Yoga For Everyone: 10 Poses to Know

By Kelly Couturier from the New York Times

It’s time to roll out your yoga mat and discover the combination of physical and mental exercises that for thousands of years have hooked yoga practitioners around the globe. The beauty of yoga is that you don’t have to be a yogi or yogini to reap the benefits. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen the body. Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy yoga studios and complicated poses. Yoga is for everyone.

Ten Yoga Poses You Need to Know

The building blocks of yoga are poses. These are good ones to learn as you build a regular yoga practice.

These 10 poses are a complete a yoga workout. Move slowly through each pose, remembering to breathe as you move. Pause after any pose you find challenging, especially if you are short of breath, and start again when your breathing returns to normal. The idea is to hold each pose for a few, slow breaths before moving on to the next one.

CHILD’S POSE

This calming pose is a good default pause position. You can use child’s pose to rest and refocus before continuing to your next pose. It gently stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees and ankles and relaxes your spine, shoulders and neck.

Do it: When you want to get a nice gentle stretch through your neck spine and hips. Skip it: If you have knee injuries or ankle problems. Avoid also if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant. Modify: You can rest your head on a cushion or block. You can place a rolled towel under your ankles if they are uncomfortable. Be mindful: Focus on relaxing the muscles of the spine and lower back as you breathe.

This should be your go-to pose whenever you need to rest for a moment during a yoga workout.

DOWNWARD-FACING DOG

Downward-facing dog strengthens the arms, shoulders and back while stretching the hamstrings, calves and arches of your feet. It can also help relieve back pain.

Do it: To help relieve back pain. Skip it: This pose is not recommended if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or other wrist problems, have high blood pressure or are in the late stages of pregnancy. Modify: You can do the pose with your elbows on the ground, which takes the weight off your wrists. You can also use blocks under your hands, which may feel more comfortable. Be mindful: Focus on distributing the weight evenly through your palms and lifting your hips up and back, away from your shoulders.

This is one of the most common yoga poses.

PLANK POSE

A commonly seen exercise, plank helps build strength in the core, shoulders, arms and legs.

Do it: Plank pose is good if you are looking to tone your abs and build strength in your upper body. Skip it: Avoid plank pose if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. It can be hard on your wrists. You might also skip it or modify if you have low back pain. Modify: You can modify it by placing your knees on the floor. Be mindful: As you do a plank, imagine the back of your neck and spine lengthening.

This common pose can build strength in the core, shoulders, arms and legs.

FOUR-LIMBED STAFF POSE

This push-up variation follows plank pose in a common yoga sequence known as the sun salutation. It is a good pose to learn if you want to eventually work on more advanced poses, such as arm balances or inversions.

Do it: Like plank, this pose strengthens arms and wrists and tones the abdomen. Skip it: If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, a shoulder injury or are pregnant. Modify: It’s a good idea for beginners to modify the pose by keeping your knees on the floor. Be mindful: Press your palms evenly into the floor and lift your shoulders away from the floor as you hold this pose.

This pose builds strength in the arms, shoulders, wrists and back and helps tone the abdomen.

COBRA POSE

This back-bending pose can help strengthen the back muscles, increase spinal flexibility and stretches the chest, shoulders and abdomen.

Do it: This post is great for strengthening the back. Skip it: If you have arthritis in your spine or neck, a low-back injury or carpal tunnel syndrome. Modify: Just lift up a few inches, and don’t try to straighten your arms. Be mindful: Try to keep your navel drawing up away from the floor as you hold this pose.

One of the simpler back-bending poses.

 

TREE POSE

Beyond helping improve your balance, it can also strengthen your core, ankles, calves, thighs and spine.

Do it: Great for working on your balance and posture. Skip it: You many want to skip this pose if you have low blood pressure or any medical conditions that affect your balance. Modify: Place one of your hands on a wall for support. Be mindful: Focus on your breath in and out as you hold this pose.

This balancing pose is one of the most recognized poses in modern yoga.
 

TRIANGLE POSE

Triangle, which is a part of many yoga sequences helps build strength in the legs and stretches the hips, spine, chest, shoulders, groins, hamstrings and calves. It can also help increase mobility in the hips and neck.

Do it: This pose is great for building strength and endurance. Skip it: Avoid this pose if you have a headache or low blood pressure. Modify: If you have high blood pressure, turn your head to gaze downward in the final pose. If you have neck problems, don’t turn your head to look upward; look straight ahead and keep both sides of the neck long. Be mindful: Keep lifting your raised arm toward the ceiling. It helps keep the pose buoyant.

This pose can be found in many yoga sequences.

SEATED HALF-SPINAL TWIST POSE

This twisting pose can increase the flexibility in your back, while stretching the shoulders, hips and chest. It can also help relieve tension in the middle of your back.

Do it: To release tight muscles around the shoulders and upper and lower back. Skip it: If you have a back injury. Modify: If bending your right knee is uncomfortable, keep it straight out in front of you. Be mindful: Lift your torso with each inhale, and twist as you exhale.

Want to relieve the tension in your back? Try this twisting pose.
 

BRIDGE POSE

This is a back-bending pose that stretches the muscles of the chest, back and neck. It also builds strength in the back and hamstring muscles.

Do it: If you sit most of the day, this pose will help you open your upper chest. Skip it: Avoid this pose if you have a neck injury. Modify: Place a block between your thighs to help keep the legs and feet in proper alignment. Or you can place a block under your pelvis if your lower back is bothering you. Be mindful: While holding this pose, try to keep your chest lifted and your sternum toward your chin.

This pose, from the back-bending family of yoga poses, is great for stretching the muscles of the chest.

CORPSE POSE

Like life, yoga classes typically end with this pose. It allows for a moment of relaxation, but some people find it difficult to stay still in this pose. However, the more you try this pose, the easier it is to sink into a relaxing, meditative state.

Do it: Always! Skip it: If you don’t want to have a moment’s peace. Modify: Place a blanket under your head, if that feels more comfortable. You can also roll up a blanket and place that under your knees, if your lower back is sensitive or bothering you. Be mindful: Feel the weight of your body sinking into your mat one part at a time.

Though it may not look difficult, it can be quite challenging to lie in corpse pose for an extended period of time.