When it comes to yoga, the best thing you can do is start slow to build your foundational muscles and form. But, if you’re like me, you don’t like starting slow with anything!
So we’re going to jump in while using the best poses for building stabilizer muscles and form.
These poses are something that anyone – even advanced yogis – can benefit from. They build muscle, lubricate joints, improve posture, aid digestion, and improve energy. And you can safely perform the whole routine every day without being hard on your body.
Let’s get into the poses…
Beginner Yoga Poses
1. Childs pose
This is one of my favorite beginner poses because it helps you form a mind-muscle connection to the state of your spine. When you’re in the pose, focus on lengthening the spine, releasing tension, and building the flexibility needed for a healthy back.
Performing Childs pose:
- Begin by sitting on your heels with your legs together.
- Extend your arms up to the sky keeping them shoulder-width or slightly wider.
- Now roll forward bringing your chest to your thighs and your forehead to the mat.
- Lower your chest as close to your knees/the yoga mat as you can.
- Hold the pose for as long as you like. Do your best to focus on breathing and releasing that tension throughout your shoulders and spine.
2. Downward dog
This is one of the better poses for building strength in your shoulders while at the same time releasing tension along your entire posterior chain. Downward dog requires that you’re on a surface with excellent grip and stability so make sure you have a quality yoga mat, yoga gloves and socks, or a sticky surface to practice on.
It’s okay to bend your knees if your hamstrings and glutes are tight. Just keep working on your pose and you’ll eventually lengthen those muscles and straighten them out.
Performing Downward Dog:
- Begin on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees hip-width apart.
- Now walk your hands out just slightly above that position.
- Spread your fingers so they’re like roots going into the ground and providing you with a stable base.
- Bring your toes under so you’re on the balls of your feet and move up into an “A” frame.
- Engage your core to solidify the position.
- Take a few deep breaths and focus on releasing the tension in your back, shoulders, hamstrings, and glutes.
3. Mountain pose
If you want to improve your posture, mountain pose is an excellent tool for doing so. Essentially, you’re putting yourself into ideal alignment and standing firm, like a mountain. And if you’ve never done it, you may become enlightened to just how much that office chair is harming your posture.
Performing Mountain Pose:
- Standing at the front of your yoga mat, put your feet together, relax your shoulders, and evenly distribute your weight through your feet.
- Engage your quads to lock your knees (not too tight) and straighten your legs.
- Engage your abdomen to straighten your core and lift your chest.
- Let your arms fall directly to your sides with your palms facing your thighs. Now press your shoulders down so that your shoulder blades come together.
- Hold this pose and visualize a straight line running from the crown of your head down through your feet. Take a few breaths and feel the difference in your posture.
If you notice any areas are tight (i.e. your lower back, shoulders, neck, hamstrings, etc.) these are going to be key areas for you to focus on in the future. The Mountain pose is a foundation pose so anything you notice here should be noted and worked on.
4. Plank pose
You’ve probably done planks before.
This exercise has stood the test of time because it’s so effective for building core strength and keeping your spine healthy. You may think you don’t need planks because you do crunches or sit-ups. In fact, the plank engages all muscles including the transverse abdominis which the crunches don’t work. So, even if you’re a fitness buff, planks are still needed for a balanced core.
- Get into a pushup position on your yoga mat.
- Now drop down to your elbows while keeping your feet in the same place.
- Engage your core by tightening all of the muscles and drawing your belly button in.
- Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds but aim for a minute or more.
- Repeat this pose three times each day and you’ll notice your waist will slim down and your posture will improve.
Note: Avoid bringing your hands together in the plank pose because this puts unnecessary strain on your rotator cuffs.
5. Warrior 1 & 2
The Warrior pose builds flexibility in tight hips. Many of us sit at desks which keeps your hamstrings and hips in a constant contraction (shortening) which can have major impacts on our posture. Fortunately, you can use Warrior 1 and 2 to correct this problem.
Performing Warrior 1:
- Stand at the front of your yoga mat with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Take one big step back with your left foot.
- Angle your left heel so that your toes face about a 75-degree angle.
- Now lift your arms overhead and press your palms together. Stick your chest out and look up toward the ceiling.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths and repeat on the opposite side.
Performing Warrior 2
- Start at the front of your yoga mat with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Take one big step back with your left foot.
- Turn your toes so they’re facing 90 degrees or perpendicular to your front-facing foot.
- Bend your front leg (right) until you have a 90-degree angle with your knee above your ankle.
- From this position, align your torso so you’re straight and supported. Take a breath and stretch your arms out to your sides and look forward. You should feel a stretch in your back, legs, and hip-flexors.
- Take a few breaths and then repeat on the other side.
6. Tree pose
Balance is a key component of yoga and general athleticism. With tree pose, you’re building tons of stabilizer muscles in your feet and ankles while finding your center of gravity and getting comfortable with balance. It easy in concept but can be challenging so it’s something to spend a little extra time with if needed.
Performing Tree pose:
- Begin on your mat with your arms at your sides and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Now shift your weight onto your right leg while placing the bottom of your left foot against your opposite leg.
- Once you’ve found stability, move your hands into a prayer position in front of you.
- For an added challenge, you can extend your arms up to the sky keeping your palms facing each other.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths until you settle in and repeat on the other side.
7. Triangle pose
Triangle is a pose that I consider to be challenging at first. It requires a few steps and some flexibility in your hamstrings and back. Mastering Tree is worth the effort though because by the time you have it dialed, you’ll have excellent posture and, if you have any muscular pain in the back, this should help diminish it significantly.
Performing Triangle pose:
- Begin on your yoga mat with your feet about 3 feet apart.
- Point your right toes forward toward the top of your mat while keeping your left at a 45-degree angle.
- Extend both arms straight out like you’re reaching for opposite walls.
- Hinge at the hips and lower your right hand toward your right ankle.
- Now raise your left hand toward the ceiling and point your gaze up to the sky.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds or more and repeat on the other side.
As you can see, this really flexes the back and abdominals. It’s excellent for getting your bowels moving, draining lymph, and building spinal flexibility.
While it may look easy, don’t underestimate this one. Pay attention to your form and take as much time as you need to learn the pose. If you can’t reach your ankle with the front arm, you can place it on your thigh until you build more flexibility.
The Cobra is one of my favorite “easy” poses for building flexibility in your lower back. Most of us round our backs out because we slouch forward toward the computer. Cobra does the exact opposite and helps you build flexibility in your lower back, abdominals, and hip flexors.
- Begin face down on your mat with your hands directly below your shoulders.
- Push your upper body up from the mat while keeping your hips firmly planted on the ground.
- Press your shoulders down and away from your ears as you fully extend in the pose.
- Hold the pose for as long as you like.
If you’re tight from sitting, you’ll feel a big stretch in your abs and hips. You also may not be able to push yourself up very far without your hips losing contact with the floor.
This is all okay. You’ll build this flexibility in time just like every other pose. This is a backbend so you also want to pay special attention that you don’t overdo the stretch and cause injury.
9. Forward bend
The forward bend is my favorite stretch for back and hamstrings. And if you ever played sports you’ve done a variation of the forward bend during warmup.
I personally perform the pose several times throughout my day because sitting at a desk for too long makes my back tight. So every few hours I’ll get up, do a forward bend and sometimes do a quick foam roll to work out the kinks. It sets me up for another work session and keeps me aware of posture and health.
If you work in an office environment, this is a pose you can easily do without raising too many eyebrows and you may even inspire your coworkers to do the same.
Performing Forward bend:
- Stand facing forward with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands at your sides.
- Hinge at the hips and bend forward while reaching your hands toward your toes.
- Draw in your belly button to engage your abs and deepen the pose.
- Hold it for a few breaths and repeat or move to another pose.
Don’t worry if you can’t reach your toes or you need to bend your knees. These are all signs that your posterior chain is tight and you should integrate this pose into your day more often. If you feel like you need something to grab onto, you can use a belt or yoga strap to help you deepen the stretch.
10. Bridge pose
Bridge pose is an excellent pose that creates flexibility along the front muscles of your body. If it’s hard for you to perform, you can slide a yoga block underneath your hips to help you stay in the pose longer. Just make sure to engage your glutes and keep your bridge strong.
Performing Bridge pose:
- Lie on the floor or on your yoga mat with your arms at your sides and feet hip-width apart.
- Bring your heels up as close to your butt as possible.
- Push through your heels and drive your hips up to the ceiling. Engage your glutes and keep them tight the whole time.
- You can keep your arms to the side or clasp them underneath you.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths and gently return to the floor.
You should feel this stretch in your abdominals, hip flexors, and quads the most. If you don’t feel it in your quads, make sure to tighten your glutes and straighten your bridge as far as you can.
11. Cat cow
Do you wake up stiff? If so, this little combination can change the game for you. Cat cow is actually two poses performed in succession. They’re exact opposites of each other so this back and forth motion releases tension and stretches opposing muscles.
- Begin on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
- Now round your back out and lower the crown of your head toward the ground.
- As you inhale, lower your belly toward the mat and raise your gaze toward the ceiling.
- On exhale, lower back into the cat pose.
- Repeat this motion 10-15 times focusing on inhaling with the cat and exhaling with the cow.
12. Supine twists
A beginner yoga sequence wouldn’t be complete without a supine twist.
The supine twist helps build flexibility and mobility throughout your hips and back as well as aids in healthy bowel flow. The caveat here is that if you have any lower back injuries, you should check with your doctor before performing anything like this.
Performing Supine Twists:
- Begin by lying flat on your yoga mat with your legs straight down and your arms extended out to each side.
- Bring your heels up toward your butt.
- Now rotate your knees down toward the floor on your right side. Try to touch the floor if you can.
- At the same time, look back and rotate your torso in the opposite direction.
- Rest here for a few breaths and repeat on the opposite side.