Generally, a yoga class will include several postures, which are called asanas. One of the most familiar is downward facing dog, a backbend that strengthens back and buttock muscles while stretching the chest and shoulders.
Cat-Cow Pose combines two classic yoga positions. It stretches the back and belly muscles, and proponents say it can help with digestion by massaging the large intestine to promote gut peristalsis.
Triangle Pose offers a number of physical, mental and spiritual benefits. It provides a deep stretch for the hips, groin and hamstring muscles and strengthens the feet and legs. It also helps to improve balance and stability.
Triangle can be challenging for new yogis because of the difficulty of keeping the back leg and spine straight. If the back leg collapses or the spine becomes rounded, this can cause pain in the SI joints and in the lower back.
It’s common to try to force the hand down toward the ground in Triangle, but this can compress the neck and strain the shoulders. It’s better to rest the bottom hand on a block for stability instead.
Tree Pose strengthens the muscles that keep your body erect and balanced. It also helps to improve the stability of the knee and ankle joints. With time, this balancing posture prepares the hip and knee joints for counter movements like those in other poses such as Half Lotus or Eagle Arms.
If you are a beginner, try to practice Tree Pose next to a wall or chair so that you can touch it for balance as you build the strength to stand on one leg. For a more challenging pose, you can bring your foot up less high on the opposite inner thigh by placing it on the right ankle (like a kickstand). This will challenge your balance even further.
Warrior II is an excellent pose for cultivating courage and steadiness. Its benefits extend beyond the physical, as it encourages focus and a sense of grounding that can help us face life’s challenges with grace and strength.
It strengthens the hips and buttocks, as well as the thigh, inner thigh and ankle of the bent leg. It also stretches the chest and shoulders, improving breathing capacity and circulation. It is therapeutic for flat feet, sciatica, arthritis and osteoporosis.
Some instructors will instruct you to bring your front knee to a 90-degree angle or parallel with the mat. Avoid this, as it can put too much pressure on the knee. Instead, orient the knee so that it is directly above—not in front of—the ankle.
Half Moon Pose
This intermediate-level balance posture channels energies from both the moon (calm, cooling) and sun (fiery, intense). The posture strengthens the leg muscles and balances the torso. It also helps improve the flexibility of the thighs and ankles and provides relief from low back pain.
You can modify Half Moon Pose by placing your bottom hand on a block, chair or the floor to ease the weight of your body off your standing leg. This way, you can gradually work your way up to a more challenging version of the pose. Half Moon Pose can help you become more aware of your core muscles, which are important for doing everyday activities like walking or sitting at a desk.
Boat Pose is a challenging pose that requires the strength and flexibility of both the back and abdominal muscles. It is important to properly prepare for this posture by warming up and doing hamstring stretches before trying the full Boat Pose.
The posture activates the solar plexus and sacral chakras, helping to balance emotions, improve intuition and bring a feeling of empowerment. It also strengthens the abdomen and pelvic floor muscles, and can help to combat fatigue.
Beginners can start with half Boat Pose and then work up to full Boat Pose. This is a great pose for people with back or core issues, as it helps to build strength while still providing some stretch.
Child’s Pose (Balasana) is a restorative pose that gently stretches the hip joints, lower back, and upper shoulders.1 It is often used at the beginning or end of yoga sequences as a mental centering and relaxation pose.
Regular practice of Child’s Pose can help to develop the ability to focus and slow the breath, a benefit that can translate into other parts of life. It can also be helpful for women going through menstruation, as it offers mild compression to the abdomen to help ease cramps and pain.
Variations of this posture include spreading the knees wider for a deeper hip and inner thigh stretch, or keeping them together to lighten the pose’s intensity.