Top 10 Yoga Poses for Beginners

By Gwen Lawrence BS, LMT, E-Ryt500, Reg. Yoga Therapist

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned Yoga Veteran looking to get back to basics and hone skills, you can count on these poses to re-center your body mind spirit and yoga skills. These poses will give you a sounds base but they are also great poses of assessment to look and feel your body and see what areas need work.

  1. Easy cross leg: A great beginners pose to use as an assessment, just sitting on the floor gives you a perfect way to see and feel the external rotation on the legs. Are your knees high off the ground or are they laying flat? Is one leg tighter, i.e.: one knee higher than the other? Is your back rounded or are you able to sit up straight? If the back is rounded that would mean you need to sit up on a block to alleviate the resistance.
  2. Standing Forward Bend: This pose will open and elongate your hamstrings which in turn alleviate stress, strain and pressure on your back. Stay here for 3-5 minutes and meet the truth. Feet hips width apart and parallel and start with knees soft and in time grow into the straight leg version of this pose, also take a good look at the feet, you want to make sure they are alive and not collapsing, hiding your arch.
  3. Standing Mountain Pose: This seems too simple to be true…Just stand there? Yes, stand there and feel your feet on the floor the sensations in your legs and back and analyze your posture in front of a mirror. A great exercise I do with my athletes is making them hold long pencils in each hand while they stand there. look down at the pencils and like a compass see how they point, are they the same? Does one point straight and the other point to 3:00. This shows imbalances in the shoulders and gives you clues on what to work on, if one pencil is very turned in so is your shoulder.
  4. Downward facing Dog: a perennial favorite, this pose will help you connect to the ground with four points of contact, feel the tightness in the hamstrings, weaknesses in the shoulders and stress on the back. Stay here for a minute and release and relax into all points of stress.
  5. Upward facing Dog: right after the down dog turn your body inside out, this pose is so therapeutic for everybody. It opens the chest and shoulders, while increases the strength in the arms, essentially it stretches the whole anterior spine. Ahhhhhhh. Everything we do is so forward: driving, computers, typing on phones, dealing with children, you need to take time with some mild backbends to counteract this unnatural positioning.
  6. Camel: most of the same benefits as Upward Facing Dog but one step deeper. Initially when you do these back bending poses you may meet up with aggressive resistance, but in time with practice things will begin to open and release and your breath will improve your posture will improve and all your organ functions!
  7. Lying Spinal Twist: this pose also helps ring out the organs increasing their function, it tends to align the spine and release the back, an area of great conflict.
  8. Pigeon: a must do for the beginner, this pose releases the glutes and low back, helping the back release. If you run, lift weights, cross fit or spin you must do this stretch to keep strong and flexible and enhance your performance. In the beginning you may have a hard time, but you will learn to love this pose, hold and breathe.
  9. Rabbit: this pose opens the back of the neck, squeezes the thyroid and stretches the back, hold here and release while you increase the range of motion in the shoulders, wrists and biceps. If you have a hard time connecting the hands AND getting lift off of the arms then use a strap to elongate the arms further. Come out of it slowly so you do not get dizzy.
  10. Heavy Legs on the Wall: the grand finale for beginners or the experienced. Also known as Viparita Karani, this pose releases stagnant lymph in the system, and lightens otherwise heavy dead legs, giving you a refreshed pep in your step again. Hold for 1-3 minutes.

Enjoy…of course consult your physician before beginning any yoga practice and it is highly recommended that you work with a qualified Yoga teacher until you feel comfortable with the form of each pose!

Gwen Lawrence has been a practicing fitness professional since 1990. Her current practice includes private yoga training, class instruction and her sport-specific Power Yoga for Sports training program Gwen’s unique combination of dance, massage and yoga training experience, coupled with her extensive knowledge of anatomy, and nutrition, provide her clients, and athletes with overwhelming benefits. Gwen is the yoga instructor for several New York Yankees baseball players, team yoga instructor for the New York Giants, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, New York Rangers, several major college teams, including Yale and UNC, and many youth teams in a variety of sports. She is also the official spokesperson for AFRIN PureSea, and ambassador for Lululemon and Manduka, Gaiam, and Yoga Earth, her writing appears in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, Yoga Journal, Details magazine and, She makes regular appearances on NBC TODAY show, Good Day NY and many TV news and national radio shows. Gwen also owns her own Yoga School where she trains people to teach the power yoga for sports system. She was just named to 2010 Westchester’s Best list. she was featured in June ESPN Magazine at the “Best innovation in Sports Medicine” as well she is a featured teacher for Gaiam. Gwen has also been seen in Gaiam Ads in Yoga Journal.

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