Yoga for Beginners: Change Your Life With Yoga Poses

Woman practicing yoga in various poses (asana)

Key Points

  •  It can be nerve-wracking to try new yoga poses, but yoga is beneficial for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

  • Popular yoga poses for beginners include child’s pose, planks, lotus position, cobra pose, and shavasana.

  • Warming up, using your core, and breathing keep you safe during yoga.

Yoga can open up a whole new world of exercise and relaxation — especially for beginners. If you're not experienced in yoga, there is no better time to implement yogic philosophies to change your life. Learning yoga poses will help the next time you want to stretch, de-stress, and just breathe it out!

Many yoga poses seem confusing and difficult at first. They can be painful and dangerous when performed incorrectly. Learning the history and terminology fosters an appreciation for the art of yoga and respect for the process.

Dive in and get ready to get calm.

Yoga's Roots

Yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago. It is a practice of Hinduism and was originally written in Sanskrit (one of the world’s oldest languages). Many of the words you find in yoga, such as asana, come from the Rigveda — an ancient Indian collection of sacred Sanskrit hymns.

The practice of yoga was first described in the Rigveda. It describes the elements of yoga and lists mantras that can be used for yoga or meditation. The mantras promote peace, happiness, prosperity, and health.

As yoga has been taught across generations, much of it has been translated into different languages and transferred to areas across the globe. However, some words are still used in the original Sanskript.

Woman does standing yoga pose on mat

Yoga Terminology

Once you know some of the more common yoga terms, you’ll have an easier time learning the poses (because you'll get what your teacher means in class!).

Below are terms you'll come across when exploring the art of yoga. You might have already heard of a few, such as namaste and chakra, as they are ingrained in pop culture.

  • Yoga: The union of the body and mind

  • Bandha: Engaging certain internal muscles

    • Jalandhara Bandha: Throat

    • Mula Bandha: Pelvic floor muscles

    • Uddiyana Bandha: Abs up to the diaphragm

  • Asana: Pose

  • Nadi: Channels for energy flow

  • Drishti: Focal point to use for balance during yoga poses

  • Pranayama: Breathing exercises used for better flow of energy

  • Ujjayi: Breath sound as it exits a slightly constricted throat

  • Shanti: Peace

  • Surya Namaskar: Yoga sequence sometimes used to warm up

  • Chakra: Seven energy centers from the bottom of the spine to the scalp

  • Namaste: A greeting that means the light within me bows to the light within you

  • Prana: Life force

  • Vinyasa: Movement that corresponds with breath

  • Om (oh-mm): A mantra used as a sound for consciousness

  • Mantra: Word or phrase repeated for focus and concentration

  • Hatha: Basic style of yoga

  • Heart Center: Center of the chest or heart chakra

  • Mudra: Hand position used to help focus, connection, and concentration

Yoga can be intimidating for beginners. Familiarizing yourself with this terminology helps you know what to expect when you hear your teacher mention them in class. The knowledge will guide you in your movements and postures. Some of the names of yoga poses mimic how the pose will look, such as the cobra pose.

Woman does goddess yoga pose on mat


When there’s physical activity involved, it’s always a good choice to warm up. Physical activity causes an increase in body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood flow.

When you warm up, your body goes through these processes at a slower rate. This allows the body to acclimate easier to the changes. If you go straight into exercise, it’s harder for your system to adapt and injury can occur.

Warm-ups should involve movement. Instead of touching your toes and holding them, try bodyweight lunges. Arm swings, crunches, push-ups, and jumping jacks are all great ways to warm up.

Warming up beforehand leads to a more enjoyable workout experience. You’ll feel better, so you’ll perform the poses better.

Keep It Safe, Avoid Injury

With any kind of physical activity, injury is a risk. Avoid these risks by using the correct muscles. For almost every yoga pose, ensure you engage your core. Using your core supports your spine which makes your poses sturdier and safer.

Engage your core by bearing down (almost like you’re going #2) without pushing. Think of sucking in your stomach so your belly button moves in towards your spine. Imagine your ribs trying to touch your hip bones.

When the core is activated, it triggers the hip flexors to help. Focus on your core — not your hip flexors. If your legs lift while you’re doing your exercises, you’re likely activating the flexors instead.

Secondly, make sure to breathe. Holding your breath might make it feel easier. However, you should be able to breathe appropriately if you’re doing the pose correctly. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

26 Popular Yoga Poses

Successfully performing a yoga pose gives the feeling of accomplishment. You’ll be proud of yourself when you stretch and bend in these beautiful ways.

The following positions can be completed under hot or normal conditions:

Lotus Position

The lotus position is wonderful for loosening the hips and buttocks. To complete the lotus pose, sit up straight and cross-legged on the floor. Take the top of your right foot and rest it on your left thigh. Rest the top of your left foot on your right thigh.

Your ankles should be crossed in your lap. Place your hands on your knees or the ground on either side of you.

Cobra Pose

The cobra pose opens up the chest and abs. Start by lying flat on your stomach. Place your palms flat on the floor underneath your shoulders. Point your toes so your feet are flat against the ground.

Slowly push your torso upward until your back is curved and you feel a comfortable stretch in your abs and chest. Lower yourself back down after 10-20 seconds.

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

The triangle pose stretches nearly every area of the body at once. Start by standing with your feet spread apart and facing forward. Raise your arms out on either side of you and align your ankles under your wrists.

Slowly take your right foot and turn it out and away from you. Lean over to the side and touch your ankle while keeping your arms straight on each side and your elbows locked. As you tilt, your arms should make a straight, vertical line. Your legs should be straight with your knees locked.

Woman does a yoga handstand pose on mat


This yoga pose is terrific for stretching the hamstrings. In the ultanasana pose, when you bend down to touch your toes, wrap your arms around the back of your calves and grab the backs of your ankles. This creates a deeper stretch.

Downward Dog

Down-facing dog provides relief from tight muscles in the back and legs. Start with your hands and knees on the ground. Keeping your palms flat, use your toes to push your bottom into the air.

Walk your hands out until your body is in an upside-down “V.” Move your shoulder blades toward your hips. Try to keep your heels on or as close to the ground as possible.

Half Lord of the Fishes

This pose is great for loosening the spine and hips. Start by sitting on your bottom on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Lay your left knee on the floor. Take your right foot and put it on the other side of your left knee.

Twist your torso to the right and place your left elbow on your right thigh. Use your knee as a prop to twist yourself to the right. Sit up straight and keep the chest open. Breathe deeply and don’t twist too fast or too far.  

You might have some back popping if you get deep enough into this one!


Balasana, or child’s pose, is a relaxing pose that opens up your lungs. It allows you to take a deeper breath and release some tension. Start the child’s pose on your hands and knees. Your knees should be directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders.

Keeping your hands on the ground, sit back on your heels. Once you’re folded up, slide your hands out in front of you as far as you can. Your lower back should relax and feel like it’s opening up.

Woman does bridge yoga pose on mat


The shavasana — also called corpse pose — is the last pose in many yoga routines because it’s one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating. Shavasana is simply lying flat on your back with your palms facing up. Many people deepen this pose by closing their eyes and focusing on their breathing.

Plank Pose

Planks strengthen all muscles in the body. Start in the push-up position, then lower yourself down onto your elbows. Your elbows and forearms should be flat on the ground. Hold this pose for 20-30 seconds, and work up to longer intervals.


The cat-cow yoga pose is phenomenal for working muscles in the back, neck, and shoulders. To begin, get onto your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. 

Let your stomach sag. Think of how a cow udder sags to the ground. Arch your back. As you breathe out, curve your back and pull your belly button in towards you. You’ll look like a scared cat. Round your shoulders for a deeper stretch.

Shoulder Stand

A shoulder stand is a fun way to engage the muscles in the core and buttocks. Shoulder stands start lying flat on your back. While keeping your legs straight and tight, push them into the air while raising your bottom off the ground.

Place the palms of your hands on your lower back/hip area to hold yourself up. Keep your upper arm and elbows flat on the ground and your abs tight.

Bow Pose

The bow pose is a fun one that works the hip flexors. Start by lying on your stomach. Bring your feet up towards your bottom, bending your knees. Reach behind you and grab the outside of each ankle.

The thumbs should wrap around the back of the ankle and towards the inner side. Your knees and chest will bow off the ground.

Woman does standing yoga pose on mat at home

Bridge Pose

The bridge pose is great for loosening the hips. Start by lying on your back. Bend your knees and place your heels about a foot away from your bottom. Using your heels, push your bottom into the air.

Leave your shoulder blades, head, arms, feet, and hands on the ground. Keep your abs and bottom tight.

Camel Pose

Camel pose is wonderful for allowing more blood and oxygen into the chest. Start on your knees with your shins and feet flat on the ground. Point your toes and reach back and grab your heels.

Don’t bend at the hips. Instead, lean back until you can place your hands on your heels for steadiness. Look up at the ceiling and arch your back, pushing your hips out.

Warrior Pose

Warrior pose builds confidence. To boost your self-esteem, spread your legs wide, aligning your ankles and wrists with your toes pointing forward. Stretch your arms straight out to each side (think of Rose on Titanic).

Point your left foot outwards. Look to the left and bend your left knee. Your knee should bend over your toes without passing over them. You should feel a stretch in your inner right thigh. Repeat on the other side.

Reverse Plank Pose

This yoga pose requires some arm strength and shoulder flexibility. To perform a reverse plank, sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you and your knees locked. Place your hands, palm down, on the ground on each side of you with your fingers pointing behind you.

Keeping your feet on the ground and your legs straight, raise yourself into the air. You’ll look like you’re doing a reverse push-up.

Lord of the Dance Pose

This is a strengthening pose that invokes courage and self-expression. Comfortably rest your feet shoulder-width apart. Reach your right hand in the air in front of you to keep you stable.

Bring your left foot towards your bottom and grab the outside of your ankle. Lean forward and lightly pull your foot, raising your knee higher into the air.

Woman does yoga pose on wooden pier near tropical beach

Pyramid Pose

The pyramid pose is a great warm-up yoga pose. Stand tall and take a step with one leg far in front of you. Keep your legs straight and bend forward, reaching for your foot. Focus on aiming your forehead at your shin.

Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)

This pose is great for the muscles in the trunk and thighs. Stand in position as if you are deep in a lunge. Bend your front leg and keep the back straight. Your back foot should point outward and your front foot should point straight ahead.

Take the hand corresponding with the back leg and tilt backward, holding the bend of your knee for support. If your left leg is behind you, reach back with your left hand. Raise your opposite hand high in the air and gently reach behind you.

Mountain Pose

The mountain pose is one of the simpler poses that helps with posture and confidence. You simply stand straight and tall, let your arms rest naturally, and use your thighs to keep you steady. Keep your head facing forward and your shoulders down and back.

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Standing forward bend resembles touching your toes. Rest your palms flat on the ground on each side of your feet. This simple pose encourages the entire back body to stretch out.

Garland Pose

Garland pose is a hip-opener pose that works your thighs, groin, legs, and ankles. Start by standing tall with your hands pressed together. Squat low to the ground, resting between your knees. Place your elbows on your knees. You will resemble a frog (and in this case, that's a good thing!).

Chair Pose

Chair pose works the thighs and glutes. Keeping your feet and knees together, squat down like you're about to sit in a chair. Stretch your arms straight in front of you to balance yourself. Keep your shoulders, knees, and toes in line with each other.

Thunderbolt Pose

The thunderbolt pose opens the chest and shoulders. Start on your knees and sit back on your feet. Raise your hands in the air straight above your head with your hands pressed together (like you’re praying).  

Warrior III Pose

This yoga pose takes balance, core strength, and hip mobility. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping one foot firm on the ground, raise your other foot behind you while keeping your leg straight. Lean forward, keeping your arms straight out in front of you. When correctly executed, you’ll look like the letter “T.”

Extreme Side Stretch

This pose is great for, you guessed it, stretching the side body. Start with your legs spread wide and your toes pointed forward. Twist your torso to one side and lean over.

Your fingers should touch the ground on either side of your leg. Repeat for the other side. Use your core to keep you balanced and safe.

Get Pose-y

Yoga is a great way to relax, express yourself, improve self-confidence, increase muscle tone, and elevate your mental and physical well-being. Yoga can be intimidating since it requires some unique positioning of the body that you may have never tried before. With a bit of practice and diligence, you’ll be an exciting new yogi in no time.

Which of these 26 poses are you most excited to try?

Was this article helpful?

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Top 3 Stories