Before we start enumerating the 10 most popular yoga poses, let us first say, that there are many types of yogic practice. Similarly, there are also many popular yoga poses depending on type (standing, sitting, etc.) and in terms of difficulty. So to cover a lot of ground, the poses listed below will be a mix of yoga poses that are popular in classes of yoga for beginners as well as for the intermediate and advanced classes. Here is our list of the 10 most popular yoga poses being practiced today, and are recommended for both men and women.
The Lotus Pose
Whether it be a yoga for beginners class or sessions for more advanced students, the Lotus Pose is considered as one of the most popular starting poses. You can't go into a yoga class immediately shifting into an advance pose; there has to be a fluid transition of movements along with breathing. The Lotus Pose is effective in establishing a steady pattern of breathing as you progress through series of yoga poses, like the Sun Salutations or the more fast-paced Vinyasa series.
Downward Facing Dog
A lot of pop culture references to yoga poses always mention the Downward Facing Dog. Like the Lotus Pose, the Downward Facing Dog is a popular pose among students of all levels because it effectively stretches both upper and lower body. More specifically, it stretches the hamstrings, calves, arms, and back while strengthening the muscles in your arms, legs, and abs. To do this pose, start on all fours and walk your hands a bit forward until you find a comfortable angle for when you slowly lift your knees off the ground. Keep your back and your legs straight as your body shifts into a full upside down V position.
Half Lord of the Fishes
Also known as Ardha Matsyendrasana, the Half Lord of the Fishes is one of the most popular sit and twist yoga poses that stretch the shoulders and hips and energize the spine. Those doing yoga for beginners should be careful in doing this pose because it might twist your back and neck at an awkward angle if not done properly. Again the rule of thumb is to keep the back straight and don't push yourself too far and stretch too much if it causes pain or discomfort. As with other sit and twist poses, you may place a blanket below the buttocks for support and in case the pose starts to cause pain in your tail bone.
Head to Knee Forward Bend
The Head to Knee Forward Bend, or the Janu Sirsasana, is one of the forward bend yoga poses that are also considered as a twist pose. It is recommended for students of yoga for beginners as well as for those in more advanced levels. The Janu Sirsasana involves sitting on the mat with one leg folded, the other stretched out in front of you. Make sure your foot doesn't slide under the outstretched leg as you bend forward and bring your head as close as possible to the knee of your extended leg. This pose not only stretches the shoulders, back, spine, and hamstrings, but can also help relieve menstrual discomfort and headaches.
The Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana
Backbends are one category of poses taught to students of yoga for beginners as well as for students in the intermediate and advanced levels. The Cobra Pose is one of the most popular backbend poses, and is known to stretch the spine, open up the chest and lungs, firm the buttocks, and stretch the abdomen and shoulders. To do the Bhujangasana, lie face down on the mat with your legs outstretched. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, slowly lift your upper body off the floor and hold the position as you inhale and exhale.
The Crane Pose
Also called Bakasana, this pose is generally considered as a core pose; meaning, it is known to work and target the core muscles while engaging the arm and leg muscles as well. It is also usually listed along with other arm balancing poses because it involves lifting your body off the ground and relying on your arms to support the weight. Aside from working the arms and shoulders, the Crane Pose also opens up the hips and groins and stretches your upper back. This pose is typically recommended after you have attended a couple classes and depending on the difficulty or intensity of the specific type of yoga class you chose.
The Supported Shoulderstand or Salamba Sarvangasana
The Supported Shoulderstand is an inversion pose, and is among the easier ones in the category. It is known to tone the legs, firm the buttocks, stretch the neck and shoulders, and stimulate prostate glands and abdominal organs. The basic concept of this pose is to lie on your back and slowly lift your legs up with your hands supporting the pelvis as your legs reach higher, until even your back is lifted off the floor. At this point, your weight will fall on, and be supported by, your shoulders.
Trikonasana or Triangle Pose
The Triangle Pose can be done by students of all levels and is considered as the quintessential standing pose that crosses over to many styles of yoga. The physical focus of this pose is on the thighs, although it also strengthens the knees and ankles, and stretches the hamstrings, shoulders, and spine. The Triangle Pose requires a sense of balance, and it's essential that those who practice the pose to make sure they maintain the right angles for the legs and arms without straining the neck.
Balasana or Child's Pose
The Child's Pose is considered as a restorative pose because it is calming and can be done in between more intense or challenging poses (also called asanas). The pose involves sitting on the mat with your legs underneath you so that your buttocks are resting on the heels of your feet, and your body is bent forward, with your forehead touching the ground. This pose is effective in relieving stress and calming the mind, as well as stretching the back, calves, and ankles.
Standing Forward Bend or Uttanasana
This pose is done exactly as it is named; you start in a standing position (preferably Mountain Pose or Tadasana) and slowly bend your body forward so that your forehead touches your shins and your palms flat on the ground. It's normal to feel tension in your hamstrings and calves because it stretches the leg muscles as well as strengthens the thighs and knees. Another important thing to remember is that it's okay to bend your knees a little if you can't bend that far forward. As your body gains more flexibility the longer you do yoga, you will be able to do a full forward bend.
These are a LOT of popular yoga poses and these are just 10 of them, compiled and taken from different categories and difficulty levels of yoga poses. As we said, it's great if you can do the poses to the extent that they are taught (in terms of stretch and reach). But what's more important is that you don't strain yourself and to consult your yogi when you feel pain or severe discomfort.