Whether you are a complete beginner or have been practicing yoga all of your life, we know yoga can be an intimidating activity. From the overwhelming number of poses to the flexibility levels or to the state of inner peace you’re supposed to reach, there can be a lot of pressure to be a master of the art.
However, yoga is more about relaxation and finding a method that works for you. If you’re keen to learn more about this and dive into some benefits and different poses to help you on your journey, keep reading as we dive into our ultimate guide to yoga poses.
Incorporating yoga into your morning routine can allow you to discover a whole range of benefits it can have on your overall health and body. It engages the body, mind, and spirit, and this as a result can help you feel better both physically and mentally and feel more prepared to take on the day.
Research shows yoga can also help with pain relief, whether that is mild or chronic, it can reduce inflammation, improve your heart health, improve your mood and focus and even increase your gratitude to shift your entire mindset to a more positive and happier outlook on life.
After hearing about the benefits above, we know you’re keen to get started. But before we dive into some exploration of style and poses, it’s important to make a note of what equipment you are going to need.
This equipment list will enhance your whole experience without you having to spend huge amounts of money. We recommend buying a high-quality yoga mat that is secure and doesn’t slide, yoga blocks that can add both stability and balance to your routine, yoga straps to extend your reach in certain poses, and a yoga blanket to support your wrists, knees, and back.
Styles of Yoga and their Poses
Before we continue onto individual poses, it’s important to realize that yoga can be split into a range of different types, and each of these types is designed to target specific areas of the body and incorporates a variety of different poses.
Yin Yoga was designed to stretch out connective tissue across each of the joints such as the knees and spine. Yin yoga is often a passive practice and involves variations of both supine and seated poses.
The poses are held for around 3-5 minutes and are designed to access layers of fascia. Yin yoga can increase flexibility in both everyday life and to practice other forms of yoga.
Restorative yoga usually only involves a limited number of poses and they are supported by equipment pieces such as blankets, bolsters, pillows, or blocks. It’s a style of yoga intended to help you relax and reset your mind. Usually held for more than 5 minutes, it might involve light twists, gentle backbends, and seated forward folds.
Kundalini yoga is a blend of both spiritual and physical practices and involves movement, dynamic breathing, chanting, and meditation. The end goal of Kundalini yoga is to build physical vitality and increase awareness of your surroundings.
Practitioners of the style like to wear white clothes and the creator, Yogi Bhajan believed white could extend your aura. He also believed in head covering which is said to focus your energy on your third eye.
Ashtanga yoga can be extremely athletic and demanding and it is based on a sequence of poses that do not change. Ashtanga sequences increase in levels of difficulty and are an inspiration for our next style of yoga, Vinyasa Yoga.
Ashtanga was founded by K. Pattabhi Jois and taught ‘Mysore style’, which means attendees of the class are taught poses and can practice these at their leisure as the teacher walks around the room to provide personalized assistance.
Vinyasa yoga is a style of yoga that is characterized by pulling different postures together to enable you to move from one to the other using only your breath. Because of this, it is often referred to as ‘flow’ yoga.
It is the opposite of ‘fixed form’ yoga such as Bikram and helps to develop balance whilst preventing repetitive motion injuries.
Chakra yoga aims to unlock your chakras so your energy can move around your body freely. The practice includes certain asanas, mudra, Pranayama, and meditation practices aimed at purifying and balancing all of the Chakras and Nadis that need to be restored.
If you are unfamiliar with what chakras are, the human body is said to be made up of layers of energy fields that surround the physical human body and are called the subtle body. According to yoga beliefs, the body has 7 chakras and these can be considered as intersections of different energy channels.
Tantric yoga is a body-positive yoga and combines bandha, mantra, and other popular techniques to focus on chakras or energy fields surrounding the body.
It is used to build up strength and clarity whilst also bettering your health and wellbeing. Each pose is designed to find a balance in ourselves and will lead you to absolute freedom.
Bikram yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury and involves practicing a set of exercises that are synthesized from Hatha Yoga asanas in a studio with a high temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius and 40% humidity.
The practice always involves 26 asanas and lasts for 90 minutes. Bikram yoga can flush out toxins, promote healing, improve your breathing, and increase your focus. It also is said to help you glow and keep your body young by coordinating mind and body.
Individual Yoga Poses
Now we have explored some different types of yoga styles, let’s jump into some individual poses. Each pose has its benefits, is suited for different levels of experience, and requires a different piece of equipment.
But with time and practice, you’ll be incorporating them into your morning yoga practice in no time.
The pigeon yoga pose is considered one of the most well-known poses in the yoga community. It is a hip-opening forward bend and there are three primary versions.
The pigeon pose traditionally works as a hip opener and forward bend which stretches your groin, back, things, piriformis, and psoas. It is great for sitting in over a long time and helps you prepare for further backbends or seated poses.
The bridge pose is a core back-bending posture that every beginner should learn. Similar to the rest of asana practice, it’s a pose from which you can continue learning from as you progress.
It’s a beginner backbend and strengthens your legs and hips, whilst massaging the spine and opening the heart. It can also be performed as either a resting pose or a strengthener.
Triangle pose is another beginner pose and is different across many different styles of yoga. It stretches the hamstrings and grounded feet and sturdy leg positions allow the chest to open up wide.
It also stretches the groin and hips and is designed to improve balance and stability.
Crow pose is an intermediate arm balance pose that focuses primarily on arm strength. You need to learn with your center of gravity is to perform this pose successfully and how you distribute your weight to help you balance.
You need to find a sweet spot to move forward enough on your hands to allow your feet to easily release from the floor.
Eagle pose is a pose in yoga that requires complete concentration. You need to keep your knees bent whilst crossing your left thigh over your right thigh and hooking the top of your foot underneath your right calf.
You then need to spread out your scapula and place your right elbow in the crook of your left before bringing your palms to touch, lifting your elbows and stretching your fingers high towards the ceiling. The pose targets the entire body and releases tension allowing you to find freedom.
This intermediate pose targets the back, neck, shoulders, and down to your hamstrings and calves. Using a folded blanket underneath your shoulders is often considered a good practice as it ensures your neck isn’t compressed and you have a neutral spine.
If carried out carefully and with caution, this pose can aid back pain and send you into a complete state of calm.
Cow pose is an easy pose for beginners to learn in their first class, that is designed to gently warm up the spine. It provides a massage along the spine and into the belly organs and stretches out the neck and torso.
You start in a ‘tabletop’ position before lifting your chest towards the sky and allowing your belly to sink towards the ground as you inhale. The pose is often paired with Cat pose as you exhale.
Cat pose can relax the spine, help with lower back pain and stretch out the neck and torso. Similar to the Cow pose, starting in a ‘tabletop’ position, as you exhale, you will round your spine to face the ceiling and release your head so that it is facing the floor.
Camel pose can increase energy levels and counteract any slouchiness, relieving pain in the lower back and stretching out your heart at the same time.
It is a backbend where you will need to lift and lengthen out your torso as you arch gently into it. Ensure you also tune in your breath to harness your prana.
A beginner pose that targets your legs, core, and balance, tree pose is often the first-ever standing pose that is taught in a beginner yoga class.
It simply means to stand on one leg with the sole of your left foot placed on your right thigh. It strengthens the core as well as the legs, whilst also opening the hips and giving a good stretch to the thigh and groin.
Warrior Pose (Veerabhadrasana)
A staple pose of many kinds of yoga, the warrior pose strengthens the shoulders, the thighs, and the back muscles. It is arguably the most graceful yoga pose and adds both beauty and grace to any sequence. It also improves balance, increases stamina, and releases stress in the shoulders.
The mountain pose targets both posture and alignment and is a foundational yoga pose used for every other standing pose. Although it can be performed on its own to improve posture, it is also often used to help you prepare for other poses.
It strengthens the leg muscles and makes you aware of each body part keeping your spine long and your legs strong.
The dolphin pose is used to strengthen the arms, shoulders, abdominal muscles. It is a forward bend that is usually performed at an intermediate level and when performed correctly can also help with menstrual cramps, back pain, headaches, fatigue, stress, depression, anxiety, and aid digestion.
The boat pose is the ultimate core strength pose. It is one of the most popular poses to improve abdominal strength, which as a result can help you improve a variety of other poses.
In addition to targeting the core, it also deepens the hip flexors as these can get weak from sitting down too much, and build your overall balance.
Scorpion Pose (Vrischikasana)
The scorpion pose is an advanced pose that takes a lot of time and patience to master. It helps improve balance and builds upper body and core strength. It also requires sufficient shoulder mobility as it mimics the position of a scorpion that is ready to strike, bending your back and balancing on your forearms.
Though difficult, when performed correctly, it can improve the flexibility of your spine, and stretch out both your hip flexors and chest. However, it should only be attempted by those who have built adequate muscle and enough skill through frequent yoga practice.
Another advanced pose, the firefly pose involves balancing completely on your arms. It stretches out the core, as well as your wrists and arms, and can help improve your balance all across the body. It requires incredible flexibility and strength and mimics a firefly in flight.
The compass pose is an advanced pose that targets the hamstrings, hips, and shoulders and can be challenging to perform correctly as it requires complete openness of the hamstrings and shoulders.
You can however begin to practice this pose with your leg bent, as long as you avoid rolling all of your weight onto your tailbone as this can cause the spine to bend forward.
We hope this ultimate guide to yoga poses has given you an idea of what to expect if you’re a beginner who has just started to practice, or a committed practitioner who wants to expand their skills. You must build up and progress at your own pace to the intermediate and advanced poses as if you attempt them as a beginner, you could cause injury by not having enough flexibility or strength to perform them correctly.
When practiced regularly, yoga can open up a whole door of health benefits, as well as improve mental state, reduce stress and help you find freedom. So, grab that yoga mat, grab that yoga block and begin your journey towards being the best, most relaxed version of yourself. We promise you won’t look back.