed. Be this way for a minute. Then, using your right hand to push yourself up, move to a seated position. Let your eyes remain closed. Breathe in and out a few times in this pose before you open your eyes.
Pranayama Or Yogic Breathing To Clear The Mind And Energize You
Learning to breathe properly can do wonders for your mind and health overall. Deep breathing can help lower blood pressure and heart rate and even reduce stress hormones in the body, leaving you feeling more energized yet calm. Breathing techniques like pranayama taught in yoga can help improve immune function as well.25
Equal Breathing Technique Or Sama Vritti: This method focuses on equalizing inhalation and exhalations in the body. It makes you focus your breath effortlessly.26 It can be done seated or lying down or even standing.27
- Begin breathing in and out, focusing on your breath.
- Inhale from your nose and exhale from the mouth. Steady your breathing.
- After some time, try and even out your breaths. Counting often helps. Inhale for a fixed count (build up to a count of 5) and smoothly move into exhaling air to an equal count.
- Do this for three to five minutes daily.
Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing: This channel cleansing breath helps alleviate anxiety and stress and lowers your heart rate. It is supposed to cleanse the energy channels in the body. Sit cross-legged in a comfortable position before you begin28:
- Hold your right hand in mrugi mudra, a hand position resembling a deer. Your pinky and ring fingers must be held together as if they are one. Together they will close your left nostril.
- Your right nostril will be closed with your thumb.
- Start by using your thumb to close the right nostril as you inhale from the left nostril.
- Now close the left and exhale from your right nostril.
- Keeping your left nostril still closed, inhale from the right.
- Close your right nostril and open up the left, allowing air to be exhaled from it.
- Repeat twice or thrice and then break to breathe normally. Give yourself a minute to rest before you repeat again.
|↑1, ↑23||10-minute Foundational Yoga Routine. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑2, ↑6, ↑10, ↑19, ↑21||A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga: 5 Widely Practiced Poses. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑3||Yoga Asanas and Their Poses for Beginners. The Art of Living.|
|↑4, ↑13||Mueller, Donna. “Yoga Therapy.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 6, no. 1 (2002): 18-hyhen.|
|↑5||Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II). Siddhi Yoga International.|
|↑7||Lasater, Judith Hanson. 30 Essential Yoga Poses: For Beginning Students and Their Teachers. Shambhala Publications, 2016.|
|↑8||Whole-Body Wake-Up Call: Extended Side Angle. Yoga Journal.|
|↑9||Tree Pose – Vrikshasana. The Art of Living.|
|↑11||Easy pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑12||Yoga for Neck Pain.Yoga Journal.|
|↑14||Cow Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑15||Cat Stretch. The Art of Living.|
|↑16||Cat Cows. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑17||Rakhshaee, Zahra. “Effect of three yoga poses (cobra, cat and fish poses) in women with primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial.” Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology 24, no. 4 (2011):192-196.|
|↑18||Downward-Facing Dog. Yoga Journal.|
|↑20||Urdhva Mukha Svansana. The Art of Living.|
|↑22||Bridge Pose. Yoga Journal.|
|↑24||Savasana – Corpse Pose. The Art of Living.|
|↑25||Breathing to reduce stress. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.|
|↑26||Breathing exercise for stress. National Health Service.|
|↑27||Breathing Lessons. Yoga Journal.|
|↑28||Channel-Cleaning Breath. Yoga Journal.|