One of the first beginner yoga positions, chaturanga strengthens and lengthens the whole body from head to toe. It also helps improve balance and boosts core strength.
Lie down and “walk” the legs straight up toward the wall. This balancing posture strengthens the shoulders, arms, and wrists and promotes a sense of confidence and calm.
Forward folds stretch the muscles of the back and lower body, calm the mind, relieve stress and tension in the neck, shoulders and back, and encourage a mindful awareness of breath. This posture can be done standing or seated, but beginners are encouraged to start with the seated version because it takes out some of the weight on the legs and hips.
It’s easy to lose balance and strain the back in this pose, especially if you overdo it. Many yoga practitioners bend forward from a place of stiffness and overcompensate with the lumbar spine, which can be dangerous for anyone.
If your back feels tight in forward fold, try bending your knees or putting blocks under your feet to support the body. It may also help to flex the front of the legs and keep the core engaged.
The Child’s Pose position (Balasana) is a soothing stretch that relaxes the muscles on the front of the body and softly extends the back torso. Often used as a resting pose between more difficult poses, it offers many health benefits and reduces stress.
As with all yoga postures, it is important to stay within your comfort level. If something doesn’t feel right, take a break or use a modification to the pose that is more comfortable.
For example, if your knees are sore when you sit down into the pose, consider placing a rolled towel under your knees to reduce the amount of pressure on the joint. You can also prop your head with a blanket, pillow or bolster to make it more comfortable for the neck.
Downward Facing Dog
One of the most familiar yoga poses in Western practice, Downward Facing Dog — Adho Mukha Svanasana, or just Down Dog — is a transitional and resting pose. It also strengthens and stretches the whole body. Downward Dog is an important part of Sun Salutations, a series of yoga postures done multiple times in a class.
The key to a good Down Dog is keeping the back of the neck elongated and not tilting it up toward the sky, which can compress the bones in the spine, causing discomfort and possibly nerve impingement. This is a common mistake for beginners.
Another mistake beginners sometimes make is collapsing weight into the hands, which robs the chest of a full stretch and weakens the wrists, elbows and shoulders. Aim for a hand width that’s about the same as your shoulder width.
Pyramid pose (Parsvottanasana) is a standing forward bend that builds strength and balance. It stretches and strengthens the legs and hips, improves balance and full body coordination, and stimulates the abdominal organs to promote digestive health.
Begin by stepping back with your right foot. Keep your feet a hip’s width apart and square your hips to the short front edge of your mat. Press the palms into reverse prayer behind your back and fold forward, extending through the top of the spine.
This standing forward bend may feel challenging for beginners because it lengthens both sides of the body at the same time and requires a strong balance to achieve. Practice Pyramid Pose as part of a flow yoga routine to warm up and stretch the muscles and create a strong foundation for more advanced postures.
The Warrior II pose (Virabhadrasana II) is a powerful standing asana that requires stability and strength in the legs while stretching the sides of the torso. The back leg is extended, while the front arm binds around the back to create a strong balance between the legs and the shoulders and hips.
Activating the core muscles in this posture can strengthen the spine and reduce back pain. The erector spinae muscles in particular are strengthened, which may reduce your risk for lower back pain.
Practicing the Warrior II position can help you focus on your breath and become a more resilient person in daily life. It also enhances the sense of power and concentration in your body. Imagine yourself like the warrior Virabhadra and find your own inner strength!