Stress relief. Heart health. Increased strength and stamina. There’s no shortage of reasons for athletes to take up yoga.
If you’re new to the practice, try getting started with these 12 basic yoga poses. Remember, start slow. And always consult a physician before taking up a new fitness regimen. Namaste!
1. Child’s Pose Or Balasana
Spread your knees wide in a “V” shape, with your big toes touching behind you. Rest your bottom on your heels. Lengthen your spine and stretch forward between your thighs. You can extend your arms or tuck them behind you.
This resting pose is a great way to slow your breath and calm your mind. Plus, it stretches your hips and thighs before class gets underway.
2. Downward-Facing Dog Or Adho Mukha Svanasana
Begin on your hands and knees (or in cow pose). Place your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Your fingers should point to the top of your mat.
Spread your fingers wide and distribute your weight evenly across your hands. Lift your knees off the floor, reaching your pelvis upward, as if your hips and thighs are being pulled backward. Your body should come into the shape of an “A.” Straighten your legs, but avoid locking them. Gaze between your knees and relax your neck.
This pose energizes the body as it stretches hamstrings, calves and spine. And, yes, it gets its name from a canine’s natural stretching motion.
3. Upward-Facing Dog Or Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Begin laying face-down on your mat. Bend your elbows. Place your hands firm on the mat. Spread your fingers. Your wrists should be parallel to the mat, and your arms should remain tight at your side.
Now press down through the top of your feet and lift your body off the floor. Only your hands and the tops of your feet should touch the floor. Lightly arch your back.
This pose improves posture and stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen. It also increases strength in the arms and wrists.
4. Cobra Or Bhujangasana
Begin laying face-down on your mat. Straighten your arms and lift your chest off the floor. Narrow your hips and legs. Firm your shoulder blades. Press the thighs and tops of the feet into the floor.
This pose differs from the similar upward-facing dog in that your legs and lower torso should remain on the ground.
This pose stretches the lungs, shoulders and abs, while strengthening the spine.
5. Bridge Or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Start by lying on the floor, facing the ceiling. Press your feet and arms into the floor and push your bottom and torso upward. Both your thighs and feet should be parallel. Knees should remain over your heels. You may want to clasp your hands beneath your torso.
This pose helps combat anxiety, headaches and fatigue. It also stretches the back, neck and spine.
6. Chair Pose Or “Utkatasana”
Bend your knees and squat downward toward your heels, keeping your inner thighs parallel. Lean your torso slightly over your thighs. Firm your shoulder blades. You can hold your hands at your heart’s center or reach upward to the sky.
This pose strengthens the thighs, calves and spine.
7. Warrior One Or Virabhadrasana I
Lunge forward with one leg, positioning your thigh parallel to the ground. Your feet should point forward. Your torso should face forward in the direction of your lunge.
Raise your arms upward to the sky and relax your shoulders. Lift your ribcage upward and gaze ahead.
This pose opens the chest, shoulders and neck, while toning the shoulders, arms, thighs and calves.
8. Warrior Two Or Virabhadrasana II
Lunge forward with one leg, positioning your thigh parallel to the ground. Your front foot and torso should be parallel to the mat’s edges, with your back foot facing outward to the side. Lean into the lunge to increase its intensity.
Stretch your arms parallel to the floor, and make sure your torso remains square over your hips. Gaze over your fingers in the direction of your lunge.
This pose increases stamina and stimulates the abdominal muscles. It also opens the groin, chest and shoulders.
9. Tree Pose Or Vrksasana
Stand on one foot and keep it firm on the floor. Place your opposite foot against your thigh or calve (but not your knee), with toes pointing to the floor. Your pelvis should remain centered and your hips should be square. Hold your hands at your heart’s center or extend your arms upward.
This pose improves a yogi’s sense of balance and strengthens the thighs, ankles and spine.
10. Triangle Or Utthita Trikonasana
Begin by standing with your feet about four feet apart. Stretch your arms so they’re parallel to the floor. Then reach one hand down toward your foot and grab your ankle or your shin (if you’re flexible enough, you can also rest your hand on the floor). Your other hand should be extended toward the sky. Gaze upward at your fingertips.
This pose tones the legs and increases stability through the lower body. It also deeply stretches the hamstrings, hips and back.
11. High Plank Or Kumbhakasana
Start on your hands and knees. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders. Spread your fingers and press down through your hands. Step back and tuck your toes, lifting your legs upward from the mat. Firm your body and broaden your shoulders. Make sure your chest is directly over your hands.
This pose promotes arm and core strength, but remember—don’t let your hips sag too low.
12. Standing Fold Or Uttanasana
Stand tall with your hands on your hips. Bend forward from your hips. Lengthen the torso as you reach downward. If possible, bring your palms or fingertips to the floor in front of your feet (or as far as you can reach). Your legs can be straight or slightly bent.
This pose is a stress-reliever, calming the mind in between other poses in your practice. It also strengthens the thighs and knees.