With all the new kinds of yoga popping up every day—seriously you guys, laughing yoga is officially a thing—it can be intimidating as a beginner figuring out how to get started. My yoga journey began with solo practice (in the tiny living room of my college apartment), where I learned the basics by watching YouTube videos or following along to written yoga sequences like this one.
Yoga provided the perfect escape to de-stress from my hectic college life—after all, studies now show that practicing yoga and consciously breathing result in calming effects on both mind and body. While signing up for a private yoga class to learn the basics and proper alignment from a certified teacher is what I normally recommend to beginner yogis, it’s not a feasible option for all.
The next best thing you can do, thanks to the internet, is learn from the comfort of your own home. Here are 10 beginner yoga moves you can easily do at home.
Stay in each of the poses for seven breaths. Lengthen with each inhale, and find more depth with each exhale.
As the name suggests, it’s not difficult to get into Easy pose (Sukhasana), and the asana is practiced to stretch the knees, help open up the hips, align the spine, and is a primer to the more advanced cross-legged Lotus pose.
Begin in a comfortable, cross-legged seated position on your yoga mat. On an inhale, lift and rotate your shoulder blades back and down, so your shoulders move away from your ears. Exhale, placing the tops of your hands on your thighs and slowly close your eyes. With each inhale lengthen your spine and with each exhale ground down through your sit bones.
Practicing Chair pose (Utkatasana) benefits both your mental and physical strength; it helps build the muscles in your legs, back, and abdomen, while improving the flexibility in your ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders.
Stand at the top of your mat in Mountain pose (Tadasana)—with feet together and body weight equally balanced on both legs. On an inhale, bring your hands to namaste in front of your chest and exhale, raising them above your head. With your next breath, slowly bend the knees to a 45-degree angle, stacking them over the tops of the toes. Push the hips back while maintaining a straightness in your spine. Engage your core as you exhale and turn your gaze towards your thumbs.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
This forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana) improves circulation in the head and helps in treating migraines. In addition to strengthening the leg muscles, it also increases hip flexibility, a common problem for many beginner yogis.
Begin with your feet wide apart and the outside edges parallel to the short edge of your yoga mat. Inhale, placing your hands on the hips while lifting the spine and chest upward. Exhale, folding from the hips and place your fingers on the mat, shoulder-width apart, fingertips in line with the toes. On your next inhale lift your chest, straighten the arms and concave the lower back. Gaze straight ahead before exhaling and folding forward. Rest the crown of your head onto the floor, if flexible enough. If not, make use a yoga block to rest your head.
A favorite for loosening up tight hamstrings, Downward Dog is a connective asana that guides a yoga practice from standing poses to seated ones. It works by lengthening the glutes and the back of your legs—hamstrings, calves, ankles—while taking the pressure off the lower back and spine.
Standing with feet hips-width apart, inhale and join your hands together above your head. Exhale and hinge from the hips, planting your palms shoulder-distance apart on the mat. Bend your knees as you slowly walk back, pushing your hips upwards. Engage your abdomen and actively pull away from the ground with your palms while you push down on the ground with your heels. Relax your neck and turn your gaze towards your navel.
Child’s pose (Balasana) is a restorative asana that helps lengthen the spine, as well as relax your neck and shoulders. It also works to reduce stress and anxiety by bringing the focus back to your breath.
From downward dog, slowly bend your knees and lower them as wide as your mat with your two big toes touching each other. Push your hips back to your heels as you lower your abdomen onto the tops of your thighs. Release your hands in front of you, palms facing downward with your forehead gently resting on the mat. With each breath, focus on melting your shoulders into the ground and keeping your face and jaw relaxed.
Seated Forward Fold
The benefits of a seated forward fold (Pascimottanasana) include massaging of the digestive organs and providing relief from menstrual cramps and constipation. This pose also helps improve the flexibility of tight hamstrings.
Come to a seated position on your mat with your legs stretched and activated in front of you. Your spine is long, shoulders are relaxed and away from your ears, and knees have a slight bend to them. On an inhale lift your arms above your head in line with your ears. Exhale and bend forward from your hips, placing your abdomen on your thighs and reaching to catch your big toe with your pointer and middle fingers. If this stretch is too intense, let your hands land on your shins. With each breath, focus on lengthening from your hips as you get deeper into the pose.
Sphinx pose (Salamba Bhujangasana) is the perfect introduction into yogic backbends. This asana helps strengthen the spine and increase its flexibility while also firming the glutes.
Begin by laying down on your belly with your big toes touching each other. Placing your elbows in line with your shoulders and your forearms firmly planted on the mat, inhale and lift your head, neck, and chest off the ground. Make sure your glutes are firm, and core is engaged— this prevents injury to your lower back, while also activating the upper back and shoulder muscles.
Bridge pose (Setubandhasana) is great for strengthening the legs and glutes. Regular practice of this asana also helps at improving digestion and stimulating the abdominal organs.
Lying on your back with your legs shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and bring your heels close to your hips. On an inhale squeeze your glutes and lift your pelvis up to the sky. Rotate your shoulders blades inward and try to interlock your fingers as you keep your chin pointing away from the chest. Stay in this pose for seven breaths before releasing slowly to the floor with an exhalation, one vertebra at a time. Repeat three more times.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Another restorative asana, reclining bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) helps stretch the inner thighs, open up the hips and also improves digestive functions.
Lie down on your back, bending at your knees, bringing your heels close to your buttocks. Inhale and let your thighs fall open as the bottoms of your feet touch. Exhale, placing your arms on either side of your body, shoulders pulling away from your ears. Place your palms on the tops of your knees and gently press down to get a deeper stretch in the pose.
If there’s one pose you shouldn’t skip during a yoga practice, it’s Corpse pose (Savasana). This final pose of a yoga session is important in learning how to develop body awareness by relaxing your mind and helping settle all the energy generated from your practice.
Come to lie down on your back. Separate your feet hip distance apart on the mat and place your relaxed arms relaxed next to the sides of your body with palms facing upwards. Draw your awareness back to the breath, using each inhale and exhale to relax every part of your body beginning at the toes and working your way up to the head.