If you’re new to the mat, you’re probably walking in to yoga with a lot of assumptions. You’ve heard about downward dog and sun salutations and may even think that’s going to dominate your early practice. The poses may be extremely common, but they may not be necessary for you.
Every yoga pose, more formally known as asanas, has a purpose. You’ll complete each pose in a complementary series, using those like downward dog to help your body transition from one asana to the next. More importantly — you’ll complete each new pose as your body is ready.
To avoid injury and get the most out of each pose, you should take your time learning the basics of yoga, which can include breath work, proper alignment, and even meditation.
Jill Lawson, a certified yoga teacher who leads teacher trainings and her own studio, says meditation is an important and oft overlooked aspect of yoga.
“Meditation is a key component in all yogic practices. Sukhasana, or Easy Pose, may look easy, but it is actually a very challenging pose. One of the goals of yoga is to quiet the mind, and this is a superb pose to practice doing so. Some say this pose takes a lifetime to master, so why not start now?,” she recommends.
Other popular and basic yoga poses you’ll want to take on as a beginner include warrior, tree, triangle, child’s, cobra, and corpse. Each will help you slowly build strength and confidence within your own practice, while giving your body a gentle and necessary workout.
However, if you need to take an even easier introduction to yoga, then by all means do so.
For true beginners, “consider going even more basic with cat/cow for full movement and breath integration,” suggests Kia Ruiz, a yoga instructor at kiaruiz.com.
Ruiz also suggests alternatives for the ever popular downward dog pose. “For full-bodied individuals, down dog can be challenging on joints and blood pressure.” Why? She explains that this inversion puts the head below the heart, which can increase blood pressure. “Alternatives include wall dog and puppy if this is a concern for yogis as they strengthen their practice,” she encourages.
Mountain pose is another ideal pose for beginners “because it sets the foundation for many of the other standing poses,” added Lawson. When done properly, “this pose emanates poise and balance,” she said. “It is that ‘root down and rise up’ element that creates grace and ease in a yoga practice, and it is best felt in mountain pose.”
Be sure to let your yoga instructor know it’s your first time or that you’re practicing at a very beginner level. This will alert her to your unique needs in the class and ensure you get more out of each session. Find those poses you love, do the work to master them, and use them as the building blocks to develop your own fluent yoga practice.