If you’re a yoga newbie, it’s completely normal to feel intimidated by the die-hard yogis who warm up for class with handstands. Yes, handstands. But remember, everyone’s got to start somewhere. “In theory, there are no poses you must know before a class — you’re going there to learn,” says Mandy Ingber, New York Times best-selling author of Yogalosophy: 28-days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover, not to mention the woman responsible for Jennifer Aniston’s yoga addiction (and rock-hard abs).
Even if it’s Day 1 of your exercise journey, your task is simple: Throw on some form-fitting clothing (you’ll be able to see your body position better — and avoid a wardrobe malfunction), then get familiar with these seven basic poses. While you may not see all of them in every class, they’ll help you get started, plus make you feel more comfortable when you walk into the studio. So grab a mat and read on as Ingber and fellow yogi Tanya Boulton, a New York-based instructor and designer of her own activewear line, break down the must-know beginner yoga poses you’ll want to learn to pick up any yoga practice.
7 Basic Yoga Positions for Beginners
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
What to Know: “The mother of all yoga poses,” according to Ingber, “mountain only looks easy.” This two-footed stance is the foundation for many other positions that require awareness and balance. “It is through this pose that one finds the proper alignment and shape for additional movements,” she says.
How to Do It: Stand with feet together and arms at your side. Ground your feet, making sure to press all four corners down into the ground. Next, straighten your legs, then tuck your tailbone in as you engage your thigh muscles. As you inhale, elongate through your torso and extend your arms up, then out. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist as you release arms back to your sides.
2. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
What to Know: Consider this exercise your reset moment. Simple in design, this easy pose relaxes your nervous system and is a great place to take a breather during class if you need one. Got knee problems? Make sure to lower into this position with extra care.
How to Do It: Start in a kneeling position with toes tucked under. Lower your butt towards your feet as you stretch your upper body forward and down with arms extended. Your stomach should be comfortably resting on thighs, with your forehead touching the mat.