Are you a yogi wannabe but too intimidated to enter a group yoga class with no yoga experience? Well, it’s time to zen out and fret no more. After you practice these seven basic yoga poses, you'll have a perfect foundation for performing yoga that will have you screaming (or whispering) “namaste” from the hilltops (or your yoga mat).
1. Downward Facing Dog: One of the foundation poses for yoga is the downward dog. Many Yoga “Flow” classes will start in downward dog and slowly build a sequence adding other yoga poses building from this beginning stance. From standing position, bend over, placing your hands to the floor. Walk your hands out until both your hands and your feet are completely touching the mat. You should resemble a downward “v.” Take your legs out to shoulder width apart and spread your fingers apart. Press through your palms and keep your hips pushed back. Keep your neck relaxed and hold this position.
2. Downward Dog Split Pose: A natural transition to downward dog is moving into a downward dog split pose, also known as three-legged dog. From downward dog position, you will slowly lift one foot in the air, creating a smooth line from hip to ankle. Focus on keeping your standing leg strong and planted.
3. Warrior Pose: There are many variations of the warrior pose, but the basic foundational warrior pose consists of separating your feet in a parallel split stance (about 4-5 feet away). Turn your back foot out pointing away from your body. Keep your hips and torso rotated forward towards your front foot. Take a deep breath and on your exhale, bend your front knee into a 90 degree angle. Raise your arms forming a straight line at shoulder height and keep your gaze at your fingertips in front of you.
4. Plank Pose: Plank pose in yoga is traditionally used when coming into or out of downward dog in a sequence and consists of holding yourself up on hands and toes, while carefully ensuring that your body is a straight line, and shoulders, hips, and ankles remain in the same plane by holding your core tight and not allowing your hips to rise or dip. This can be modified by resting on your knees, rather than toes.
5. Cow: Cow is a great stretching pose that stretches your back muscles. Begin on all fours on your mat ensuring that your hands are just under your shoulders and feet are under hips. Spread your fingers and tuck your toes to stretch your feet. Begin with a flat back and slowly lift and round your spine by tucking your tailbone and pushing your butt out. Take your gaze to the ceiling. Take a deep breath, and on your exhale, return to starting position.
6. Cat: Similar to the cow pose, start on all fours and begin with a straight spine, head facing floor. On your exhale, create a curve in your back by rounding your spine up and taking your gaze to your belly button. Slowly inhale and on your next exhale return to starting position.
7. Child’s Pose: This stretching pose is frequently used throughout yoga classes in between more difficult poses to provide a time to recover before moving forward. Child’s pose stretches your back, ankle, hips, thighs, and knees. Start by kneeling on your hands and knees and separate your knees about hip-width apart. Slowly sink your hips down towards your ankles, lengthening your back as you rest your forehead on the mat. Breathe deep and focus on relaxing your muscles so that your stretch is lengthened with each breath.
Now that you have these basic poses down, consider yourself a yogi-in-training and feel confident to go get your vinyasa on! To find the yoga style that matches your wants and needs, check out Find Your Zen: 14 Yoga Styles Decoded. Once you master the basics of yoga, challenge yourself to learn yoga moves that strengthen, tone, and detox your body.