Strong and Calm : 7 Beginner Yoga Poses

Want to strengthen your muscles? Release your tensions? Burn calories? Build flexibility? Yoga is your one-exercise-fits all answer.
Published January 25, 2016

If you were to make a list of all the best things about yoga, you’d need a scroll. Better flexibility, less stress, and more smiles would be on that list—and you should add weight loss, too. In a small study of adults who adopted a “yoga lifestyle” (making healthy choices, attending classes) participants lost an average of about 8 pounds in three months, according to research published in GlobalAdvances in Health and Medicine— and the participants reported loving their new lifestyle, too. What’s more, meditation-based practices may help improve the quality of life for those with chronic health issues like low-back pain or diabetes, says a review study in the journal PLOS ONE.

So, we asked Andrea Borrero, the managing teacher at Pure Yoga West in New York City, to create a sequence of poses perfect for a beginner or an experienced yogi who’s ready to push harder. You’ll cover all the core yoga poses and work a wide range of muscles. All you need to do is take a deep breath and stretch yourself to meet your goals.

The only yoga workout you'll ever need

If you're a beginner: Move through the poses slowly, holding each for 5 breaths.

If you're more advanced: Kick it up a notch by doing a quicker Vinyasa workout that’s set to a faster beat. Hold mountain and tree poses for 5 breaths each. Then “flow” through the remaining poses, matching each breath to each movement. But remember, move at a pace that’s comfortable for you.

1. Mountain pose

Stand tall. Stack all of your joints— knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips—and be sure your ears are over your shoulders. Keep your arms at your sides, palms facing forward.

2. Tree pose

Balancing on your right leg, bring the bottom of your left foot in to touch your right ankle. (Your left knee should face outward.) Press your hands in prayer position at your chest. If you’re more advanced, your left foot can come up to your calf or your thigh. (Avoid the inner knee.)

Beginner tip: Instead of joining your hands, hold onto a chair or the wall for stability.

3. Low lunge with a twist

From tree pose, step your left foot back into a low lunge. Place both hands on your right thigh. Put your left hand down underneath your left shoulder by the inside of your right foot, and lift your right arm toward the ceiling for a gentle twist.

Beginner tip: Rest your left knee on the floor during the lunge.

4. Downward-facing dog

While still in a low lunge, place your right hand down onto the mat and step your right foot back to meet your left. (You should be in a push-up position.) Push your butt up to create an inverted “V” with your body, and feel your spine lengthening and stretching with this pose.

Beginner tip: Bend your knees a bit or step your feet closer to your hands.

5. Plank

From downward dog, move forward into a plank position, making your body a straight line from your neck to your ankles. Remember to keep your shoulders in line with your hands and your hips in line with your shoulders, making sure that your arms and legs stay straight. Squeeze your core.

Beginner tip: Keep both knees down on the mat.

6. Baby cobra

From plank position, bend elbows and gently lower your body down onto your belly, uncurl your toes, squeeze your elbows in, and lift up your chest.

Beginner tip: Keep your toes curled under. Return to start by pushing back up into downward dog. Step forward with one foot, then the other and go back into mountain pose. Repeat poses 1 to 6 on the left leg. Complete the entire sequence 5 to 10 times, depending on your fitness level.

7. Finish with Savasana

​Lie flat on your back, arms at your sides, with your eyes closed. Hold for as long as you wish—the idea is to end your practice in a peaceful state.

Stress less
Try the Three-Part Breath technique, doing each step for five breaths: With your spine straight (sitting or lying down), inhale, as if inflating your belly. Exhale, keeping your breathing relaxed. Next, breathe more deeply, into your ribcage. Exhale, and when you inhale again the third time, fill your upper chest. Exhale, and feel your anxiety melt away.

Yoga on demand

Can't make it to a studio? Try one of these excellent streaming classes online wherever or whenever:

Gaiam TV: Well-known instructors lead you in sessions that last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.

MyYogaWorks: Try out the Journey series, featuring targeted sessions like Naptime Yoga for Moms, Office Yoga, and Yoga for Runners. $15 per month.

Youtube: There are thousands of Youtube channels devoted to offering free yoga tutorials and sessions.