Library of Beginners' Yoga Poses

As a beginning yoga student, you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of poses. Don't. Your yoga practice is a lifelong pursuit, giving you plenty of time to learn scores of postures. As you progress, you will feel comfortable taking on more and more challenging poses but it's a good idea to keep things simple when you are just starting out. The basic poses are valuable enough to keep you occupied for a long time.

Types of Poses

  • Standing Poses:
    Standing poses are usually the most strenuous for beginners. They are often done first in a yoga class to build heat. In vinyasa/flow style yoga, standing poses are strung together to form long sequences. In hatha classes, the standing poses may be worked on individually with rest between each pose.
  • Balancing Poses:
    Beginners' balances are an important way to build the core strength that is necessary for many of yoga's more advanced postures. Though balances may seem difficult at first, you will find that you can improve markedly with regular practice.
  • Backbends: 

    Backbends can be some of the most uncomfortable poses for beginners, so we usually start with some gentle flexion and extension of the spine as an introduction. Since we rarely move like this in daily life, backbends are essential for spinal health and longevity.

  • Seated Poses:
    Seated stretches, which often focus on stretching the hips and hamstrings are usually done towards the end of a yoga class after the body is warmed up. Placing a folded blanket or a block under your butt is always a good way to make yourself more comfortable in these postures.

  • Resting/Supine Poses
    It's important to get to know your resting poses, especially child's pose, which you are encouraged to do whenever you need a break during a yoga session. These supine poses continue the hip and hamstring work of the seated poses, as well as gentle backbending, twisting and inversion.

1
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Two women doing yoga's bridge pose.
da-kuk / Getty Images

Backbend

Bridge pose is a gentle way to start exploring spinal extension, which is the position we usually call a backbend. It's a good idea to start incorporating this type of movement because it improves the mobility of your spine and counters the effects of too much sitting. If bridge seems too intense, try a supported bridge with a block to begin with. 

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2
Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)

Cat-Cow stretch
Ben Goldstein

Backbend

It's the best of both worlds: spinal extension followed by spinal flexion. Moving back and forth wakens and warms the back, improves body awareness, and is a basic introduction to how to do a vinyasa sequence by coordinating your movements to your breath.

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3
Child's Pose (Balasana)

Child's Pose - Balasana
Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Resting

It's not an exaggeration to call child's pose the most important posture for new beginners. Although it is a nice stretch for the back and hips, that's really not why it's so crucial. Child's pose is the designated resting position in any yoga class. You don't have to wait to be invited into this pose. You can take it any time you need to and it's understood that you are listening to your own body and acting accordingly, just like your teacher is always saying. Nice, right?

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4
Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana)

Young Woman Doing Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana)
da-kuk / Getty Images

Seated

Let gravity work on stretching your inner thighs in cobbler's pose. If you find this position difficult, props can make a big difference. Sitting on something like a block or blanket raises your hips so that your knees will open more naturally. If your knees are really high, it takes a lot of effort to hold them up. However, the legs need to be relaxed in order to get the benefits of the stretch. The solution is to place a block (or something else supportive) under each knee to give them something to rest upon. 

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5
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Woman in low cobra yoga pose
Ben Goldstein

Backbend

Cobra is done multiple times per class in flow yoga as part of the vinyasa sequence of poses. While a full cobra with straight arms is a deeper backbend, you'll build more back strength by doing low cobras in which you lift your chest without pressing into your hands. It's also key to anchor your pelvis to the floor before you lift up. 

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6
Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Corpse Pose - Savasana
John Freeman/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Resting/Supine

Every yoga session ends lying flat on your back in corpse pose. It's an important transition from the time spent on your mat back into your day. When your body is wholly absorbed in the physical postures during a yoga class, it's relatively natural for your mind to empty. Bringing the body to stillness challenges the mind to maintain its calm. It's difficult at first but gets easier with practice. 

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7
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward Facing Dog - Adho Muhka Svanasana
Ben Goldstein

Standing

We can't talk about yoga poses without introducing downward facing dog. It's the subject of many pop culture yoga references for good reason. It's a multi-purpose pose that you'll do many times in just about every yoga class. When you first try it, it may seem difficult and awkward but pretty soon it will become a natural place to rest and reset. Do note that it's not essential to have straight legs in this pose. Bending the knees a little or a lot makes downward dog more accessible and beneficial to many people. 

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8
Downward Facing Dog Split

Down Dog Split
Ben Goldstein

Standing/Balancing

The introduction of appropriate balancing postures begins to build core strength. In downdog split, it's not about how high you can lift your leg. Instead, focus on making sure that the position of your hips doesn't change even when you pick one foot off the floor. 

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9
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
John Freeman/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Seated

The fear of sitting cross-legged keeps quite a few people from trying yoga. But it doesn't have to be a scary position. The judicious use of props can transform an uncomfortable position into a place of ease so you can begin to reverse the effects to too much chair sitting. We have lots of info on how to get comfortable sitting cross-legged.

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10
Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)

Extended Side Angle Pose
Ann Pizer

Standing

Though the bottom hand is shown outside the front foot here, that's not the best option for many people. The hand can come up on a block on the outside or inside of the foot or you can bring your forearm to your thigh. This later option is a good place to start. You want to make sure that your arm position doesn't impede your ability to open your chest toward the ceiling. 

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11
Garland Pose (Malasana)

Garland Pose - Malasana
Ann Pizer

Standing

Squatting is something most people in the western metropolises of the 21st century don't do a lot. However, it's an excellent stretch for the muscles around the pelvis, making it what is often called a hip opener in yoga. Perhaps surprisingly, it's also good for your feet, which are often neglected. If squatting is very difficult for you, props can help.

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12
Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana)

Flat Back
Ben Goldstein

Standing

This flat back forward bend is most often done as part of the sun salutation sequence. As such, it often gets rushed but it's worth it to take the time to work on it independently. Figuring out when your back is actually flat is part of developing superior body awareness. At first, it's helpful to glance in the mirror. Many of us think that keeping our hands on the ground makes this a better pose so we stubbornly cling to that position, even if it causes the spine to round. Instead, let the hands come onto your legs as high up as is necessary to keep the back really flat. 

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13
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose - Ardha Matsyendrasana

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose - Ardha Matsyendrasana
Ann Pizer

Seated

Twists are an essential part of yoga. They help improve spinal mobility and can even get things moving along your digestive tract if needed (yes, we're talking about constipation). It's fine to extend your bottom leg in this pose if it's uncomfortable to have it bent behind you. 

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14
Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

How to Do Happy Baby Pose - Ananda Balasana
Ann Pizer

Supine

Happy baby is a wondering way to finish a yoga session. It's also a good example of the important interplay between effort and ease in yoga. You want to exert a little pressure on your feet to draw them toward the armpits, but not so much that your tailbone lifts off the floor. You don't want to go to extremes but rather to find the middle way. 

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15
Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)

Janu Sirsasana
Ann Pizer

Seated

Forward bends are hard for anyone with tight hamstrings (i.e., a lot of people) but avoiding them doesn't help them get any easier. Janu sirsasana is more accessible because you're stretching one leg at a time. 

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16
Knees, Chest, and Chin (Ashtanga Namaskara)

Knees Chest Chin (Ashtanga Namaskara)
Ann Pizer

Backbend

This was once the posture taught to all beginning yoga students as an alternative to and preparation for chaturanga dandasana. In recent years, it's fallen out of favor and as a result some students are rushed into chaturanga before they are ready. It really belongs in the sun salutation series for beginners. Plus it's also a great warm up for deeper backbends. 

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17
Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

Legs Up the Wall - Viparita Karani
Legs Up the Wall - Viparita Karani. GibsonPictures/E+/Getty Images

Resting

You can't go wrong with viparita karani as a resting posture. This pose is a boon to anyone who spends long hours on their feet. You can stay here several minutes for a wonderful restorative practice.

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18
Low Lunge Position

Lunge Pose
Ben Goldstein

Standing

The alignment of your lunge is super important. Try to make a right angle with your front leg so that you knee is directly over your ankle and your thigh is parallel to the floor. At the same time, keep your hips level and energize your back leg. A lot of people tend to not go deep enough into the front leg and then sag in the back leg. Glance in the mirror if you think this could be you. 

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19
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Mountain Pose - Tadasana
Ben Goldstein

Standing

You'll see tadasana on many a list of yoga's most important poses and you may be wondering why. Since it doesn't look difficult, it's hard to tell how much alignment work is going on here and how important this is for other standing poses and for your overall body awareness. Establishing your posture and coming to stillness in mountain pose is always a good way to start a yoga session.​

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20
Plank Pose

Plank Pose
Ben Goldstein

Balancing

It might seem strange to call plank at balancing pose since the danger of falling over is pretty minimal but it gets to the heart of what this pose is about: core strength. A strong core is essential for so many yoga poses going forward (standing balances, arm balances) and plank is an excellent way to on work your stability and stamina. 

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21
Pyramid Pose (Parsvottonasana)

Pyramid Pose - Parsvottonasana
Ann Pizer

Standing

Standing forward bends like pyramid are a good place to break out your blocks. Place a block on either side of your front foot to raise the floor to a level where your hands can comfortably reach. Your hamstrings will still get a stretch and they will thank you for your consideration.

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22
Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
Ben Goldstein

Standing

Built upon the foundation of mountain pose (see above), urdhva hastasana requires you to continue to root into the ground with your legs while reaching for the sky with your arms. The result is a full body stretch, a great way to usher in the physical part of your yoga session. 

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23
Reclined Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangustasana)

Yoga students in supta padangustasana
Eliza Snow / Getty Images

Supine

In the "official' version of this pose, you are holding your big toe in a yogi toe lock with your fingers. That configuration is not the best fit for most beginners. If you get attached to the idea of holding on to your toe, you're probably going to have to either bend your knee and/or let your shoulder come way out of its socket. That's why an arm extender (AKA a yoga strap) is a really good idea here. 

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24
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

Seated Forward Bend - Paschimottanasana
Ann Pizer

Seated

There are a lot of hamstring stretches in beginning yoga for good reason. The hamstrings tend to get short and tight in people who sit a lot, which leads to back pain. Stretching them is both a preventative and a treatment. ​

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25
Seated Wide Angle (Upavishta Konasana)

How to Do Upavistha Konasana
Ann Pizer

Seated

Opening the legs creates a slightly different stretch from pascimottanasana (above). Though it may look like the mandate is to bring your chest to the floor, it's really not about that, nor is that realistic for most beginners. Rather, concentrate on keeping a flat back, rotating the pelvis forward instead of doing all the bending with the spine, and keeping your feet flexed. Do all these things and it really doesn't matter how forward you come.

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26
Staff Pose (Dandasana)

Staff Pose - Dandasana
Ann Pizer

Seated

It's often said that dandasana is the seated equivalent of mountain pose, which is a pretty accurate assessment. If you can't sit up straight, try placing a folded blanket under your seat. This will lift the pelvis and tip it forward slightly, which places the spine in a more comfortable position. You can do this in any seated pose. 

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27
Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Supine Spinal Twist - Supta Matsyendrasana
Ann Pizer

Supine

A passive twist is a classic way to end a yoga session, though there is no hard and fast rule against doing this pose at the beginning of your practice instead. The position of the legs is likewise flexible. They can both be bent, you can straighten the top leg and hold onto your foot if you have the flexibility or you can twist the legs around one another (as in eagle pose) to stretch the outer hips. 

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28
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Tree Pose - Vrksasana
Ann Pizer

Standing/Balancing

Tree pose is a good introduction to balancing postures. It's pretty low stakes; if you feel yourself beginning to topple, you can just step out of it with out much risk of falling. Try not to create a counter balance by jutting your hip out to the side on your standing leg. 

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29
Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

Triangle Pose - Trikonasana
Ann Pizer

Standing

Most beginners can greatly benefit from using a block under their bottom hand in triangle. That added height allows the front leg to straighten (without locking the knee) and for the chest to open toward the ceiling instead of turning towards the floor.

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30
Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

Warrior I
Ann Pizer

Standing

The warrior poses are classics that span many different styles of practice. Warrior I is a bit trickier than warrior II because of the alignment of the hips. In Warrior I, the hips both face forward. The hip position is actually the same as it is in mountain pose even though the legs are in a very different configuration.

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31
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II
Ann Pizer

Standing

In Warrior II, the hips move to a different position. Your back hip opens so that the pelvis is now facing the side of the mat. Understanding the difference between the open (warrior II) and closed (warrior I) hip positions is a key concept for new yoga students. Catching on to it means your body awareness is improving and you are getting prepared for more complicated poses. ​

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