Beginner yogis, you’ve started out on an incredible journey, so embrace it with open arms! I know it’s tempting to wonder when you’ll be able to do what the Instagram yogis are doing, but trust me, it’s way more important to start with the basics and lay a solid foundation from which to grow your practice.
You’re learning a whole new way of approaching your body and mind so give yourself time to develop in your practice. My advice: fancy arm balances can wait. For now, focus on the basics.
Here are five rad yoga poses for beginners that can help you build strength, flexibility, and form a connection between your body and breath.
1. Cat/Cow Flow
Flowing through Cat and Cow is a great way for new yogis to explore the connection between the body and the breath. It can increase range of motion and flexibility in the back and spine, and you also begin to increase and shift prana (our vital life force energy) in a way that is simple and accessible.
- From hands and knees, find a neutral spine position with the shoulders stacked over wrists and hips over knees.
- Spread the fingers, align the wrist crease parallel to the front of your mat and spread the weight evenly through both hands.
- On the inhale, the tailbone and heart lift as the navel dips towards the mat (Cow Pose), and on the exhale the navel draws up into the spine as the tail tucks under, chin lowers towards the chest (Cat Pose). Continue to flow with the breath and feel a sense of fluidity as you move.
- You might like to try closing your eyes, which can help you tune into the subtleties of your body as it moves in sync with the breath.
2. Tree Pose
This is such a beautiful pose that teaches you to surrender and be in the moment. Balancing on one leg helps you develop strength and stability in the ankles and legs, and helps bring the mind to a single point of focus, helping create internal balance.
There’s an external rotation of the non-standing leg hip, so it can help to open up this area, which may be tight for many beginners.
- Spread the weight evenly throughout the left foot and engage the muscles of the thigh to create a solid foundation.
- Turn the right toes out and either place your heel at the ankle, or the sole of the right foot against the inside of the left calf or inner thigh. Avoid pressing the foot to the inside of the knee.
- Focus your gaze to a non-moving point and find your balance.
- Take your hands to prayer at the heart centre and begin to raise the prayer up overhead. You can separate the arms and hands, or keep them together.
- Let the tailbone tuck under slightly, as if it draws down a little towards the ground but keep length through the torso. Let the heart space feel light and open. If you wobble or fall out, embrace it and try again.
If you find it really challenging to stay balanced, use the wall or a chair to help you until you feel more comfortable.
3. Warrior 2
A great pose to open up through the hips and to build strength in the legs and the mind. To a beginner, this can challenge the leg muscles and bring some wobbles. Embrace them as a sign of building strength! Start out holding for 10 seconds, and eventually you might build up to a minute or two, or longer.
- Take a wide stance, about 1.5 leg lengths and turn your right toes to face the short edge of your mat. The back toes are turned in slightly, and you want to press the outside edge of the back or left foot to the mat.
- Bend the right knee so it’s stacked over the ankle, and open the knee towards the little toe side—this opens up the hips.
- Take your arms up to shoulder height; palms facing up or down, and gaze softly past the right fingertips.
- Your torso might start to lean forward. Try to keep the shoulders stacked over the hips.
- Feel strong and grounded in the lower body and light in the upper body.
4. Baby Cobra
This is such a rad backbend for new yogis! Baby Cobra helps build strength in the mid-upper back in a way that doesn't overstrain the lumbar region. The chest opens, making space for your heart to shine. This pose activates energy at the sacral chakra, so it’s great for anyone looking for a creativity boost.
- Lying on your stomach, bring your hands palms face down close to your body, in line with your chest.
- Press the tops of the feet and pubic bone into the mat. Imagine you’re lengthening your crown forward and up, lengthening your spine.
- Legs are traditionally together, which is more challenging for your lower back. If you need to create more space, you can take your legs hip distance apart.
- Elbows stay close to the body, arms stay bent.
You may have the flexibility to come up to Cobra where the arms are straight, but it’s good to get the foundations right in Baby Cobra first.
5. Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose gently stretches the back, helping create more length in the spine. As we compress through the front of the body, blood and oxygen get pumped through the back of the body. This flushes the kidneys and adrenal glands, making this a deeply soothing and restorative pose.
There are several variations, and depending on the flexibility of your hips and back, you may like to use props to make the pose more comfortable and relaxing.
- From a kneeling position, fold the torso over the legs so that the forehead rests on the mat.
- You can take the arms back alongside the body, or if your hips are a little tighter, you can stack one hand on top of the other (or stack forearms) to rest your head on.
- Many people enjoy taking the knees a little wider to allow the torso to fold forward more. If you choose this option, keep the toes touching.
- Notice where your hips and sit bones are and encourage them to lengthen back towards the heels, creating length for the spine.
- Breathe space and light into the back of the body and let go as much as you can, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
You don’t get to be a yoga beginner forever, so I really encourage you to embrace where you are in your journey, respect your body’s limits, and most of all, have fun!