The Essential Yoga Poses for Beginners, According to an Instructor

woman doing beginner yoga poses in living room
Photo: Oana Szekely/Getty Images

These basic yoga poses for beginners are ideal if you're just dipping your toe into yoga flows.

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Why You Should Start with Yoga Poses for Beginners

Smiling person stretching after working out in living room of home
Thomas Barwick/Getty

For many newfound yogis, it can be tempting to try out inversions, arm balances, and other tricky poses you see on social media right from the get-go. But those postures require some serious strength and balance training, which is why Ashley Rideaux, a YogaWorks-certified teacher trainer in Los Angeles, recommends newbies stick with a handful of basic sitting and standing postures. "The bread and butter of a beginner's practice are your standing poses," she says. "They build strength through a lot of the larger muscles of the body. They're accessible to a lot of bodies and that makes them a great place, not just to find strength and flexibility, but also to build confidence in the work." These two types of yoga poses for beginners also help you develop a sense of where your body is positioned in space without actually seeing it, says Rideaux. (Remember: There typically aren't mirrors in yoga studios.)

And though popular culture makes it seem that props are reserved solely for older folks, Rideaux encourages everyone — from beginners to yoga veterans — to use them while practicing if they're available. "Props are so helpful in creating clean alignment and helping you avoid injury," she explains. "And a lot of times, as you find the proper alignment, it actually gives you a greater challenge."

"Challenge" is a key word, and you shouldn't expect to become a pro after adding yoga to your routine once or twice. "The practice is like learning a new language — I wouldn't go into a French lesson and day one expect to leave fluent," says Rideaux. "The same thing is true about learning the body and putting these shapes onto our body. It's going to look a little bit different on all of us, and it's a lifetime of learning to develop fluency."

To kick off your journey to becoming a seasoned yogi and start building up the necessary strength, flexibility, and confidence, try flowing through these yoga poses for beginners. (Next up: Jessamyn Stanley Shares the Single Overlooked Thing That Will Make Your Yoga Practice Worthwhile)

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Mountain Pose

illustration of Mountain Pose
Yeji Kim

A. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, weight evenly distributed through soles, arms at sides, shoulders relaxed, and palms facing forward.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

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Downward Dog

Downward Dog illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Start in a table-top position with hands directly under shoulders, knees under hips. Walk hands a few inches forward and spread fingers wide, pressing palms into mat.

B. Curl toes under and slowly press hips toward ceiling, bringing body into an inverted V, pressing shoulders away from ears. Feet should be hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

(This non-slip yoga mat will keep you upright no matter how sweaty your palms become.)

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Warrior II

Warrior II illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Stand with legs 3 to 4 feet apart, turning right foot out 90 degrees and left foot in slightly. Bring hands to hips and relax shoulders, then extend arms out to the sides, palms down.

B. Bend the right knee 90 degrees, keeping knee over ankle; gaze out over right hand.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides and repeat.

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Tree Pose

Tree Pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Stand with arms at sides.

B. Shift weight onto left leg and place sole of right foot inside left thigh, keeping hips facing forward.

C. Once balanced, bring hands in front of chest in prayer position, palms together.

D. On an inhalation, extend arms over shoulders, palms separated and facing each another.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Bring right foot to the inside of left ankle, keeping toes on the floor for balance. As you get stronger and develop better balance, move foot to the inside of left calf.

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Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Stand with feet about 3 feet apart, toes on right foot turned out to 90 degrees, left foot to 45 degrees.

B. Extend arms out to sides, then bend over right leg.

C. Allow right hand to touch the floor or rest on right leg below or above the knee, and extend the fingertips of left hand toward the ceiling. Turn gaze toward the ceiling.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

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High Lunge

High Lunge illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Start in a table-top position, with palms directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Tuck toes under.

B. Step right foot forward in between hands, with knee directly over ankle. Curl left toes under, and lift left leg until straight.

C. Lift chest slightly, pull shoulders down and away from ears, and gaze forward.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Rather than lifting back leg up until straight, keep knee resting on the floor. (

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Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Lie on floor with knees bent and directly over heels. Place arms at sides, palms down.

B. Exhale, then press feet into floor to lift hips.

C. Clasp hands under lower back and press arms down, lifting hips until thighs are parallel to floor, bringing chest toward chin.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Place a yoga block underneath the sacrum for additional support.

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Seated Twist

Seated Twist Yoga pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Sit on the floor with legs extended.

B. Cross right foot over the outside of the left thigh; bend left knee. Keep right knee pointed toward ceiling. Place left elbow to the outside of right knee and right hand on the floor behind hips.

C. Twist right as far as is comfortable, moving from abdomen; keep both sides of butt on the floor.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Keep bottom leg straight and place both hands on raised knee. If lower back rounds forward, sit on a folded blanket. (This yoga pose is one of many that will help you ease into your day.)

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Baby Cobra

Baby Cobra yoga pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Lie facedown on the floor with thumbs directly under shoulders, legs extended, with the tops of feet on the floor.

B. Tighten pelvic floor and tuck hips downward while squeezing glutes. Press shoulders down and away from ears.

C. Lighten pressure in palms, inhale, and lift chest a few inches off the mat, raising only as high as possible without pressing into hands.

Relax, exhale, and repeat for 5 full breaths.

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Child's Pose

Child's Pose yoga illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Sit up comfortably on heels.

B. Roll torso forward, bringing forehead to rest on the mat.

C. Lower chest as close to knees as is comfortable, extending arms in front.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Place a block under head or a rolled blanket behind knees.

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Sukhasana

Sukhasana yoga pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Sit tall in a cross-legged position with shoulders in line with hips, hands resting on knees or thighs, and gaze forward. Draw shoulders down and away from ears.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Place a prop, such as a blanket or bolster, under butt, so knees are level or slightly lower than hips.

13 of 15

Dandasana

Dandasana yoga pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Sit with legs extended forward, big toes touching one another, shoulders in line with hips, and torso lengthened. Plant palms next to hips, straighten arms, and draw shoulders down and away from ears.

B. Engage thighs and flex feet, drawing toes toward face.

Hold for 5 full breaths.

Modify this yoga pose for beginners: Place a prop, such as a blanket or block, under butt, so hips are slightly elevated. (Need better visuals? Try these online yoga classes for more detailed cues.)

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Savasana

Savasana yoga pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Lie on back with legs extended, arms out to sides, and head centered.

Breathe and stay in this pose for 5 minutes.

(

15 of 15

Thread the Needle

Thread the Needle yoga pose illustration
Yeji Kim

A. Start in a table-top position, with palms directly under shoulders, knees under hips, and tops of feet on the floor.

B. Raise right arm up toward ceiling, gaze following with it. Pause, then lower right arm back down and underneath left arm until fully extended.

C. Lower chest as close to floor as is comfortable can, keeping hips high.

Hold for 5 full breaths. Switch sides; repeat.

Updated by
Megan Falk
megan falk

Megan Falk joined the Shape.com team in 2019 and serves as the assistant editor, primarily covering exercise tips, fitness modalities, workout trends, and more. Previously, she was Shape’s editorial assistant and covered food trends and nutrition, sustainability, health and wellness, and beauty topics, among others. Before joining the team, Megan worked as an editorial intern at DoctorOz.com. Megan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism and a minor in food studies from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Her writing has also appeared in HealthSAVEUR, her hometown’s magazine, Hour Detroit, and more. She’s currently preparing to earn her personal trainer certification through the American Council on Exercise.

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