10 Essential Yoga Poses
June 24, 2023
10 Essential Yoga Poses
Written by : pathofyoga
10 Essential Yoga Poses
Yoga is a holistic practice that originated in ancient India and has been evolving for thousands of years. It encompasses physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, cleansing techniques, energy seals and locks and ethical principles to promote overall well-being and spiritual growth.
At its core, yoga aims to harmonize the mind, body, and spirit. The word “yoga” itself means “union” or “to join,” emphasising the connection between various aspects of our being. Through the practice of yoga, individuals strive to achieve balance, inner peace, and self-realisation.
It is a highly adaptable practice, and there are various styles and approaches to suit different individuals and goals. These include (amongst many others) Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Yin and Iyengar, each with its own emphasis and techniques.
In order to help you begin your yoga journey, here is our guide to ten foundational yoga poses.
Modifications and variations can support your practice and accommodate your body’s current needs. As you explore variations, keep in mind that your goal is to find “Sthira” (steadiness and stability) and “Sukham” (comfort and ease). Remember to make the pose fit your body, not your body fit the pose.
As you progress and gain more confidence, you can gradually explore more challenging variations of the poses. Remember, it’s always essential to listen to your body and honor its limits, avoiding any pain or discomfort.
1 Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Stand tall with feet together and arms at your sides, palms facing forwards.
Ground your feet, engage your leg muscles, and lengthen your spine.
Relax your shoulders, broaden your chest, and gaze forward.
Breathe deeply, feeling rooted and steady.
Modification: If you have difficulty maintaining balance, stand with your feet hip-width apart and keep a chair or wall nearby to lightly touch for support.
Variation: Add a gentle backbend by interlacing your fingers behind your back and opening your chest.
2 Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Start on your hands and knees with your hands slightly forward of your shoulders and knees hip-width apart.
Curl your toes under, lift your knees off the floor, and push your hips up and back.
Lengthen your spine, straighten your legs, and press your palms firmly into the mat.
Feel free to reset the distance between your hands and feet if you need.
Relax your head and neck, and let your heels sink toward the ground.
Modification: If your hamstrings are tight, keep a slight bend in your knees. You can also place your hands on blocks to reduce strain on the wrists.
Variation: Pedal your feet one at a time, bending the opposite knee while straightening the other to stretch the calves and hamstrings further.
3 Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
Step one foot forward into a lunge position, with your front knee directly above your ankle and your back foot angled slightly out.
Raise your arms overhead, palms facing each other, and gaze forward.
Press down through your feet, engage your leg muscles, and lift your torso.
Modification: If it’s challenging to lunge deeply, shorten your stance and adjust the front foot position to reduce the stretch. You can also widen your stance.
Variation: Bring your hands to your hips or interlace them behind your back, lifting your chest for a heart-opening variation.
4 Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
From Warrior I, open your hips to the side, extending your arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down.
Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot.
Keep your front knee bent, directly above your ankle, and your back leg straight.
Gaze over your front fingertips and lengthen through your arms.
Modification: Shorten or widen your stance slightly if you find it difficult to maintain balance or hold the pose for an extended period.
Variation: Gentle pulses in and out of the pose; inhale as you straighten the front knee, exhale as you bend it.
5 Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, toes facing forward. Keeping your standing leg strong and firmly rooted. shift your weight onto one foot and lift the opposite foot off the ground, placing the sole against your standing leg’s inner thigh or calf (avoid placing it against the knee joint). Find your balance, lengthen your spine, and bring your hands to your heart center. Fix your gaze on a steady point and breathe steadily.
Modification: Place your lifted foot against your standing ankle instead of the thigh, or keep your toes lightly touching the floor for additional support.
Variation: Extend your arms overhead or try different hand mudras (gestures) to deepen your focus and balance.
6 Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Begin on your hands and knees, then sit your hips back toward your heels.
Lower your forehead to the mat and extend your arms alongside your body.
Relax your shoulders, let your back round, and surrender to the pose.
Breathe deeply, allowing your body to release tension.
Modification: If it’s uncomfortable to sit your hips back toward your heels, place a folded blanket or bolster between your buttocks and heels for support.
Variation: Open your knees wider, allowing your chest to sink down, and stretch your arms forward for an extended Child’s Pose.
7 Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart, flat on the floor.
Press your feet and arms into the mat as you lift your hips toward the ceiling.
Interlace your fingers beneath your body and engage your glutes to lift your hips higher.
Lengthen your spine, open your chest, and breathe
Modification: Use a block or bolster under your sacrum for added support and to decrease the intensity of the backbend.
Variation: Lift one leg at a time, extending it toward the ceiling while keeping the other foot grounded for a one-legged Bridge Pose.
8 Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Lie on your stomach, placing your hands beneath your shoulders.
Press the tops of your feet into the mat and hug your elbows to your sides.
Inhale, slowly lift your chest off the mat, and begin to straighten your arms, keeping elbows bent.
Roll your shoulders back, lengthen your neck, and lift through the crown of your head.
Modification: Place your forearms on the mat, keeping your elbows under your shoulders, to reduce strain on the lower back.
Variation: Gradually increase the height of your chest lift, using your arms to push off the mat and deepen the backbend.
9 Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Sit on the mat with your legs extended in front of you.
Flex your feet and fold forward, lengthening your spine.
Keeping your spine long, hinge at your hips as you reach toward your feet.
Modification: Bend your knees slightly or use a strap around your feet to make it easier to reach forward and maintain a lengthened spine.
Variation: Wrap your hands around the soles of your feet (knees bent or straight), gently pulling yourself deeper into the stretch.
10 Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Lie flat on your back with your legs extended and slightly apart, arms relaxed by your sides, palms facing up.
Close your eyes and allow your entire body to relax into the mat.
Release any tension in your muscles, surrendering to the pose.
Focus on your breath, allowing it to become steady and natural.
Stay in this pose for several minutes, enjoying the deep relaxation and rejuvenation.
Modification: Place a bolster or folded blanket under your knees to support the lower back and reduce discomfort.
Variation: Explore guided visualizations or body scans during Savasana to deepen relaxation and cultivate a meditative state.
It’s important to approach each yoga pose with mindfulness and respect for your body’s current limitations. Listen to your body, honor any discomfort or pain, and make appropriate modifications to find comfort and ease in each pose.
Consistency is key in yoga. Aim for regular practice, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. This allows your body and mind to adapt, build strength, and develop flexibility over time.
Remember, be kind to yourself: Yoga is a journey, and progress comes with time. Embrace the process and be patient with yourself. Let go of judgment and comparison, focusing instead on your own growth and self-care, and enjoy your yoga practice and the benefits it brings!
Path of Yoga is a Yoga Alliance certified 200 hour and 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training school.
We hold Yoga Teacher Trainings throughout the year in Thailand (Chiang Mai), India (Rishikesh) and Peru (The Sacred Valley).
You can find out more about Path of Yoga and our YTT’s here.
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