13 Basic Yoga Poses You Need to Know

One of the common misconceptions about yoga is that it’s challenging.

Often, TV shows and movies show people performing pretzel-like moves when performing yoga. This deters many beginners from even giving it a try.

To dispel those myths, we’ve put together this set of easy basic yoga poses for beginners. For good measure, we’ve also included very detailed video tutorials that you can follow step by step.

I’m sure that once you’ve tried them, you’ll agree that anyone can do yoga.

Types of Yoga Poses for Beginners

Before we get to the best yoga poses for beginners, let’s go through the different types of postures first. This will give you a better idea of the kinds of poses to expect when following any yoga sequence.

Also, I think it helps yoga get a better feel of which poses can help you the most.

How you categorize, yoga poses can vary significantly. That’s because you can get very detailed when describing these poses.

For beginners, we’ll keep things simple.

Therefore, we’ll limit them to 6 types of basic yoga poses. These are standing, seated, balancing, backbends, spine and resting postures.

Of course, you can split them up further into things like twisting poses and restorative poses. Or, you can also include more advanced ones like inversion poses.

For now, the 6 basic kinds of yoga poses will suffice.

Another thing worth noting that while some posses can overlap. For example, the Tree Pose is a standing pose. But, because it requires you to do so only on one leg, it’s also a balance pose.

6 Basic Kinds of Yoga Poses

Here’s a quick description of the different types of poses to expect.

  • Standing Poses. As its name suggests, these poses are done standing up. While they look the easiest, they often have a lot more going on. Thus, they’re actually one of the harder types of poses for beginners to get used to. Standing poses usually require endurance and stamina. They’re often used to help your body warm up for your yoga session. Also, more intermediate standing poses often include other elements that increase difficulty.
  • Seated Poses. Like standing poses, these are named after how they’re performed. Seated poses can either be stationary where there’s no movement involved. Or, they can include stretching, twisting or bending.
  • Supine Poses. Supine poses are done lying down facing up. In many cases, these poses are restorative or restive. But, in some cases they can include some movement and turning of the upper or lower body.
  • Resting Poses. Resting poses allow you to take a break between poses. They’re great in helping your body restore and calm down. Often, these types of postures place you in a stretching position. For example, the Child’s pose is a resting pose that doesn’t involve much movement. But, it puts your body in a position that stretches your back, hips and hamstrings.
  • Balancing Poses. Balancing poses are often done standing up. But there are some that are done in a seated position. These yoga poses often require you to stand on one leg. Although, there are many balancing poses that use two feet, albeit in an offset position. Finally, this kind of pose is also excellent for building core strength.
  • Backbends. Backbends require a good amount of flexibility. They’re often uncomfortable and difficult for beginners. But, they’re very satisfying. One of the reasons is that most of us have hunched postures. Thus, bending backwards feels so good as it gives you a good stretch and relieves tension. What’s great about backbends is that the more you do them, the better you’ll get.

13 Basic Yoga Poses for Beginners

Now that we’ve gone through the basic types of poses, it’s time to look at the best beginner poses anyone can do.

1. Mountain Pose

Type of Pose: Standing

Looks easy right?

Not really.

The mountain pose is a lot more than it seems.

It is a very important yoga pose for beginners because it teaches you about body alignment. This makes it useful in improving overall posture.

Performing the mountain pose lets you understand how your body parts are stacked one over the other. Just as importantly, it allows you to learn how to arrange them during poses properly.

The ideal posture for the mountain pose is having your entire body follow a plumb line. That is a straight line going down from the tip of the top of your head to your heels.

The Mountain Pose is usually done towards the beginning of a session. It helps your body get warm while allowing your mind to calm down.

2. Tree Pose

Type of Pose: Standing

The tree pose is an extension of the mountain pose. But, it’s more challenging.

This standing pose requires you to use only one leg. At the same time, you’ll need to raise your arms up over your head. This makes it a bit harder to stand straight up.

As a result, this yoga asana is also a balancing pose.

The tree pose helps strengthen your legs and hips. You’ll also need to engage your core in stabilizing your upper body.

3. Cow Pose

Type of Pose: Backbend

The cow pose is very soothing because it gives your back a gentle stretch. Doing this feels really good in every half hour or if you find yourself stuck on your desk all day.

This yoga pose is often done in conjunction with the cat pose. It helps to stretch your back, neck and check. The bending movement also promotes spine mobility and flexibility.

Like the cat pose, this asana is meant to be done in a gentle and deliberate motion. Jerking and over-bending don’t help and can increase your risk of injury.

4. Cat Pose

Type of Pose: Backbend

The cat pose bends the opposite direction of the cow pose. This makes them complementary. And, is the reason they’re often combined as one movement.

This yoga pose lets you lengthen your spine. Doing so helps relieve tension and stiffness, especially if you’ve been sitting in the same position for a long time.

Besides mobilizing the spine, the cat and cow pose also promotes blood circulation while stimulating your abdominal organs.

5. Child’s Pose

Type of Pose: Resting

The child’s pose is one of the most popular poses you’ll encounter in any yoga session. It is a resting pose that allows you to take a short break during your sequence.

It is likewise a restorative pose that lets your mind calm down while allowing your body to relax.

What’s great about this yoga posture is that it not only helps fight fatigue and stress, it also relieves back pain and tightness.

As you rest, you’ll notice that your hips and thighs also get a good stretch.

6. Cobra Pose

Type of Pose: Backbend

Cobra pose and upward facing dog (below) are both great stretches for the back.
In Cobra, the lower half of your body and even lower ribs should be on the ground, with the tops of your feet touching the ground.

If you have upper back pain or tension, try the cobra pose.

This backbend uses your arms to prop up your upper body. In doing so, it helps stretch your back.

How deep a stretch you get will depend on:

  • You level of flexibility
  • How straight your arms are

As you straighten your arms, you’ll feel a deeper stretch as it will prop your shoulders higher off the ground. This makes your back bend farther up.

We have a word of caution though. Don’t over bend.

Doing so puts unnecessary strain on your back which can lead to pain. Instead, find a gentle, comfortable stretch. Over time, you’ll notice that your body will get more flexible even if you don’t force it.

The cobra pose is very similar to the upward facing dog. Their main difference is that:

  • The cobra is more focused on your upper back. So, the lower half of your torso or waist will still be touching the ground.
  • Meanwhile, the upward facing dog stretches your lower back and abdomen more. That’s because your body gets off the ground.

7. Seated Forward Bend

Type of Pose: Seated

This pose is somewhat the opposite of the cobra. Instead of bending backwards, you’re leaning forward.

Doing so helps elongate your spine which feels very relaxing. Also, this pose gives you a great hamstring stretch.

The latter is perfect for desk jockeys because sitting for long hours every day makes causes your hamstrings to get short and tight. This often results in lower back pain as time passes.

8. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Type of Pose: Seated

The half lord of the fishes pose is another seated pose. But, instead of back bending, it involves twisting.

Gently twisting your back to the side helps improve mobility. This lets you easily turn to your right of left without placing a lot of stress on your neck and shoulder muscles.

A bonus benefit of twisting yoga movements is that they help stimulate your digestive tract. This helps with bloating, digestion and constipation.

Like the backbends, it’s important not to over do this asana. Over twisting your spine can put excessive strain on the muscles and ligaments around it.

9. Low Lunge

Type of Pose: Standing

The low lunge is very similar to the lunge exercise you see people do at the gym. But, it does have its differences.

This pose isn’t as straight as your regular lunge. There’s actually a bit of bending involved.

However, one of the most important things is to keep your front knee at the 90-degree angle (right angle). This puts less stress on it. And, it gives it a lot of power and stability.

The low lunge is an incredible hip opening. Plus, it gives your quads a good stretch. Both are very important if you are seated down for majority of the day, be it at work or in your car.

10. Downward Facing Dog

Type of Pose: Standing

This beginner pose looks much easier than it really is. That’s because it requires a lot of practice and core strength to keep your back straight in this position.

It also requires a good amount of balance so that you don’t lean too far forward.

The downward facing dog builds both upper and lower body strength. It also promotes stamina.

One of the best ways to practice this pose without an instructor is in front of a mirror. This lets you check and recheck your posture as you adjust to get to the top position.

Here are a couple of helpful tips for beginners who are having difficulty with the downward dog.

  • Improving your hamstring flexibility lets you lift your hips higher
  • Better shoulder and upper back mobility allow you to extend your upper torso into a straight line

11. Warrior I

Type of Pose: Standing

The warrior pose is a powerful pose where you use the stance you did in the lunge pose.

This split stance allows you to have a wide, firm base. At the same time, it forces your body to balance itself while keeping your upper torso stable.

This standing pose may look simple. But, it has a lot of different elements some beginners overlook.

These include:

  • Making sure that your waist is facing forward. Ideally, parallel with the front of your mat.
  • Keep your front knee at a 90-degree angle.
  • Make sure your knee doesn’t go past your toes. This puts extra strain on the joint.
  • Your hind leg points out towards the side instead of forward.
  • Don’t over bend backwards.

12. Warrior II

Type of Pose: Standing

The warrior II pose is similar to warrior I. But, it changes the position of your arms.

Instead of bringing your arms over your head, they’re not lifted up to the sides.

Similarly, your hips are now facing to the side instead of the front.

The warrior poses, including I, II and III all require you to hold for time. Thus, they’re both strength and endurance poses.

This lets you build up leg strength while engaging your core.

13. Extended Side Angle Pose

Type of Pose: Standing

The extended side angle pose is more complex compared to warriors I and II. That’s because it involves many elements including:

  • Strength to balance your body in in unstable position
  • Endurance to hold the position without compromising form
  • Hip and hamstring flexibility to let you take the proper stance
  • Upper body and shoulder flexibility to extend upwards and towards the floor at the same time.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to take the time to learn each element properly.

Also, working on your weak points, be in hamstring or shoulder flexibility to make the pose easier to master.

You can likewise take “baby steps” on your way to achieving the perfect extended side angle pose. Instead of going for the floor on your first try,

  • Begin by resting you’re your forearm on your thigh.
  • As you get more flexible, you can reach lower to a yoga block on the floor.
  • Finally, reach for the floor.