The sooner you get to know these poses, the more confident you’ll feel about getting started on your yoga journey! Always remember to breathe through all poses, ask your yoga instructor for help if you feel any pain or are unsure of how to safely practice these poses, and always be patient with yourself as you grow in your practice.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Benefits: Improves posture (think of Tadasana any time you are standing still!) and when practiced right, can be an overall body strengthener (upper back, abdomen, thighs, buttocks).
Alignment: Stand tall with all four corners of your feet pressing into the mat (your toes are touching and your heels are slightly apart). Engage the upper thighs (without locking the knees). Engage the lower abdomen and be sure not to over-tuck or over-arch your pelvis (pelvis should be neutral). Keep your arms at your side and straight, with your hands turned out so that your whole arm rotates out from the shoulder and you are pulling your shoulders back. You should feel as though you are being pulled up away from the ground.
Plank (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Benefits: Strengthens your arms, core, and wrists, all of which you need for your yoga practice.
Alignment: Your shoulders are directly over your wrists and your body is in a straight line from head to heels. Press through the palms and fingertips of your hands and press through the heels of your feet (as if you were standing on them).
Modifications: You can lower your knees to the floor if you get tired. Don’t get too comfortable though – if it is too easy with your knees on the floor, try lowering your knees when it gets too intense, and then raise your knees again to do the full pose. This way you will gradually gain strength to hold the pose.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Benefits: Strengthens the arms and wrists. Stretches the chest, shoulders, hip flexors, thighs, abs.
Alignment: Make sure that your wrists are below your shoulders and you are pressing firmly through all five fingers and palms to press your shoulders away from your ears (be sure not to sink in the shoulders). The tops of your feet should be pressing into the mat (press through all toes) and your thighs should be lifted and firm. Engage your abs and lift your pelvis (you shouldn’t feel any pain in your lower back!)
Modifications: Feel free to do cobra pose if you feel this too much in the lower back. Cobra pose can be done with your front body on the mat with your shoulders slightly lifted and your hands by your floating ribs.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Benefits: Strengthens your arms and upper back; Increases flexibility in your hamstrings and calves.
Alignment: Have your hands slightly turned out. Press through the palms all the way to your fingertips. With your arms straight, rotate your shoulders outward and feel your triceps engage. Pull your shoulders away from your ears. With your legs straight or slightly bent, press through your hands to move your chest toward your legs. Your feet should be parallel to each other (you shouldn’t be able to see your heels). Eventually, you will work toward getting your heels to the floor, but that is not necessary right away.
Modifications: Feel free to bend your knees. If your hamstrings are a bit tight, you can feel this in your back initially, so bending the knees will help you extend through the upper body.
Check out our Journey Series – Sun Salutations for Beginners for more in-depth breakdowns of these poses and more!