Yoga poses, or asanas, strengthen the muscles and joints of the body. They help prevent back pain and stiffness. Many also improve posture and balance.
Every person, from a seasoned marathon runner to a CrossFit junkie, can benefit from a few yoga moves. These beginner moves can be easily incorporated into any exercise program.
1. Tree Pose
Tree Pose is a beautiful balancing pose that teaches you to be both strong and supple. It also helps you learn to trust your own inner sense of balance.
Be sure not to place the lifted foot directly on your standing leg knee, as this can put the knee in a vulnerable position. Instead, press the foot into the thigh or calf of the standing leg to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the knee joint.
2. Warrior II
Warrior II (virabhadrasana II) is an essential pose that strengthens the legs, hips, core and shoulders. It also challenges balance and cultivates endurance.
To practice warrior II, start in mountain pose and walk your back foot forward into a wide stance. Then bend the knee of your front leg so it stacks above the ankle. Gaze ahead as you hold the pose.
3. Bridge Pose
This chest-opening pose relieves back pain and strengthens the back muscles. It can also help those with breathing issues because it expands the ribcage, improving lung capacity over time.
Lie on the mat with your knees bent and feet hip-distance apart, then extend your arms alongside your body, palms flat on the floor. Beginners can use a yoga block to help them lift into the pose.
4. Warrior III
Warrior III is an energizing balance pose that strengthens the legs, core and back muscles. It also tones the hip muscles and benefits piriformis muscle in the knees. Try experimenting with arm variations: keep hands in prayer, extend arms back to form airplane shape or reach for the heart center.
This balancing pose can take a deceiving amount of strength to hold. If necessary, use a wall to help support the posture.
5. Triangle Pose
Triangle pose (Trikonasana) strengthens and tones the lower body, opens the hips and shoulders, and improves balance. It also provides a good challenge for the core.
When practicing this pose, try not to arch the back, allowing the top shoulder to be directly stacked over the bottom one. This will prevent neck strain and injury. Then, gradually lift the lower hand overhead and rotate the ribcage upwards.
Chaturanga builds upper body and core strength, strengthens the shoulders and back, helps prevent shoulder injury. It can also invigorate the mind, reminding us that we are strong.
A strap can help you build strength in Chaturanga by keeping the heads of your upper arms at the same height as your elbows, rather than dropping them toward the floor. This is my favorite overall Chaturanga modification.
Shoulderstand, also called Salamba Sarvangasana, is a restorative inversion that strengthens the shoulders and back. It can also help relieve sinus blockage, headaches and fatigue.
It purifies the blood and improves circulation. For beginners, it is best practised with a teacher to avoid injury.
To enter the pose safely, come into Shoulder Stand from Plow Pose (Halasana). Beginners can also experiment with different leg positions.
8. Downward Facing Dog
Perhaps the most well-known yoga posture, Downward Facing Dog can relieve stress and calm the brain. It also stretches the arms, legs and back while strengthening them. It is a great pose for people suffering from back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome or headache.
Downward Facing Dog also stimulates the bladder meridian, which has 67 acupuncture points and can relieve back pain. It can also help to improve digestion.
10. Warrior V
The warrior poses strengthen the arms, legs and core, and also stretch the hip flexors, inner thighs and hamstrings. The more advanced Warrior III stretches the hamstrings and works the small muscles in the feet and ankles that improve balance to prevent falls. Warrior V codes for a quicker breakdown of catecholamines, which is useful if you’re under stress. Practicing yoga also improves mental focus.